I have a long history with the Call of Duty franchise. I have had the privilege to review the previous three iterations of the game and even got to travel to California for the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops a few years ago. Generally, I like to play the single player campaign of the Call of Duty games, and that’s my primary motivator when getting each new title. I do dabble in the multiplayer, but for me the single player experience is why I keep coming back. That may put me in the minority in terms of most of Call of Duty’s fanbase, but only because there are millions of those who enjoy the multiplayer side of these games. That said, I am glad that Activision and its various COD developers have kept single player campaigns in their title and not gone all multiplayer. And in the case of Modern Warfare III, they even added some changes and improvements to how it plays.
So, as we did when the last Call of Duty title released, we at Game Industry News have divided our Call of Duty review into both the multiplayer side and the single player campaign. That way, you all can read about whichever part of MWIII you like best to see if you want to give it a try. Or check out both reviews if you like having a foot in both game modes. The multiplayer review was out of the gate first and was written by GiN’s multiplayer expert Michael Blaker. You should check out his full review if you want to see how this future eSports staple plays this year in multiplayer because there’s been a lot of changes since Modern Warfare II.
And now on to the single player campaign, which I very much enjoyed again this year. It’s worth noting that Modern Warfare III is about as much of a direct sequel as you can get. There was a rumor that MWIII was originally designed as a DLC for the previous title, and that may be true. The fact that the central launcher for the game, now called Call of Duty HQ, is used to launch Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, and Call of Duty: Warzone is further evidence that this just may be the case. However, given how exciting the last single player campaign was to play, I am not going to complain about that.
In terms of the plot of Modern Warfare III, we are still working with Task Force 141 trying to save the United States from the returning villain Vladimir Makarov, the Russian ultranationalist and terrorist who would love to see the Western world burn. Arrayed against him are the heroes from Modern Warfare II, including Captain Price, Simon “Ghost” Riley, Johnny “Soap” MacTavish, and Kyle “Gaz” Garrick. Several secondary characters like Kate Laswell and Farah Karim also join the battle once more, which is really great if you’ve been enjoying where the story has been going so far.
Starting out, the first thing I noticed was how amazing the graphics are. I know that statement is pretty meaningless about Call of Duty titles at this point in the series given how great everything looks, but even so there are some improvements from Modern Warfare II, although minor ones. Still, it’s worth noting that I still play this series on a PlayStation 4, and it’s nice to see that the older console is still supported. Plus, this is about the most visually appealing title on the PS4 right now. So, if you are still looking to get some good use out of your older console, Modern Warfare III will let you do that.
Additionally, the voice acting is always well done in this series. I could listen to the conversations between Ghost and Soap all day, even the random things they say when traveling together. Barry Sloane’s gravelly voiced performance as Captain Price also adds intensity to the story and the stakes. Again, this is not entirely unexpected as Activision can afford to bring in incredible talent to bring these characters to life. Regardless of it being expected, it needs to be mentioned as it’s an important reason why Call of Duty is so good overall.
In terms of improvements, the single player campaign is no longer set on-rails like before. It’s not an open world game or anything, but players are presented with a series of options in how they would like to complete each mission and can choose how to go about it. While this tends to reduce the number of cinematic moments like we had in Modern Warfare II, such as hanging from a helicopter by a rope shooting at a convoy while suspended upside down, it makes the campaign seem much more realistic. This realism is nice given the seriousness of the plot compared with what is happening in the real world these days.
I’m not sure how the community at large feels about this change, but I love it. Each mission felt as if it unfolded more organically than previous Call of Duty missions. Honestly, it almost felt more like a good Far Cry title than a typical COD on-rails shooter. Even the first mission threw me for a bit of a loop as my character was standing there with only a knife and multiple objectives to destroy. That forced me to scavenge around for weapons, and it really set the tone for the new open world like gameplay.
Modern Warfare III also does a great job implementing verticality in the missions. From climbing buildings to having a mission taking place over six different stories of an apartment building, you have to think in terms of height if you are going to be successful. This is the most realistic that Call of Duty has been in years. The gunplay has also improved from the previous game. I found so many interesting weapons and secrets during each mission that it was a real joy to discover new weapons to try out. The audio engineering is also amazing, and the special effects are excellent. The guns feel real and sound great when you fire them. Modern Warfare III even litters items like cruise missiles and drones throughout the mission areas which encourages exploration because it’s awesome to find something like that.
My favorite mission took place inside a mansion on an island. Working from a stealth approach and then suddenly blasting into a loud firefight felt natural in terms of what happens sometimes in situations like that. The challenge of fighting uphill and having to use houses and terrain to reposition and find cover made it really interesting and challenging. Overall, I found that the new campaign forced me to think about both the tactical environment and my movement. Previous COD titles had me mostly operating off of a plan of shooting and then moving forward. MWIII requires more tactical and critical thinking.
Overall, this is the most fun I have had with a Call of Duty campaign. Honestly, I wish more campaigns from other titles were formatted like MWIII. It walks that fine line between a full sandbox with a bunch of boring side quests (Far Cry) and a typical on-rails shooter (older Call of Duty). I think that Activision may have discovered the breakthrough they needed with Modern Warfare III in breathing new life back into the Call of Duty campaigns, and I hope this is a model for the single player side of the series for the foreseeable future.