Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review

By sticking to the series' strengths, Modern Warfare 3 delivers some of the best competitive, cooperative, and single-player shooting in the business.

Few franchises have had a larger impact on the modern console gaming landscape than Call of Duty. The Modern Warfare scion of the long-running series has attracted millions of devoted players (and customers) to its addictive multiplayer arenas and cinematic campaigns, as well as inspired widespread adoration and shameless imitation. And Modern Warfare 3 doesn't stray far from the familiar formula. Though some of the signature thrills have lost their luster, this is still a very exciting and rewarding game. An explosive campaign, breakneck competitive action, and challenging cooperative play all serve as engrossing reminders of how Call of Duty earns its prestige.

Like previous Call of Duty campaigns, the one in Modern Warfare 3 is a globe-hopping affair that puts you in the boots of a few different soldiers. One thread follows Soap and Price on the hunt for Makarov and picks up where Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 left off. Others take you to major metropolitan areas like New York City, London, and Paris, where full-blown battles are being waged. The destruction that has been visited on these iconic locations is visually stunning, making the stakes seem higher than ever before. As you shift among remote air support control, on-foot firefights, and tense vehicle sequences, the expert pacing keeps you engaged and eager to take on the next threat.

The campaign also has a few unnerving sights and thrilling tricks up its sleeve, and the latter are more successful than the former. Chaos on a presidential plane and a frantic chase through Parisian streets are highlights, where environmental upheaval makes you feel like you are struggling for control in out-of-control situations. Other, quieter moments give you a chance to take in the carnage that these urban conflicts have caused, and seeing dead civilians who evidently perished while fleeing danger is affecting.

Unfortunately, Modern Warfare 3 takes a much more overt and heavy-handed shot at wrenching your heartstrings, which doesn't go well. The outcome is so obvious from the moment the scene starts that you're left to watch dispassionately as the throwaway characters act out their lines and fall victim to tragedy (opting not to see disturbing content at the outset of the campaign will likely spare you this unpleasantness). Despite this emotional misstep, the campaign remains an engaging and superbly paced roller-coaster ride that brings the Modern Warfare story to a satisfying conclusion.

Though the campaign is strictly single-player, the cooperative Special Ops mode returns after its debut in Modern Warfare 2, bringing with it plenty of opportunities to slaughter AI enemies with another player, split-screen or online. There are 16 one-off missions that complement the events of the campaign, letting you experience new facets of the global conflict in which you are embroiled. From tanking along in a Juggernaut suit to covering your ally with remote-controlled sentry turrets, there's a lot of variety here. Though even the longest missions can be completed in less than 10 minutes, the variable difficulty levels help Spec Ops missions provide hours of challenging combat. And if you prefer to continue your solo soldiering, you can run almost every mission by yourself and aim for a respectable spot on the online leaderboards.

There's also a new Survival mode that offers even more opportunity for cooperative or solo slaughter. As in many similar modes in other games, you take on wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies. From humble militia fighters and attack dogs to seasoned mercenaries and hovering attack choppers, you can easily get overwhelmed if you don't make smart use of your arsenal. You unlock guns, attachments, and equipment by gaining experience in both Survival mode and Spec Ops missions. And as you play through Survival waves, you earn money to spend on these goodies. Though your foes will drop their weapons when killed, the weapons you purchase are likely to be the ones that give you staying power. Ammunition and grenades can only do so much, however, so saving your funds for a sentry gun or squad of AI allies is a wise move. With good gun choices and savvy equipment use, you can make solid progress, but there's always another wave waiting to outflank and overwhelm you.

While the challenges offered in Spec Ops can be stiff, the greatest test of your abilities is found in online competitive multiplayer. The action will be instantly familiar to anyone who has braved a Call of Duty battlefield in the past four years, but the speedy action and rewarding experience point system are just as thrilling and addictive as ever. Modern Warfare 3 benefits from interface improvements that make customization and progression easier, with the free Call of Duty Elite application offering even more ways to analyze, customize, and improve your performance. Whether you download it to your console or access it through a Web browser, Elite gathers extensive statistics from your play time and offers a lot of helpful advice on weapon usage and perk combinations. This knowledge will be especially helpful to newcomers who find themselves overwhelmed because the Combat Training mode from Call of Duty: Black Ops is conspicuously absent.

