CoD: Modern Warfare 3 Single Player Review

Modern Warfare 3 is the video game equivalent of the massive summer blockbuster. It’s like a six hour interactive montage of the most explosion-filled parts of a Michael Bay movie, strung together with a Clancy-esque narrative that has more twists and turns than a rope factory.  There’s not a great deal of subtlety to it and it would rather punch your teeth down your throat than bring a tear to a saddened eye.

This franchise divides gamers like no other. There are those who decry its obvious iterative approach and those who hunger for more of the same. That’s the interesting dichotomy with Modern Warfare and the wider Call of Duty franchise; people moan that it’s so unchanging and yet there’s nothing else quite like it. Call of Duty is popular for a reason: nothing else in the genre matches its unerring ability to dazzle, excite and compel.

[drop]The game picks up right from the end of MW2, with Task Force 141 disavowed and hunted, thanks to the game ending double cross. It continues to follow the exploits of the remnants of the one-four-one, and various other units with a common goal, through the eyes of several different combatants around the globe. This globe-spanning body-hopping is now almost a trademark of the franchise and serves to vary locations and tasks while keeping the main narrative at least chronologically believable.


The largest difference between this and its predecessor is the amount of time you’ll spend rattling around various vehicular sections, firing at swarms of enemy combatants. This is not necessarily a bad thing. These tightly scripted sections allow for the game’s directors to go wild with the set pieces. Freed from the unpredictability of a roaming player’s positioning, the game can be timed to deliver the action at precisely the right moment for the most impact. Succinctly: they drive you through a narrow corridor, blowing up the walls as you pass.

I’ve never been a huge fan of these scripted sections in FPS games but in Modern Warfare 3, although they are frequent, they’re short enough that they don’t ever seem to drag or frustrate. It all adds to the choppy action that epitomises this biennial sub-franchise and the more traditional on-foot sections that they intersperse are well paced and interesting enough that there’s some degree of variation in what you’re doing.

The second half of the game is played out at a faster pace too. It gives the distinct impression of events escalating and the startlingly conclusive end game becoming rapidly more imminent, not just by explaining plot points in the pre-mission load but through the actual gameplay sections too.

There are also the usual smattering of quiet stages. Whether you’re swimming in the East River to assault a submarine or crawling through castle courtyards avoiding patrolling guards, those are always tense and expertly coordinated. It’s not a particularly subtle way of mixing up the player’s emotions during gameplay but it is effective. To go from “action packed shrapnel magnet” sections into “hold your breath and hope they keep walking” sequences means that the player is constantly kept switching pace and feeling differently without ever settling down too much.

[drop2]The first half of the game has a strange feeling of déjà vu about it, many of the tricks and reveals are repeats from earlier in the series and the overriding feeling is that this third instalment is stretching too much and not innovating enough. The second half of the campaign makes it abundantly clear that those moments are likely intentional call backs as it twists the storyline around and shows key franchise moments in slightly different ways.

It’s a surprising degree of intelligence for a game that has always been almost proudly lacking in narrative subtleties, if not the big twists.

By the time you enter the third act, things have accelerated to a breakneck speed and the assaults become bigger and more explosive. This is where the game makes up for the familiar nature of the first third, not through any particular innovation but by turning up the pressure and intensity of the missions.

There are also several key moments which play on the relationships of the squad mates involved and, avoiding any spoilers, some quite surprising events that you will probably be second guessing right up to the point where the credits roll.

There’s no question that Modern Warfare 3 is largely more of the same. That’s neither a criticism nor a complaint though. This is the concluding act of a trilogy, the time for innovation has passed and left behind it the smoothest, most tightly tuned single player FPS campaign we’ve yet seen. That’s not to say that it’s the best, that’s a subjective term and different people will enjoy different things.

But there’s no doubt that it has historically been the most warmly received and that trend seems likely to continue, even in the face of its most serious competition for several years.


  • Fast, smooth and action packed.
  • Twitch shooting at its best.
  • Bold narrative choices that will shock.


  • The game engine is starting to show its age.
  • It doesn’t do anything particularly innovative.
  • A lot of the action and conceits now feel overly familiar.

When the credits roll and the game pushes you towards the Spec Ops co-op missions, you will likely have a series of mixed feelings about Modern Warfare 3. There’s a lot to take in. It’s not particularly clever or innovative but then, it was never meant to be. Modern Warfare has always been about explosive action and speedy, 60fps gameplay. In that regard, it delivers in spades.

