Old Maps, New Thrills: The Paradox of Modern Warfare 3’s Gameplay

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2023 presents an unusual year for Call of Duty, with the release of “Modern Warfare 3” largely relying on familiar content to evoke nostalgia. Despite its assortment of elements from previous games, this installment of the rebooted Modern Warfare series succeeds in providing engaging multiplayer gameplay, characterized by rapid movement, and a captivating Zombies mode with an extraction theme.

“Modern Warfare 3” seems to be grappling with an identity crisis, pieced together from various elements of past Call of Duty titles. It follows directly after 2022’s “Modern Warfare 2,” yet its standard map selection at launch comprises solely of maps from the original “Modern Warfare 2” of 2009. Moreover, the game introduces a Zombies mode by Treyarch, set on the upcoming Warzone battle royale map and incorporating numerous features from “Black Ops Cold War.”

Typically, new Call of Duty games introduce multiplayer maps that reflect the game’s campaign settings. However, apart from the “Terminal” airport map, other maps in “Modern Warfare 3” bear little connection to the campaign’s locales. The reliance on older maps limits exploration opportunities for seasoned players like myself and highlights the game’s piecemeal nature.


Despite these disjointed aspects, the nostalgic elements often resonate effectively. “Modern Warfare 3” caters to long-term fans by reintroducing classic Call of Duty elements missing in the previous year’s game. These include a traditional minimap displaying unsuppressed gunfire, a conventional perk system, and the option to cancel reload animations. The return of yellow XP indicators for kills and objective points particularly appeals to players familiar with the original Modern Warfare series. While newer players might find these indicators outdated, they add a satisfying touch in modes like Domination.

“Modern Warfare 3” also revives the dynamic movement mechanics, aligning more with the swift pace of recent titles rather than the slower style of 2022’s “MW2.” The game reintroduces brisk aim, rapid sprinting, and fluid sliding, along with the intense slide-canceling mechanic. This results in classic maps like Rust and Scrapyard feeling even more fast-paced and frenetic with the updated movement mechanics.

The game aligns its tempo with “Call of Duty: Vanguard’s” fast movement rather than the slower pace of the previous year’s game. While I appreciate the quick action, adapting to the evolving movement mechanics can be challenging. The new Tactical Pads perk enhances movement fluidity, helping bridge the gap for players not accustomed to advanced techniques like slide-canceling.

“Modern Warfare 3” includes familiar game modes like Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Kill Confirmed, alongside the return of Ground War. The addition of War mode, first seen in “Call of Duty: WWII,” offers an exhilarating attack and defend style gameplay. In War, longer matches and varied objectives, such as escorting a tank, add to the game’s intensity and allow for high kill counts and XP gains. However, the mode currently lacks variety, with only one large map composed of parts from previous Call of Duty games, leaving room for potential enhancements.

One notable improvement in “Modern Warfare 3” is the simplified Gunsmith feature. The game maintains simplicity with five attachment slots and removes the complex weapon-tuning feature from “Modern Warfare 2.” This approach makes the game more accessible to casual players. However, the new Armory Unlocks system complicates player progression, delaying access to essential items like the VTOL jet and trophy system. This system feels more restrictive than rewarding and can be particularly challenging for players who can’t dedicate extensive time to the game.

“Modern Warfare 3” boasts an extensive array of weapons and attachments, further enhanced by Call of Duty’s “Carry Forward” program, which transfers unlocked items from previous titles. While beneficial for players invested in their cosmetic collections, this creates an imbalance at launch, as players using fully-equipped weapons from “MW2” have an advantage over those using new guns.

Despite the reliance on recycled content, the multiplayer experience remains enjoyable, capturing the essence of a classic Call of Duty game. The reintroduction of familiar maps and mechanics offers a nostalgic thrill, though it places greater emphasis on the quality of post-launch content to maintain player interest.

For the first time, the Modern Warfare series includes a Zombies mode, diverging from the traditional round-based format. This new mode blends elements from “Black Ops Cold War’s” Outbreak with an extraction-style approach, set on the upcoming Urzikstan map from Warzone. Designed for trios in a PvE environment, the mode offers varying threat levels across the map, with higher-risk zones necessitating upgraded weapons. The familiar Zombies features, such as Perk-a-Cola machines and the Pack-a-Punch, maintain the mode’s classic feel.

Zombies mode builds on the extraction elements of “MW2’s” DMZ, focusing on PvE gameplay and reducing the frustrations of PvP encounters. The narrative unfolds through three story acts, with cinematic cutscenes unlocked by completing increasingly challenging objectives. This approach offers a

more accessible and flexible experience compared to traditional Easter egg quests.

As a dedicated Zombies fan, I find this non-traditional iteration refreshing, especially following “Vanguard’s” underwhelming Zombies mode. The blend of DMZ and Zombies elements in “Modern Warfare 3” creates a compelling mode that appeals to both Outbreak enthusiasts and extraction fans who prefer PvE.

The release of Zombies lays a solid foundation for future enhancements, much like the improvements seen in Warzone’s DMZ with seasonal updates. These updates could further enrich the narrative and gameplay experience.

In conclusion, “Modern Warfare 3’s” campaign may disappoint with its gameplay and narrative choices, but the online gameplay, particularly Zombies mode, offers enough appeal to compensate for the game’s disjointed feel. The reliance on nostalgia can only sustain interest for so long, making the upcoming post-launch content crucial for retaining player engagement. Despite these challenges, “Modern Warfare 3” delivers an enjoyable experience, marked by a mix of familiarity and innovation.

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