Getting to know your guns with Elite and familiarizing yourself with the maps in Survival mode can help you refine your strategy, and the 16 maps provide an excellent array of arenas for the action to play out. Bomb planting, flag grabbing, territory controlling, and straightforward killing form the backbone of most matches, with the notable addition of Kill Confirmed mode. This mode mixes things up by requiring you to collect tags from dead bodies to actually register your kills. Confirming a kill or denying an enemy kill by collecting a downed ally's tags is as important as making sure your bullets hit the target, adding an enjoyable new tactical dimension to an otherwise familiar deathmatch.

Modern Warfare 3 also includes some adjustments to weapon upgrades and killstreaks; you now unlock attachments, camouflage, and stat-boosting proficiencies by leveling up individual weapons through use. Furthermore, killstreak rewards have been reissued in strike packages that offer some new assets to play with, like a remote recon drone and a ballistic ground-based booby trap. The Assault strike package works in the familiar way and rewards you for killing successive enemies in a single life; the Support strike package doesn't care if your streak spans multiple respawns; and the Specialist strike package rewards you with extra perks instead of traditional killstreak rewards.

These tweaks alter the flow of rewards into your arsenal and onto the battlefield, but Modern Warfare 3 doesn't take any chances with the tried-and-true formula. You can make your own eccentric tweaks to the action with the robust Private Match customization options, which bring back some of the weirder modes from Black Ops and hold the possibility of odd permutations to come. Whatever diversions or innovations lie in Modern Warfare 3's future, the competitive multiplayer still offers the same sweet satisfaction you've come to expect from the series. This is some of the best online shooter action around. And with the daunting challenges of Spec Ops and the exciting, globe-trotting campaign, Modern Warfare 3 stands tall as another great descendant of the game that changed a generation.

Did you enjoy this review?

Sign In to Upvote
The Good
Climactic campaign
Lots of varied and challenging Spec Ops action
Exciting and entertaining competitive multiplayer
Spec Ops profile spreads the satisfaction of leveling up
The Bad
Multiplayer sticks closely to familiar formula
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

About the Author

Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.
51 Comments Refresh
  • 51 results
  • 1
  • 2
Posted by Zekethompson22

This games has some amazing moments in it. The plane level is one of my favorites.

Posted by fitch129

I bought this game a couple of months back having been the only COD game I haven't played, and thought I'd now check what review score it got and I have to say, WHAT THE ACTUAL F**K how did this game get a 8.5 score? This game is a hideously atrocious heap of shit. Seriously it's so obvious this reviewer is nothing but a CoD fanboy, either that or he gets paid to say nice things about a terrible game. I really can't believe it got a score like this.

The campaign had no thought go into it what-so-ever, the ending was bad, the multi-player is one of the worst the series has to offer with terrible maps. Black Ops 2 offers a some what better campaign and better multi-player experience and I think Treyarch should really be doing the CoD games.

Posted by Nintyfan95

Haters gonna hate, MW3 is beast!

Posted by PedroFarran

Awesome game, really good.

Posted by ccusick

I hated the running and timed portions. There were a lot of them. So, at first, not so bad, but as it went on... it was frantic running far too often. I know the is not MGS VR missions where sneak is the object, but literally running through firefights is not realistic, and not fun.

I don't know how you are supposed to find the INTEL while running, but I felt a lot of the Campaign was rushed. COD MW - a 10. MW2 a 9 (still cool). MW3 a 7 (convoluted, never connected to my /character/ too rushed, too many story threads. Solid, but uninspired.)

My ratings reflect the hours spent on each game. In the final analysis, how many hours did you spend playing the game? For me, it's a significant downward trend through the series.

I hope the BlackOps II campaign is better. The BO 1 campaign was glitchy and I could not even finish it once. Fingers crossed. (it looks cool on TV....)

