The Call of Duty campaigns have been a hit or a miss. That doesn’t matter too much to Activision, since it’s the multiplayer mode that moves units. While the Modern Warfare series has never been known for its stellar storytelling, the series’ narrative campaigns do tend to occasionally sprinkle in some memorable moments like the original MW2’s iconic twist. Does Modern Warfare 3 evolve the series’ campaign formula, or does it fall flat?
All roads lead to this
Modern Warfare 3’s story has followed the trend of the later Call of Duty games in that it’s quite dark. However, there are complexities that other games in the series barely touch upon. The series is finally curious about the inner lives of its protagonists, and how far they’re willing to go to complete their mission, with some stops to explore moral grey areas along the way. The result is a Call of Duty game that emotionally invested me in the characters and the story. Pointing to characters specifically, the voice acting adds weight. When things go south in certain missions, Price’s anxiety can be felt. This helped me connect better with the character.
That said, the campaign is very short. While a few of missions are callbacks to the original, the story itself flows better, never feeling like an afterthought the way CoD campagins tended to in the past. The second half of the game, in particular, pulled me in much more than I had anticipated – and then it ended, right when it was hitting its stride. If you’re into campagin rewards, then at leat you’ll find some solce in the paltry narrative offerings.
Warfare has changed
As a franchise, Call of Duty established a formula for combat over two decades ago that it’s been tweaking ever since, never really overhauling. It didn’t need it. Still, I did want to highlight MW3’s combat. Each gun feels unique unto itself, each delivering a kicback, an impact, and a sound that makes an impression so specific that its easy to imagine players finding a gun to call their own and sticking to it.
Sledgehammer Games has borrowed elements from Warzone and DMV and scattered them throughout Modern Warfare 3, to varying degrees of success. There are open-world sections and attribute-laden item pick-ups are taken directly from the battle royale and extraction modes, respectively. The open-world leves are perhaps the most intrguiging, but the most uneven.
An open-world Call of Duty?
Moder Warfare 3 is not an open-world game. It limits its open-worldiness to individual leves, like Reactor, that swap out the classic curated setpeice moments the series’ campagins are known for with a more open-ended mission structure that leaves room for player creativity. These missions are probably my favorite. Getting ambushed in an open-world often meant figuring out how I could use the vast environment to my advantage. There’s a looseness to the open-world and a creative freedom to the open-world levels that I’ve never felt in a CoD before. Dropping the Michael Bay action movie pacing and set peices for a breif moment made those moments standout all the more when they did happen in more ridgily structured levels.
By allowing me to dictate how the action unfolds, even for only brief moments, Modern Warfare 3 pulled me deeper into the world by giving me more agency. I felt like I had more on the line because my own choices were playing directly into the more emotional tale Slegehammer is telling. It’s a step in a more intresting direction for the series, one that I hope they iterate upon down the line. Yeah, the campgin is shockingly short, but all told, I’d compare the experience more to Bowser’s Fury on the Nintendo Switch than I would to any other CoD campagin. MW3’s pocket-sized campagin is a little experiment; a tiny testing ground for a new way to craft a campagin in a game series that’s been sticking to the same formula for so long that it can legally drink now. There are growing pains, but it’s encouraging to see the series finally take its first steps in a more creative direction – and maybe even one day innovative -direction.