Is Call of Duty’s Time Up?

Okay, it’s official: Modern Warfare III is one of the worst shooters ever. It’s ordinarily serviceable proclivity for tightly designed, cinematic set pieces have gone off the rails, hollowed out, reduced to mindless shooting galleries. The genre’s persistent themes of camaraderie, loyalty, leadership, of hunkering down in the trenches with your brothers and sisters all but eroded, bafflingly replaced by  ‘Open Combat Missions’. Its story is soulless; a vapid, tepid attempt at shock value fails to get an emotional response (other than bland frustration), rendering a short campaign largely pointless. It doesn’t really say anything, about anyone. And this is just the single player component, which was released a week early. Modern Warfare III’s multiplayer component hasn’t got off to the best start either with content being temporarily removed from play due to unfavourable respawn points breaking the experience.

As far as first impressions go, Call of Duty’s latest entry couldn’t have fared any worse. Activision will gloss over the negativity, that is, if they release a statement of course, but the state of Modern Warfare III does call into question Activision’s release strategy going forward. This is the first time they’ve released a direct CoD sequel the year following its predecessor, and with damning reports of extreme mandatory crunch emerging this week, it begs the question: what is the point of all this? Does anyone really, truly, enjoy playing video games when it’s in this mess? Is it time to put the breakers on for good? It might very well be but give time for the dust to settle on what is evidently a tired series devoid of merit and full of lacklustre experiences.

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Call of Duty games may be decent in gunplay, and despite each entry only featuring incremental changes and improvements (akin to annual sports titles), the games have done an okay job of keeping gunplay fresh with new weaponry and gadgets to try out. The motion capture in this latest entry is as top-notch as the tight, responsive gunplay too. The actors portraying Task Force 141 have all performed superbly, delivering their lines with professional aplomb despite the oftentimes shaky script. Elsewhere, character models, surface textures, and environmental lighting come together seamlessly to deliver a visually arresting experience.

Also, backtracking to the claims of tiresome crunch for Sledgehammer employees (which, by the way, aligns with reports the game only took a measly sixteen months to complete, a full year and two thirds shorter than the usual three-year development period), the developer has taken to the social media platform formally known as Twitter to paint a rosier picture behind the scenes.

The developer stated:We’re incredibly proud of Modern Warfare III – both the full game experience at launch and the upcoming year of content we have planned for the community. On behalf of the extremely talented team across Sledgehammer Games and our partner studios with whom we’ve collaborated on development, this has been a labour of love to lead the first ever back-to-back sequel in Call of Duty.”

He continues by stating the studio chose to release back-to-back Call of Duty titles in response to community demands, and that it’s the players who wanted yet another year with yet another game. He concludes: “We’re proud to be the team to lead the way on Modern Warfare III. We have worked hard to deliver on this vision which has been years in the making. Anything said to the contrary is simply not true – this is our game, and we cannot wait to play it online with all of you.” He doesn’t directly address the reports of crunch or the sixteen-month development period, but we can read between the lines a little bit to assume that he refutes those claims too.

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A studio head sticking up for the credibility of his studio and employees is hardly surprising, but there is alarming evidence that Modern Warfare III at least started life as DLC for its predecessor. For starters, there’s the limp four-hour campaign (which we’ll discuss a little deeper in a minute). More so though, there’s the trophy list which is loading for PlayStation players as part of Modern Warfare II, and even some instances of players not being able to boot the game up unless they insert a disc for Modern Warfare II.

These QA issues aren’t the worst thing to happen, mind. If the game was any good, it’s likely players wouldn’t care about these minor foibles. Single player aspersions aside, the game’s multiplayer component is devoid of any new content. Again, this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing (just look at how successful Fortnite has been in attracting forty-five million players to partake in its recent OG throwback event). Online shooters have progressed massively in the last many years, with but Modern Warfare III’s is buckling under the weight of outdated design.

And onto that single player campaign, well… where to begin. The decision to airdrop players into ‘Open Combat Missions’ is a dumbfounding one. Players are now Rambo, sneaking, running, and gunning whilst they figure out how best to tackle each mission’s open-ended objectives. The pace of the story suffers as a result.

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Plus, in a grisly mission, players must witness through the eyes of a woman an explosive vest forcibly being strapped onto her before unceremoniously igniting a packed airplane cabin. And unceremonious is the apt word here because shortly after all trace of this hijacking is erased, and with it any possible meaning behind her sacrifice. To portray such an horrific event in puddle-deep context is an extremely shallow move by the developer despite how proud the studio head says the team is of their creation.

Modern Warfare III then, is likely best experienced by someone new to the genre – which, let’s be honest, is hardly anyone at this stage. Recycled level design, and mechanics – and the ability to import weapons from last year’s iteration – all point to Modern Warfare III being nothing but DLC packaged as the full thing and that too at a lovely price of 70 USD. For a series that is hardly innovated with its so-called innovations mirroring that of annual sports franchise, it’s time for a major reset, or dare I say, it’s time for Call of Duty to move on.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.

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