I’ve been playing an awful lot of Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer since it launched on November 8. The latest title in the long-running Call of Duty first-person shooter (FPS) series, I’ve happily sunk countless hours into each successive installment since the arrival of Black Ops 4 all the way back in 2018. This new entry is wholly unique, however, in the fact that I feel as though I have almost entirely run out of things to do after just a couple of weeks.
With nearly 60 hours of total playtime logged across both the PC and PlayStation 5 versions of the game, I’ve already managed to hit the current maximum player level (rank 55) and breezed my way through the small handful of seasonal events sporadically released over a few weeks. Although it’s certainly not unusual to hit the maximum player level so soon in a new Call of Duty game - as the cap is steadily increased by a few hundred levels with each subsequent seasonal content update - it really seems like there’s substantially less left to discover once you’ve hit that cap this time around.
Obviously, 60 hours is still an awful lot of time to spend playing any one game but, when the previous entries all had me entertained for hundreds of hours right out of the box, it’s hard not to conclude that there are fundamental issues with the progression system as it currently stands in Modern Warfare 3.
A large amount of my boredom is likely the direct result of the decision to bring forward all of the weapons from last year’s entry, Modern Warfare 2, into Modern Warfare 3. While this is absolutely phenomenal news for first-time players, who now have access to one of the largest arsenals in franchise history, it’s very underwhelming for returning fans like me.
One of my favorite mechanics in any Call of Duty game has always been the fact that all of the weapons have their own distinct levels, allowing you to unlock cool attachments and a whole range of cosmetic camos (effectively just colorful skins for your guns) specific to each weapon.
Getting to grips with every arrival in a new entry is usually an entertaining activity in itself, where you complete challenges to get the weapon to its maximum level as fast as possible and experiment with each new attachment as it becomes available to find the optimal setup. Unfortunately, in Modern Warfare 3, this sense of discovery feels massively hampered by the presence of so many returning guns.
Any progress that you made in Modern Warfare 2 has been wholly preserved with the move. This sounds great on paper but, as someone who had already spent hundreds of hours unlocking everything from that game well in advance of the launch of Modern Warfare 3, what this means is that I don’t have many weapons to spend time leveling up in the weeks before season one.
This wouldn’t be so much of an issue had there been a substantial new arsenal on top of the returning selection but, with just 37 of the 114 weapons currently available being new arrivals, this offering is a dramatic step down in quantity compared to what we're used to seeing from fresh entries in the series. It also doesn't help that many of the new weapons are incredibly similar to ones that were already present in Modern Warfare 2.
The new FR 5.56, for example, is an assault rifle inspired by the real-world FAMAS and, as a result, practically indistinguishable from Modern Warfare 2’s FR Avancer which was also based on the very same gun. New melee weapons like the karambit and gutter knife are similarly identical to any number of knives found in Modern Warfare 2. These similarities undermine the appeal of these sorts of weapons..
Factor in the number of returning field upgrades, throwables, and a selection of perks that are effectively just slightly altered versions of their Modern Warfare 2 counterparts, and the whole roster feels like a massive waste of potential.
Rinse and repeat
There’s also the dreaded armory unlocks system which is, in no uncertain terms, inexcusably miserable in almost every possible way. Rather than unlocking everything through normal level progression, armory unlocks become available when you hit level 25 and are, for the most part, how you unlock the majority of the new content in Modern Warfare 3.
It’s easy to see why such a system was implemented, as the basic idea makes a lot of sense. First, you select your desired gear from the armory screen and are then tasked with completing a number of daily objectives to unlock it. The main problem here is that the number of daily objectives required by a lot of the armory unlocks is excessive, with killstreaks and field upgrades requiring you to complete up to eight daily challenges to unlock.
Daily challenges range from winning a match to getting a certain number of kills with specific weapons and can take anything from a few minutes to an hour to complete. As there are well over 50 armory unlocks in the game right now, the whole system comes across as nothing more than a cynical and contrived attempt to artificially inflate the amount of playtime required to get everything unlocked.
Beyond gaining access to my favorite killstreaks, I don’t really have much of an incentive to engage with such a grindy system at all and it's highly unlikely that I will bother unlocking much else without anything short of an overhaul to reduce the amount of busywork.
I’m optimistic that Season One, which should be kicking off sometime in December if previous games are anything to go by, will give me much more to sink my teeth into. But in conjunction with the incredibly lackluster campaign (read more about that in our detailed Modern Warfare 3 review), it’s a seriously disappointing start for the latest entry in one of my favorite annual franchises.
For more on Modern Warfare 3, see our Modern Warfare 3 Zombies guide for top tips on how to survive the undead, or read our early interview with the devs to discover how open combat missions change the rules of engagement.
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Dash is TechRadar Gaming's Hardware Writer. Before joining TechRadar, he was a print journalist writing articles for some of the UK's biggest gaming magazines including PLAY, Edge, PC Gamer, and SFX. Now, when he's not getting his greasy little mitts on the newest hardware or gaming gadget, he can be found feverishly devouring the latest Nintendo Switch otome.