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Modern Warfare 3’s campaign is a mixed bag of realism and Call of Duty homages

There's plenty to love about Modern Warfare's reboot, especially the inclusion of these firearms.
Miguel Ortiz Avatar
(Call of Duty)

On November 2, 2023, players who pre-ordered Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III got early access to the game’s campaign. The campaign of the original Modern Warfare trilogy (2007-2011) is fondly remembered for its grand settings and action-packed missions, and even a score by Hans Zimmer for the second game, that rivaled Hollywood blockbusters. From the genre-defining “Death From Above” AC-130 level to the iconic “Cliffhanger” level showcasing the popular ACR and snowmobiles, the legacy Modern Warfare established itself in the memories of gamers. With MWIII‘s full release on November 10, 2023, let’s take a look at what the campaign has to offer.

Lucas Botkin provided motion capture for the Modern Warfare reboot (reddit.com/modernwarfare)

2019’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare rebooted the series with familiar characters in more updated conflicts. Themes like terrorism and proxy wars took center stage in missions that were more familiar from the news than the movies. The slow and deliberate close-quarters fighting of “Clear House” set a new tone for Call of Duty which paired well with the themes of deniable operations and moral grey zones. Additionally, motion capture by Lucas Botkin of T. Rex Arms allowed for more accurate weapons handling that added a layer of realism to the game.

Another aspect of the Modern Warfare reboot that was welcomed by gamers was the inclusion of modern firearms. The SIG Sauer P320, adopted by the U.S. military as the M17/M18 pistol, was included in the game as the M19. On the multiplayer side, the SIG Sauer MG 338 was later added as the RAAL MG. Although unlicensed, the inclusion of new weapons like these made the game more realistic for those familiar with them while also piquing the interest of gamers who may not have heard of them.

“Frozen Tundra” severely lacked snowmobiles and Predator UAVs (Call of Duty)

In 2022, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II‘s campaign took a few steps backward in terms of its realism. While themes of terrorism and proxy wars continued, the game incorporated survival genre elements crafting and exploration. “Dark Water” was reminiscent of both “Crew Expendable” and “The Only Easy Day… Was Yesterday” from the original Modern Warfare trilogy. Overall, MWII’s campaign wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be and players didn’t know either.

It’s antiquated now, but you can’t have a Modern Warfare game without a Mk14 (Call of Duty)

With MWIII, the franchise reboot moves the realism slider back in the direction of 2019’s Modern Warfare while still paying homage to the original trilogy. Elements like changing loadouts from Warzone were added to the campaign along with maps pulled directly from the multiplayer game mode, while crafting was removed altogether and exploration was kept to a minimum. Meanwhile, missions like “Operation 627,” “Payload,” “Passenger,” “Flashpoint,” “Frozen Tundra,” and “Trojan Horse” and chock-full of references and allusions to the old games.

Modern Warfare accurately depicts SFO counter-terror police (reddit.com/modernwarfare)

Carrying over from MWII (2022), reloads pickup from where they were interrupted. If the player’s character removes an empty magazine from their weapon, inserts a new one, but switches to their other weapon without chambering a round, the animation will continue with chambering a round after switching back to the first weapon. While this can be annoying to pro gamers on the multiplayer side, the mechanic adds a layer of realism to the campaign. Additionally, characters are appropriately armed based on their affiliation, unlike 2017’s Call of Duty: WWII where Nazis defending Normandy were armed with Soviet PPSh-41 submachine guns. Of note, British SFO police officers field SIG Sauer MCX (M13 in Call of Duty) rifles as they do in real life.

At the end of the day, Call of Duty is still a video game and entertaining the player is the ultimate goal. While MWIII’s campaign wasn’t the gamechanger that the 2019 reboot’s was, nor did it feature unforgettable missions like the original MWII, it did improve on the previous game with a more grounded and realistic experience. Notably, unlike the original trilogy, MWIII is not the last game in its line. While it does not have a release date as of the writing of this article, a fourth title in the rebooted Modern Warfare franchise will continue the story of Captain Price and Task Force 141.