Call of Duty Modern Warfare III (2023) Review

November 21, 2023


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Xbox One
Xbox Series

If you’ve read any of my Call of Duty reviews since I started writing for Jump Dash Roll, you may have noticed that I’ve become increasingly apathetic about the series. What was once the definitive shooter on the market has long since turned stale, which means that it’s kind of hard to write about it. I mean, I technically make money by coming up with witty words to say about things, but even with the help of a bottle of Writers Tears Irish Whiskey, I just haven’t been able to figure out how to describe the franchise adequately as of late. Between 2017ish and 2023, there have been so few changes to one of the most recognisable institutions in video gaming that I’ve resorted to blatantly copy-pasting bits of my previous reviews each time my editor gives me a key for whatever Activision-Blizzard decides to name their annual first person shooter. But this year, that’s not the case, because boy oh boy do I have plenty of words to describe Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III (2023), with the key one being “shit”. 

Look, at this point, you, your grandma and your cat all know what Call of Duty is. It’s a first-person shooter that’s set in some vaguely modern setting with an addictive multiplayer, forgettable campaign and a throw-away co-op mode. Every one of the 20-something mainline entries into the franchise is technically acceptable, has decent if uninspired shooting, and is otherwise the very embodiment of the word “fine”. You, me, my friends and my dad all buy it for the same reason every year, too, which is to have something to do on lazy Friday nights with a few old buddies because none of us have found a game that almost anyone can mindlessly enjoy besides Call of Duty, and because at this point we’re all addicted to the sound of hitmarkers and the small bit of dopamine we get when we level up. And, to be clear, all of that is perfectly okay, and MWIII (2023) doesn’t change any of it. The game just makes all of those things worse, both when it comes to the title’s core design and our collective addiction issues. 

Modern Warfare 3’s problems, somehow, start with its campaign. While the franchise has never been known to have anything besides a glorified on-rails version of a Michael Bay movie for those who prefer not to delve into its online offerings, this entry into the series doesn’t even manage to do that correctly. MWIII (2023)’s single-player mode is a three-hour-long amalgamation of “open combat missions”, which are essentially short bot matches ripped from the ubiquitous Warzone, and a handful of linear operations that lack anything that remotely resembles a cohesive narrative. Although the two previous Modern Warfare reboots were clearly written to set up Makarov, an evil Russian ultranationalist who has strangely understandable motivations for trying to start World War 3, the villain who came to fame during Modern Warfare 2 (2009)’s “No Russian” sequence is little more than a comic book bad guy in this title. The same is true for the titular Task Force 141 — a band of superhuman operators who repeatedly save the world from whatever threat the series frontlines in the bulk of its instalments under the leadership of the pragmatic Captain Price — and its cast of side characters that this time around returning fan favourites like the CIA woman who almost certainly tortured people in Guantanamo Bay and a guy who looks an awful lot like a dad who probably beats his kids and drinks cheap beer. 

The only good thing about MWIII (2023)’s campaign is that you can look at the dog from Call of Duty: Ghosts. 

For the first time in the franchise’s history, it’s genuinely not worth playing its campaign, which is saying something. While there’s a bit of fun to be had if you enjoy mindlessly slaughtering bots, there isn’t any anywhere else enjoyable in it. MWIII (2023)’s single-player isn’t just bad by Call of Duty standards, it’s bad. There are a select handful of missions in it that could potentially pass as being acceptable if the game was developed by an independent developer instead of one with more money than God, but it wasn’t. MWIII (2023) almost destroys the legacy of the phenomenal Modern Warfare (2019), which not only is a weirdly anti-war war game but also featured playable versions of missions from famous war movies like Zero Dark Thirty and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, and is somehow worse than Black Ops 4, which didn’t even have a bloody campaign. 

Thankfully, MWIII (2023) Zombies mode isn’t quite as atrociously terrible as its single-player, but that doesn’t mean it’s anything resembling something fun. Instead of the traditional round-based mode wherein you kill the undead to earn cash that can be spent to buy new guns or perks in a relatively linear environment, Treyarch which was seemingly randomly assigned to the project, has instead opted to make the franchise’s most enjoyable way to kill AI little more than a knock-off of the aforementioned Warzone. Each time you boot it up, you spawn in an open world with a few friends or randoms from online matchmaking, and are tasked with taking on and completing random quests in a huge map filled with other player squads, after which you need to extract with whatever gear you found. There are no rounds to survive, or doors to buy your way through, but are instead free to roam the map for as long as you want doing whatever you want until a 45-minute timer runs out or you voluntarily leave via a helicopter.

