Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 campaign review roundup

Reviews for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 campaign criticise its missions, plot, and short length.
call of duty modern warfare 3

The single player campaign for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2023) has seemingly failed to live up to player expectations, with early reviews for the adventure notably trending negative. It appears much of the criticism stems from its short length – it reportedly takes around 3-6 hours to complete – but the conversation also includes talk of dull missions, and thin storytelling.

One of the primary draws for Modern Warfare 3 ahead of launch was its devotion to new “open combat” missions designed to allow a level of player freedom and creativity. But according to some reviews, these are creatively hollow sandboxes that scarcely make an impression.

Likewise, it appears the plot has failed to connect, with many reviews lamenting that such strong characters have been given “boring” material to work with. While only a small amount of gameplay, it appears this story campaign isn’t the best way for new or returning players to experience the usually solid Call of Duty experience.

Read: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 includes zombies, open combat, and more

Here’s what the critics are saying about the story campaign of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

IGN – 4/10

Writing for IGN, critic Simon Cardy labelled the Modern Warfare 3 story campaign a dull and messy affair, calling it a disappointment after a string of much stronger campaigns in past Call of Duty games.

“It’s shallow, dull, and plays less like the greatest hits and more like underbaked cover versions of missions past. It’s too busy looking back at former glories rather than focusing on making any new moments worth remembering, wrapped up in a borderline incoherent story with nothing to say,” Cardy said.

“The only part we haven’t seen in a campaign before falls flat, bizarrely cobbling together pieces of the Warzone mode into actively bad sandbox missions, abandoning all of what made Call of Duty so great at its peak and instead delivering a dull string of missions that amount to a thoroughly disappointing handful of hours.”

Kotaku – Unscored

Over on Kotaku, reviewer Claire Jackson shared similar sentiment, claiming the game’s story campaign feels rushed and empty, despite the promise of its more open, freeform levels.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s campaign is a skeletal framework of a game that could’ve (and should’ve) been much better than what it presently is. Its attempts to divorce itself from the more linear traditions of CoD campaigns, while interesting in concept, mostly fail in execution,” Jackson wrote. “The game flirts with interesting, even promising, concepts, but it fails to stick the landing with its narrative or gameplay, leading to a hollow-feeling conclusion.”

GamesRadar – Unscored

Leon Hurley of GamesRadar noted that the blandness of the Modern Warfare 3 campaign was strange, as past Call of Duty games offered much meatier, and more interesting tales. Like Jackson, Hurley felt the campaign was “rushed” and “somewhat forced” despite its short length.

“I’m not entirely sure what to make of the Modern Warfare 3 campaign. It’s not terrible but it’s also far from great – lacking any real big set pieces and at times feeling like it’s been assembled from a Warzone construction kit of pre-made pieces,” Hurley wrote. “When it does click it can capture the TaskForce 141 fantasy well – just you and your wits trying to survive second to second. But for the most part, these small free-roaming beats often feel like the game is trying to do something it was never really made for.”

“There are hints of a more traditional Call of Duty campaign in the roughly six hours it took me to compete Modern Warfare 3 – one mission on plane, for example, is a trademark bit of playable COD exposition. But the majority of the missions feel assembled instead of crafted, and there’s very little texture variation to either them, or the game overall.”

GameSpot – 5/10

GameSpot writer S.E. Doster was more positive on the game’s opening, but felt its open combat missions actively distracted from its story, rendering the campaign more frustrating than compelling.

Modern Warfare 3 sparks a hot opening with an early reveal of Makarov, but the introduction of the new Open Combat missions disrupts the story’s pace for a fizzled-out ending,” Doster wrote. “However, after this hyped opening mission, Modern Warfare 3 immediately stumbles as you’re forced to play two of the game’s new Open Combat missions back-to-back.”

“Unfortunately, the freedom these open missions present come at the cost of the atmosphere and cinematic tension that would be present during a more traditional mission … Although its narrative setup is enjoyable, Modern Warfare 3 can’t get out of its own way, with nearly half of the missions being the underwhelming Open Combat style.”

VGC – Unscored

Writing for VGC, critic Jordan Middler labelled Modern Warfare 3 a series low point – and one that should be analysed in deciding the future of Call of Duty.

“Calling it a single-player campaign at all feels generous, as outside of a strong opening mission, and some interesting ideas about how these games could be structured in the future, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3’s solo offering is shallow, short, and feels like a release of obligation,” Middler wrote.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 reeks of a game that had a series of environments at its disposal, that then had a storyline roughly strung together around it, to facilitate the campaign … Modern Warfare 3’s campaign is not only painfully short (we timed ourselves at just over 3 hours and 20 minutes) but it doesn’t have that Call of Duty blockbuster energy.”

As far as the overall sentiment goes, it appears experimental new features like open zone missions aren’t quite hitting for players, with their sense of freedom diminishing the typically grand, blockbuster style of standard Call of Duty campaigns. Those keen to check out the game will likely find more meat in its returning multiplayer modes.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 launches for PC and consoles on 10 November 2023.

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Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.