Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3's campaign has been out for a few days now in early access - ahead of the full game's launch on November 10th. This has given us a bit of time to blast through the game's single-player component and give you some impressions on Call of Duty's direct story sequel to last year's Modern Warfare 2.
Now, we'll address the elephant in the room right away - MW3 is short, noticeably shorter than last year's game. This time around, the team has stitched together "open fire" missions with more traditional, scripted levels and this definitely makes the whole package feel a bit less 'premium' than MW2 - and even than its predecessor Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
However, the quality is still there for the most part, and we actually quite enjoyed our time with the MW3 campaign. The story follows MW's typical ragtag crew of Soap, Ghost, Price and co., and familiar series baddie Makarov makes his grand return in this year's game. Makarov and his place in the whole affair is no-doubt the standout here - his introduction carries the storyline and gives the whole thing purpose - even if those "open fire" missions contribute to a less-scripted campaign overall.
As we've come to expect from recent CoD titles though - the interstitial cutscenes are really high quality and do a good job at bridging together the levels, just about making it feel like a cohesive experience. MW3's structure isn't perfect, but it follows a fairly typical formula for CoD - perhaps feeling a bit more like the older, less cinematic days of the franchise.
From a gameplay perspective we quite liked those open levels though. We'd have loved to see some more multi-layered objectives thrown into them but we had no issue with the series opening things up a little bit and adding in Warzone-like features such as weapon crates, loadouts etc. Beforehand, we thought we'd take issue with their place in a CoD campaign, but for us, they broke things up quite nicely and served as a good way to change up the pace.
When it comes to the more cinematic levels, CoD does start to show its age a bit here. They work OK and play out fine — especially if you haven't been around the block 15 times with the series already — but the same old token stealth mission, repetitive gunship level, breach-and-clear shenanigans do wear a little thin in 2023. These levels are fine, and the campaign certainly feels like it needs them to make it feel like a proper scripted story, but don't expect to be experiencing much new here if you're a series veteran.
The gunplay is absolutely top notch however, with Sledgehammer taking everything Infinity Ward has done so far with this new MW engine and basically sticking with it. You'll feel like you're using lots of the same guns, gear and attachments as last year's game, which is a fair criticism if you look at it that way, but it is a direct sequel so we expected that feeling going in. As for the core mechanics - they're the best in the business anyway so why fix what ain't broke?
We played through this year's game on Xbox Series X with the 120FPS toggle enabled, and it's a good-looking title that's for sure - even at such a high frame rate. However, we did run into some crashes during one mission (although they disappeared on a second playthrough so we'll give it the benefit of doubt), and those aforementioned feelings of it being less 'scripted' meant it just wasn't as impressive a spectacle as last year's release. MW3 has some great tech under the hood, but it doesn't do much to properly show it off.
All in all, the Modern Warfare 3 campaign is a Call of Duty single player story - no more, no less. It's certainly on the shorter side for the series (although some entries definitely fall in a similar category, notably the original MW3 from 2011), and 2022's Modern Warfare 2 absolutely feels like it had more care and attention crammed into it. We wouldn't recommend putting your hard-earned money down on day one for this year's release (wait for a price drop if campaign is your thing), but as part of the overall package for MW3, we had a good time - and that's what it's all about. We'll have to wait and see how it slots into the overall package when Modern Warfare 3 is out in full on November 10th, but for now, the MW3 campaign is a satisfying experience - even if it leaves you feeling a wee bit short changed.