Posted by Naicco

Modern Warfare 3 included some adjustments to the weapons and killstreaks, but I really like the fact that Black Ops 2 is doing it even better. Just look at the weapons and perks @ << LINK REMOVED >> and you'll see that Treyarch is really pushing the envelope this time with BO2. Hopefully Modern Warfare 4 will be even better.

Posted by toffy666

great game

Posted by BatmanRises

Fun but hopefully the next installmetn will be more ambitious

Posted by skylar1612

MW2 is better

Posted by Nike_-

Where are here Ceates and how can I download them? (for MW3/ps3)

Posted by dasiluc000


Posted by wltw87

single player was bland but the multiplayer is still loads of fun :)

Posted by QtrArt

the game make me so Fun

Posted by cdrB3ASt

Game's amazing but the multiplayer spawning sucks...

Posted by reiska1994

great fun :)

Posted by FlameEmperor

@daub11 Lol...........Guess you don't play that much games then if you consider this to be the best game........

Posted by jasonlc3221

@ShadowofSonic What??? I guess I don't understand what you're referring towards.

Posted by ShadowofSonic

@jasonlc3221 Wow. Immature.

Posted by ShadowofSonic

@DethAngel22 :lol:

Posted by turbulence711

I loved the game-though the gameplay was very familiar, the fun factor overtook it. I don't see why many so many people hated it... If it ain't broken, don't fix it! PS. Spec ops is awesome!!!

Posted by DethAngel22

...I would hate to be in charge of the CoD games. So many gamers complain about similarities. What if they were to change some aspect of it completely? Then we'd all be pissed the f*** off, right? I think the anticipation waiting for this game has made our expectations WAY too high...What did you think was gonna happen, open up the case-"OhMyGawd it's a f***ing pony!" Ofcourse it's of the same formula that's what we love, right?

Posted by THE-DOK

Overall the game has generally done all right. There's people saying it should be more like this it should more like that, then not its not Call of Duty is it. I like both battlefield and CoD series, there both good in their own right. Battlefield feels more authentic, real in its gameplay and you rarely feel cheated. MW3 may not give you perfect accuracy or realism, but it does well with giving you lots to do and lots to do it with. Other shooters make the mistake of just focusing on one aspect be it graphics, realism, authenticity while MW3 gives you a decent spread of everything. With MW3 I can come on as level 1 player and still get the better of a bunch of level 80's basically you rank level doesnt completely disadvantage you as well that you rank up quickly anyway. If you get bored then theres so many different things to experiment with (and thats just multiplayer). Spec ops is entertaining and once again there is variety unlike other shooters. Like people have sad so many times you either love it or hate it but hate it for the right reasons. I play games for fun and agree with me or not CoD has the highest fun factor of all the shooters.

Posted by Leusthegamer13

man... a story line of modern warfare 3 and a multiplayer of battlefield 3... that would be rated 10 !!!

Posted by DeFiLeDTitan

the multiplayer is listed in both good and bad. Hmm... I say if it's not broken don't fix it. You can add enhancements, which from what I've gathered, they have. It's hard to hate on a game that gives you what you're asking for

Posted by harrymfa

Is Microsoft paying to have PS3 reviews of CoD late too? It's ridiculous that PS3 owners pay the same money for CoD Elite and get the goods a month or so later.

Posted by daub11

i really don't know why people would say that M.W.3 is the worst game that they have ever played, their just saying that cause they don't have a much of a life besides complaining about how bad some games are.

Posted by daub11

the best game that i have ever played in my whole intire life, by far.

Posted by Owl064

Modern warfare 3? Man modern warfare get worse title by title..

Posted by randomengine

Where is the "same as last year" emblem or whatever you call it? If new Disgaea games can get a good review and earn that emblem, yet this series doesn't is a double standard. Especially when the derivativity is mentioned under the BAD.