There’s some fun to be had doing all of this, but it’s also totally mindless entertainment. The foes you face in MWIII (2023)’s co-op mode are either entirely brain-dead both literally and from an AI perspective and are perfect fodder to help you earn XP levels that are shared with its multiplayer mode, or they’re bullet sponges that require dozens of rounds to take down. There’s no real sense of progression in Zombies either, since you as the player need to determine when you want to head into higher level zones filled with the aforementioned bullet sponges, but it’s entirely possible to spend the bulk of an hour just gunning down hoards from your drop zone. Outside of whatever value there is to be had in the intrinsic satisfaction you’ll get from popping a zed’s head off, the only reason that it really exists is because it allows you to quickly unlock weapons in MWIII (2023)’s multiplayer, which, well…

You need to do this every time the game has an update, which is almost daily, which is more annoying than you can possibly imagine. 

Look, there’s no good way to say this, so I’ll just be straight with you all: Modern Warfare III (2023)’s player-versus-player is terrible, and a proverbial step back for the franchise in every possible way. Although the core of what makes the series great (unlocking new guns by killing other players, which subsequently allows you to kill other players in old and unexciting ways with those new guns) still exists, it’s hampered by every terrible mechanic you can think of. Some of those are subjectively shit, like the inclusion of microtransactions that allow your character to look like anyone from Beyonce to a tree god or the ability to almost completely negate the mode’s progression system by simply playing Zombies and extracting whatever guns you want so you can use them in multiplayers, but others are objectively problematic. 

The mode’s maps are its biggest issue. Instead of coming with a dozen-odd new environments for you to dropshot other players in, MWIII (2023) launched with the same roster of playable plots as Modern Warfare 2 (2011). At best this feels lazy on the game developer’s part, and at worst, it showcases just how far multiplayer design has come in the past decade, as not even fan favourites like Highrise of Favela are especially great by modern game design standards. This aside, though, the mode is also hampered by stupid mechanics such as ones that force you to complete daily challenges to unlock a lot of its generic arsenal instead of being able to earn them organically by levelling up, and an increased time-to-kill that simply doesn’t feel good.

No I will not remove my request for my teammates to shut up, thank you very much.

It’s worth mentioning that you can technically use all of Modern Warfare II (2022)’s guns in MWIII (2023), which you can either unlock with convoluted challenges once you reach the title’s current maximum rank of 55 or by using them if you have them in the aforementioned 2022 title, and the same is true for any skins you bought during last year’s CoD, but this isn’t a good thing. The bulk of the 2023 title’s vast arsenal, which technically has something like 70 guns, just isn’t very effective because of the increased time it takes to kill your opponents, and very few have any defining traits or even interesting animations. 

All told, MWIII (2023)’s multiplayer has more in common with a free-to-play shooter than it does the latest release in the most recognisable IP in video game history. Your screen is constantly filled with meaningless messages that show whenever your kills were somehow deemed special by its in-game algorithm, and again, there are skins in the title that cost just as much as the title itself. Skill-based matchmaking, a system wherein you’re supposed to be matched with people who are roughly as good or bad at the title as you are, is also heavily implemented to the point where you’re all but guaranteed to have a 1.0 kill-death ratio and unlock one new piece of gear an hour, and are also guaranteed to have a miserable time if you ever decide to matchmake with a few buddies who are either better or worse at getting kill streaks than you. 

It’s worth mentioning, too, that, technically speaking, MWIII (2023) is bloody abysmal. Although it looks decent, if somewhat dated, and its animations are perfectly acceptable if not notable, the title has a ton of bugs both big and small, has serious server issues, and perhaps worst of all, requires you to boot up and then subsequently restart it every sodding time it has an update, which occurs near daily. Even its audio design sounds especially lazy, with many guns’ noises being either too bassy or too quiet. For a franchise that is generally considered good graphically and is otherwise fine when it comes to everything else, MWIII (2023) has so many serious issues that it’s almost like it was developed in less than a year and before anyone could QA test it. 

This isn’t an AI-created image, you can really spend £20 to play as Nicki Minaj. Also available: Doom guy, Skeletor, and whoever the hell 21 Savage is. 

If you’re a Call of Duty fan, you’ve no doubt read that MWIII (2023) was allegedly supposed to be an expansion to MWII (2022) instead of its own game, and at this point I think it’s fair to say that this wasn’t a rumour. Although the title does still have the dopamine-inducing addictive gunplay that the franchise always has, even that can’t save it from being not only the worst Call of Duty title ever created, but also a pathetically lazy video game at absolute best. Its single-player is flat-out terrible, its Zombies mode is uninspired, and its multiplayer has so many serious problems that it’s hard to enjoy it. The game also has technical issues, and microtransactions that border on being pay-to-win because of how hard it is to spot paid skins in its maps. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again and again: Call of Duty bloody needs to stop being a yearly franchise, and you need to stop buying it every year to help make that happen. If you’re considering picking the game up, just don’t, and either take a break from first-person shooters for a bit or maybe play Battlebit Remastered. If you have, though…well, I want you to know that I understand why you did, but that I also want you to know that there is help available to people with addictions, and you should really seek some of that out. 

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III (2023)’s campaign is comically bad, its Zombies mode is zonked and its multiplayer just kind of sucks. 
Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.