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Home / Reviews / Console games / Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III review – expendable

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III review – expendable

Is the newest CoD title a direct hit, or dead in the water?

COD MW3 2023 review combat

Initial Stuff Verdict

A half-baked, lazy campaign paired with a lacklustre multiplayer makes this a new low for Call of Duty.


  • Graphics are on point


  • Tedious storyline, boring combat
  • Repetitive gameplay with little meaning
  • Lacklustre multiplayer fraught with loot boxes


The most popular MMO shooter (that isn’t Fortnite) is back. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III comes to PC and console with a brand new title. Sort of. This is actually a remake/reimagining of a 12-year-old title, updated for the present day’s graphical expectations – and geopolitical realities.

Modern Warfare III once again puts us in the boots of Task Force 141. A global terrorist threat is trying to kickstart a new world war, and we’re somehow the only ones to stop it. So far, so Call of Duty. But there’s a bit more freedom this time out than many fans were expecting.

Is the newest campaign a direct hit, or dead in the water? And is it worth the full $70/£70 Activision is demanding – or more of an also-ran piggybacking on one of the most addictive multiplayer games in the business? Read on to find out.

Open combat

COD MW3 2023 review cinematic

If you’ve played any recent Modern Warfare title, you’ll be unsurprised to know that MW3’s twitch-response, run-and-gun combat hasn’t changed. That’s not a bad thing. In the same way that players flock to EA Sports FC24 (formerly known as FIFA) year on year, there’s comfort in the familiar, and MW3 allows you to hit the game running.

MW3 also looks fantastic. Water and rain textures are some of the best I’ve seen, and intuitive shadow textures really help highlight your surroundings. The landscapes are rich, deep and textured, really giving battlefields an expansive feel.

It’s the new open missions that offer the biggest gameplay shake-up. These massive levels allow you to tackle missions in a myriad of ways, rather than funnel you down a series of corridors. They mostly flitter between ‘all guns blazing’ to ‘stealth, until you inevitably need to go in all guns blazing’. It would seem this offers much more player freedom – but in practice it falls far short, feeling lifted almost wholesale from the Warzone multiplayer mode.

Explore the map too far and you automatically die within three seconds. Retrieving the weapons and tech loot boxes scattered across the battlefield is a joyless experience. The narrative takes a back seat to a series of cut and paste combat scenarios that have you placing a tracker here, destroying a helicopter there, rinsing and then repeating. Most missions will task you with blowing something up – the only real decision is how – and end either by jumping to a helicopter, finding a well-placed elevator or ascending a ladder. This becomes very tedious, very fast.

A slight saving grace comes in the mission ‘Highrise’: in order to capture a nondescript bad guy, our squad scale a derelict apartment block then clear the halls inside. Claustrophobic, brooding, and frenetic, it was a welcomed highlight. It shows promise for what an open combat campaign could have been, or hopefully might be in the future.

Moral Kombat


Look elsewhere if you’re after a story full of intrigue, mystery, or even just a shred of nuance. Modern Warfare III’s plot would be almost too bombastic for The Expendables writers. Classic action tropes are in abundance, as are lines of dialogue that would make Jean-Claude Van Damme blush. There’s a criminal/terrorist plot being orchestrated by men from the East; ‘brave’ British soldiers, probably with some lesser mentioned human rights violations in the closet, are tasked with stopping it; we travel the world, and shoot anything that moves.

The opener has me scaling the walls of an island gulag. I quickly realise it’s a carbon copy of Warzone’s Verdansk map. From there, the campaign plays out like a ‘best of’ compilation, rather than a full-length album, with spliced-together missions whose most grandiose moments are reserved mostly for cinematic cutscenes.

Modern Warfare III doesn’t exactly shy away from shock – there’s still a mission that has you facelessly drone striking combatants from the skies – but for a series that has a less than sensitive history in depicting the realities of war, I’d say the tone has softened a little. Or, at least, potential moral quandaries are reserved for the ‘bad’ guys. But this only really dilutes ‘good vs evil’ into lazy stereotypes, made clear by little more than an accent.

It could be said that the series depicts the horrors of war in all its brutality – think child soldiers, positing the player as a terrorist shooting at civilians, and one mission believed to have been modelled on the real life Highway of Death in Kuwait City. But I’d argue that it’s used for little more than disingenuous shock fodder. Any genuine message portrayed by the storyline is somewhat undermined by a multiplayer mode that allows you to parachute from the sky as a playable Nicki Minaj.

Minor conflict


Completing each of the 15 missions often feels like a test of patience, as you off balaclava-clad goons with all the enthusiasm of shooting fish in a barrel. I know I’m supposed to be toppling a criminal mastermind, but how many bunkers must I infiltrate in the process?

The final level starts with us, predictably, entering another tunnel. This time, it’s the Channel Tunnel, and a firefight taking place amidst high-speed trains and a bomb set to go off. And, much like a bomb with a dud fuse, it ends not with a bang, but with a pathetic fizzle. I felt fatigued by the end, but not because I’d made it through a storyline rich with character, tension, and depth.

You can probably blitz through the campaign in four hours if you’re not too versed in first person shooters, or closer to three if you’re a Call of Duty veteran. If you aren’t buying MWIII for its multiplayer modes, I think you’ll be very disappointed in the content on offer.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III: multiplayer

COD MW3 2023 review Ghost and Soap

If you’re reading through this thinking it doesn’t matter that a Modern Warfare campaign is good or not. That it plays second fiddle to multiplayer, which is where the action really is. Sadly, multiplayer is a new low for the Call of Duty series, a lazy cash grab so brazen that it’s almost impressive. Almost.

Firstly, multiplayer is only composed of remastered maps from 2009’s Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. That might be fine if you’re a Call of Duty newbie, but things have changed in the past 14 years. Disregarding how players want new maps and fresh experiences, the whole thing is simply rushed and lacklustre.

A new 3v3v3 mode is a fun addition, but it’s not exactly groundbreaking. It’s essentially an expanded Gunfight mode. Zombies multiplayer feels strangely empty. Action comes in disappointing bursts, and is mostly based around completing repetitive tasks that become real boring, real fast. Much of our time is spent aimlessly running around an empty wasteland. The 32v32 Ground War mode is an attempt to encroach on Battlefield‘s objective-based gameplay, but falls majorly short.

It’s to be expected for a game that was developed in just 16 months, not the three-plus years it would usually take. But it’s hard not to feel like we’re being taken for a ride with Modern Warfare III, that Activision can repackage old material and the dedicated fanbase will lap it up no questions asked. It would be insulting even without the $70/£70 asking price.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III verdict

COD MW3 2023 review Price and Gaz

Modern Warfare III’s $70/£70 price likely won’t matter to the millions of gamers who only buy each new edition for its multiplayer modes. But that doesn’t stop the single player story from feeling lazy and lethargic. It should’ve really been DLC, as apparently was the initial intention. For a company that’s just been sold to Microsoft for $68.7 billion, I expected much better.

Judging on the campaign alone, I can only assume that the move to make it a fully-fledged, full-price title may have been a financial one.

Stuff Says…

Score: 2/5

A half-baked, lazy campaign paired with a lacklustre multiplayer makes this a new low for Call of Duty.


Graphics are on point


Tedious storyline, boring combat

Repetitive gameplay with little meaning

Lacklustre multiplayer fraught with loot boxes

Profile image of Jack Needham Jack Needham


A writer of seven years and serial FIFA 23 loser, Jack is also Features Editor at Stuff. Jack has written extensively about the world of tech, business, science and online culture. He also covers gaming, but is much better at writing about it than actually playing. Jack keeps the site rolling with extensive features and analysis.