You’d be forgiven for being a little confused in the time leading up to the launch of this year’s Call of Duty game. Modern Warfare 3 is a sequel to last year’s Modern Warfare 2, easy enough, but predominantly features maps from Modern Warfare 2, the one from 2009, at launch. It’s also a sort of amalgamation of mechanics from classic COD games, with movement being the main focus to bring it in line with how you may remember things playing around 10 years ago. There’s a campaign too, though it’ll be partly made up of Open Combat Missions, kind of larger and looser experiences that encourage player agency.
Deep breath, dear reader, because as the currently ongoing beta has proven, Modern Warfare 3 can actually be summed up pretty easily. It’s classic Call of Duty, with all of those classic maps you love, with some modern polish thrown in to bring things in line with contemporary FPS design. It’s not exactly like the games it’s trying to emulate, and not everything works at present, but if you were a devoted fan of Modern Warfare 2 (2009) back in the day, you’ll likely have a very good time with this blatant but admittedly very fun nostalgia play by Activision.
Let’s talk about movement, the ever-present elephant in the room when it comes to the Call of Duty player base. Modern Warfare 3 is fast, very, very fast. Sliding is back, as is increased sprint speed and mantling. In short, movement is once again king, with some important caveats, the main one being the trade-off between hip firing and the new Tac-Stance mechanic. Tac-Stance can be triggered at any time with a button press, shifting your aiming into a sort of middle ground between ADS and hipfire. The important part here is that when you slide, you automatically enter Tac-Stance. You will be sliding a lot, so whether you like it or not, Tac-Stance is something you are going to have to get acquainted with.
A new lease of life
Tac-Stance isn’t a bad idea in and of itself, however, in what is clearly an attempt to make it more viable, and to essentially force players into using it, hip-fire has been nerfed significantly. In fact, it’s actually now a lot more beneficial to enter into a slide and therefore Tac-Stance, than it is to start firing from the hip. This is a problem at present, with Modern Warfare 3 encouraging movement while also limiting the ways in which it can be used. It’s early days, but in the beta at least, Tac-Stance sticks out like a sore thumb among what is otherwise a very good set of movement options.
There were only a handful of maps available in the first week of the beta, including classics like Skidrow, Estate, Rust, and Favela, but from the get-go, these updated versions sure made an impression. While the visuals are a little bit off, likely because Sledgehammer is trying to take older maps and give them facelifts to help them pass in 2023, the design is still absolutely impeccable. Loading into a map like Skidrow really highlights just how far modern map development has changed in recent times. These classic maps are simple, predominantly three-lane affairs, that encourage players to learn routes and memorize choke points. There’s many more maps to come later down the line, but so far, so good.
In terms of weapons, Modern Warfare 3 mostly features returning guns from other games, with a handful of new ones thrown in. Because it shares the same weapon progression system as the last game, the same issues persist. Primarily, the baffling decision to make players level up other guns to unlock attachments on their main loadout remains. Things have mostly been streamlined here, but you’ll still have to level the occasional LMG to level 5 to unlock a grip for your assault rifle. So it goes.
Simple, but satisfying
In sharing a lot of its DNA with Modern Warfare 2 (2022) and Modern Warfare 2 (2009), Modern Warfare 3 does lack a sense of identity at present. The movement mechanics certainly help distinguish it from more modern entries, at least, but everything from the UI to the Gunsmith feels more like an add-on than a full-fledged sequel. Indeed, the decision to release Modern Warfare 3 as its own game, so close to its predecessor, will likely be the main sticking point with both players and critics.
Obviously, Activision was always going to release a Call of Duty this year, the shareholders demand it, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that $70 is a little bit of a steep price for what essentially boils down to maps we’ve all played a hundred times before. It all hinges on the campaign mode really, and just how much is added to the game post-launch.
Modern Warfare 3 is a very obvious attempt to play into the nostalgia that so many of us have for the first three Modern Warfare games, and from what we’ve played during the beta, it mostly works. Given that it gives off the impression of more of an in-between game, maybe it’s okay for this year’s Call of Duty to provide something this simple, though there’s definitely a worry of things becoming stale shortly after launch, with the gameplay being as fast but shallow as it is. There’s absolutely fun to be had for those looking for a dose of classic COD, with some slide-canceling thrown in for good measure, and hey, if Modern Warfare 3 does end up coming up a bit short of expectations, there’s always a brand new game coming next year, after all.
It's worth checking out the best FPS games if you're looking for a way to pass the time while you wait for Modern Warfare 3's full release.
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Jake is a freelance writer who currently works regularly with TRG. Hailing from the overcast shores of Brighton in the United Kingdom, Jake can be found covering everything from features to guides content around the latest game releases. As seen on NME.com, Eurogamer.net, and VG247.com, Jake specializes in breaking games down into approachable pieces for guides, and providing SEO advice to websites looking to expand their audiences.