First Impressions - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III

October 23, 2023


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I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until someone listens: Call of Duty desperately needs to stop being a franchise that releases at least one new game a year. Although late October/early November is probably the most profitable time of the annum for Microsoft now that the company owns one of the best-selling IPs in video game history, and my editor is no doubt looking forward to all of the clicks our site will receive when we publish our expected coverage of the series in a few weeks, it’s gotten to the point where it’s legitimately impossible to write about the latest entry into the saga without copy-pasting bits from previous years’ reviews. Hell, this is the third or fourth time I’ve used this type of introduction when talking about Call of Duty, and that’s not just because I’m a lazy writer with a serious case of shooter-related burnout. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, or at least its beta, does so little different from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II  that I honestly don’t know what to say about it.

To prove my point, I’m going to shamelessly copy-paste the following paragraphs from my impressions of Vanguard’s beta and see if anyone notices. Vanguard’s MWIII’s beta feels like a Call of Duty game (and if that quote doesn’t end up on the back of the game’s box, I’m going to be really disappointed). In the 10-odd hours I spent playing it over the weekend, I ran around shooting people, levelling up, dying and respawning. The game’s World War Two modern setting means that there were plenty of cool toys for me to play with, the animations are all on-point and the graphics look good given my dated great hardware. But what makes playing this year’s beta feel weird is that it just seems like it's a carbon copy of 2019’s Modern Warfare. The two games likely run on the same engine, which would be a good thing because of how great that engine is, except that it seems like Vanguard  MWIII won’t taking any risks or even adding new gimmicks to it.

I miss the days when I didn’t have to download updates in between matches

Just so that we’re clear, all of that is true and I didn’t dig through our site’s archives simply because I’m hungover and want to get back to completing quests in Cyberpunk 2077. MWIII, based on my experiences with its beta, is nothing if not one of the Call of Duty games of all time. Its shooting is expectedly exceptional, its movement is anything but monotonous, and there’s clearly going to be plenty stuff to unlock in the game when it fully releases. However, there’s bugger-all in the way of new features or even revamped mechanics, save for it having a slightly different time to kill than MWII’s and the ability to locate your enemies based on pings on its in-game minimap whenever they shoot without a suppressor. Even the maps and a lot of its weapons aren’t new, and are either ripped from Modern Warfare 2 (2009) or one of the more recent entries into the endlessly-running franchise. 

And honestly, all of that is fine. Nobody buys Call of Duty expecting some genre-defining piece of interactive entertainment, and instead almost everyone accepts that the franchise is the video game equivalent of cheap beer. It’s something to enjoy after a stressful day at work or school, and judging by the few hours I spent with the title’s beta over the weekend, MWIII won’t be any different. There was nothing intrinsically wrong with what I played, save for some netcode and hit registration issues that will probably be sorted out sooner rather than later, and the core gameplay loop of kill-die-repeat was as fun as it’s been in the other 20-something mainline CoD titles. I’m almost positive that I will, somewhat begrudgingly, log 50 hours on the full game as soon as our review key for it comes in as I drink Pabst Blue Ribbon and forget about all of the readings I need to do for graduate school. 

All apathy aside, shooting guns underwater in MWIII’s beta is bloody cool

Of course, I’d much rather do all that without knowing that all of my progress and unlocks will be meaningless come October/November 2024, or while experiencing something that’s had more time in the proverbial oven, but I’d also much rather be day drinking 25-year-old scotch instead of whatever my liquor store had on discount as I do that. However what I want is irrelevant when it comes to Call of Duty. If you’re trying to decide whether or not it’s worth pre-ordering Modern Warfare III (2023)... well, don’t, because pre-ordering things is always a dumb idea. If you’re attempting to figure out whether or not you’ll buy the game when it fully releases, though, you can check back here for our full review on or about November 10, or simply determine whether or not you’re willing to fork over seventy quid for what is little more than a glorified expansion to Modern Warfare (2019)/Modern Warfare II (2022) and a prelude to the yet-unannounced Modern Warfare IV (2026). 

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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.