If you approach it wanting a morality play about the way our world is kept secure then you’re going to be disappointed. This is not a piece of art about the philosophy of war. It’s a piece of entertainment about the protection of familiar values. You probably won’t walk away from Modern Warfare 3 with any heavy questions weighing on your conscience but detach your preconceptions and you almost certainly will walk away with a smile.

It’s a fast, furious careening journey through a global war zone and although its goals and methods are now familiar, it still achieves them like nothing else.

Score: 8/10

Game reviewed using the PS3 version.


Real men and women have taken up arms to protect the freedoms we take for granted. If you want to show your appreciation for the bravery of our troops, past and present, you can click here to donate to the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.

Image Credit: johnnyberg



  1. Good review and a fair score in my opinion.

  2. Lovely review, Peter. If they can split the game like you’ve split the review, I’d buy the SP component.

    • I would too, an interesting sales model.

      • That model already exists… it’s called online pass.

        Just buy second hand and you get the game at a reduced price and with no multiplayer.

      • You do, but I still think it sounds too short and will be too expensive (even second hand) to bother with…

      • I didn’t think CoD had an online pass??

  3. Strangely enough I just at the point of this being posted completed it.

    As mentioned in the review the first half is a bit…..drab, with nothing much to keep you hooked in. Pass this part though and you suddenly realise that it is infact a great game.

    Dont fix what isnt broken?

    • With that logic of “Don’t fix what isn’t broken” we won’t have Windows 7…Vista was perfect, right? Why have 500GB of HD when 250 was ok? RAM @ 4GB’s? 2 Seemed to work good enough. Hell, why did we even use a mouse, the arrows worked flawlessly.

      Just saying. That kind of thinking is what makes CoD the same game it’s been over the past 4-5 years.

      • Whilst I don’t disagree with your sentement, you’re comparing entertainment with function though, which doesn’t really work.

        Popularity and underlying tech has kept COD what it is over the past few years. The basic game mechanics are what people play COD for as they feel immediately comfortable with them and they are particularly well suited to there purpose.

      • Vista is terrible!

        Besides that you are nitpicking my words and using a form of analogy that has little relevance.

        Nice try though. :)

  4. Ah I like CBs’ reviews. Gonna read it in a sec… now where did I leave my thesaurus?


    • Yup. Good review. Enjoying playing it myself. Its one of those switch your brain off games, like watching Die Hard because Kings speech feels a bit heavy going tonight. :)

      Can’t fault the write up. Although, frankly I’m a bit dissappointed that I only had to google one word this review….


  5. Nice review! For the first time ever I have not played the SP before I ventured into Multiplayer. mainly because on tuesday my mate was texting all day about how much fun he was having on MP that I wanted to jump straight in! Single player this evening methinks!

    • Read the review a few times now and I’m very F**kin excited to get home and start the campaign, got a few bees chillin’ in the fridge! good times!

      • Those poor bees :)

      • bugger off :P

        Its friday, It’s 17:06 and i’m still in work ok! ;)

      • I would advise against drinking bees as it could sting your throat. ;)

  6. I’m about 1/4 to 1/3rd of the way through & so far am finding it much better than MW2 but not as good as BlOps, will make more progress & maybe venture online this weekend.

    • Second half really picks up. I preferred it over MW2 (but not MW1).

    • Aaah so you’re about 15 minutes in!…See what I did there? hehehe

  7. Got to love a COD campaign. Short, punchy and hugely OTT, exactly what a shooter should be :D

    • There’s really nothing short about this one, took me about 8 hrs to complete. The spec ops looks tied in nicely to the game this time too.

      • Just over 5 hours for me on normal and I’m really not that great at FPS’s!

    • I prefer Half Life 2-esque shooters, but I guess thats just me :O

      • It’s not just you. :)

      • yeah same but not much can really match half life. its far slower and more atmoshperic. Cods something i don’t mind playing if i just want to switch off for a bit and enjoy sillyness

      • I actually hate half life, fucking boring games. I understnad there appeal and respect peoples love for them but i was too dul and slow for me

      • It’s not just you. I got to it far, far too late, but it is really a highlight on my shelf. Fantastic games, epic truly fits the series. Begging for HL3…

  8. Thanks for the review peter. After thinking it over for a few days now, I might get the game sometime, but not until christmas maybe.

  9. I’m just really excited for the next adventure, Call of Duty: Musket Warfare.

  10. “it would rather punch your teeth down your throat” I think there’s a really old word for knocking someone’s teeth down their throat and if I remember properly it’s retruscate.

    Share it, the next time someone accosts you on a friday night :D

Comments are now closed for this post.