Posted by Rhys2SkilleD


Posted by jasonlc3221

@MafiaMusic I never said I was "playing" online the whole time, you.............. "dolt???" I'm enjoying exclusives such as ESPN3 which are included with my Gold subscription. I could also have live party chats with friends whenever I want, regardless of whether I'm playing the same game as my friends (hell, I don't even have to be playing a game). It's obvious you're a Sony (and Battlefield) fanboy, so I'll just leave you be. But know this.............I own a PS3 for the very reason to play games like Killzone and Resistance (but not Little Big Planet, I wear "big boy" pants). So you're preaching to the choir about exclusives. I just think you need to broaden your horizons a little bit and realize that you "get what you pay for" instead of trash-talking members who pay $60 annually for an online service that has a lot more to offer than a free service does. The access to ESPN3 as part of Gold alone makes the $60 a year more than worth it to me, as I watch a lot of sports. btw: It's pathetic that you thumbed up your own comment, LOL

Posted by MafiaMusic

april 11? what were you playing on xbox live then? :lol: Call of duty black ops? An old Halo game? Christ, I don't need play online all the time like som ADHD COD dolt. I was playing World class single player exclusives by then. Oh you you know, by april 2011 PS3 already got LittleBigPlanet 2,(9.0) Killzone 3 (8.5), The AAA version of Deadspace 2 (9.0) motorstorm apocalypse (8.5) MLB 11 (8.0) and yakuza 4 (8.0). and xbox? You guessed it, not a single great exclusive in that time frame :lol:

Posted by jasonlc3221

@MafiaMusic Yep, and that $60 paid for my online access for the whole month of April '11 (and 11 other months as well) on Xbox. How was your month of April '11 playing PS3 online? What's even better, I very VERY rarely play anything online on my PS3, and I still got 2 free games out of it. THANKS SONY (suckers)

Posted by Leakybubbles

People are way too harsh on Gamespot for how much they use it. :p

Posted by fabz_95

:lol:, I don't know why you guys released such a late review but it made me laugh.

Posted by senses_fail_06

Why even post a review at this point? dumb.

Posted by kkee

Nearly 3 months later? Wow, Gamespot's computers must have problems with copy and paste.

Posted by doolindesperado

I wonder why it took so long to post. Usually they post the multi-plat games at the same time.

Posted by toasty1979

Hey Gamespot, YOU SUCK! Bye bye...

Posted by Her0

Better late than ever! :P

Posted by Stevo_the_gamer

@MafiaMusic How's the tinfoil hat?

Posted by MafiaMusic

Let me guess, Microsoft paid GS to withhold the PS3 version's review. They're really trying to sell this rehashed generic franchise as an xbox eclusive or something :lol: MS --keep your Exclusive reviews, exclusive 1-hour long flash arcade games and exclusive demos. We have EEXCLUSIVE GAMES on PS3. And we aren't charged 60$ a year in online fees to boot. :lol:

Posted by payamyari

thanks but to late

Posted by Venom_Raptor

About time a PS3 review was up, 360 ones always get posted first. Battlefield 3 needs one by the way.

Posted by Telekenesis123

Sad that games that actually invent gameplay and innovate are judged more harshly and to a higher standard then ones that generally reuse and regurgitate.

Posted by Ni6htSorrow

Wow, such a long time for this review to be posted up. Wonder what caused the delay Gamespot?

Posted by thekazumalord

um why is the review for this game listed as only a few hours old? this game has been out for several months.... Gamespot need to get with the program....

Posted by carlisledavid79

A few days late with the review :P

Posted by grey_fox1984

I think MW3 has the most balanced perks and killstreak systems of the whole series. That alone makes it pretty worthwhile. I know a lot of people hate on CoD, but objectively speaking, it is still a very polished and high quality game; this review is honest, fair and accurate.

  • 51 results
  • 1
  • 2

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 More Info

  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 3 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • Wii
    • Xbox 360
    Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is the next chapter in the best-selling Call of Duty first-person shooter action series.
    Average Rating9759 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
    Developed by:
    Aspyr, Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games, Treyarch
    Published by:
    Aspyr, Activision, Square Enix
    Team-Based, Shooter, First-Person, Action, 3D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language