Every year when the clock strikes Call of Duty, you can count on Activision to do the same two things: tell us this year CoD is the biggest, most innovative one yet, and then undermine all of that by dropping an underwhelming gameplay video.
For a series that's constantly fighting the perception that it doesn't change enough to justify buying another $70 game (a battle that's especially uphill this year), it's remarkable just how unremarkable Modern Warfare 3 looked during Geoff Keighley's Opening Night Live stream.
You could watch the reveal above, or I could save you nine minutes by describing it in the form of a Modern Warfare bingo card:
A dark, stormy stealth infiltration
A squad rappelling up a wall
AI teammate executes a guy quietly
Slow stair descent
Squad "goes loud" after setting off an explosion
Smash cut to logo after breaching open a door
I considered that I'm being too harsh on Modern Warfare 3, but then I went back and watched last year's Modern Warfare 2 campaign reveal and checked off all the same boxes (yes even the final smash cut). That reveal was so by-the-numbers that, at the time, it left Rich and I with low hopes for the full campaign.
Then I played the Modern Warfare 2 campaign and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. It's one of my favorites in recent memory largely thanks to a few standout missions that break up CoD's frantic pace, like the point-and-click stealth section where you just control cameras for 15 minutes, or the survival bit where you lose your gun and have a full-fledged crafting system. Where was any of that in the teasers?
Sledgehammer Games is steering the ship this year, not Infinity Ward, but I suspect Modern Warfare 3's campaign will have more to it than what we saw today. We actually got a brief glimpse at one new campaign feature on stage—Open Combat Missions, which Sledgehammer described as side missions "positioned seamlessly alongside" the main campaign. Open Combat Missions are distinct from "cinematic missions" in that they take place in larger areas and can be tackled with various loadouts, vehicles, and even killstreaks.
In #MW3, we're introducing a new innovation to the Call of Duty Campaign that allows players to interact with the story like never before.Open Combat Missions are player-directed, allowing the audience to play the game the way they want to play it. pic.twitter.com/ngpgvc3fswAugust 22, 2023
"You can go in quiet, equip suppressed weapons, and complete all the objectives without the enemy ever knowing you're there," creative director David Swenson said on stage at ONL. "If you want to go in loud, you can strap on armor plates, hit the enemy head-on, and Open Combat Missions will support it."
Open Combat Missions were only shown in snippets, but they already look more interesting than the campaign, so it's a wonder why the presentation didn't focus on them. The format sounds a lot like Infinity Ward's co-op mode from Modern Warfare 2, though it's not clear if these missions are multiplayer.
Modern Warfare 3's campaign is off to a predictable start, but most CoD fans are probably saving their scrutiny for the multiplayer reveal, which isn't happening until the Call of Duty Next live stream on October 5. The MW3 multiplayer beta begins the next day on October 6, though expect PlayStation players to get a headstart before PC.