Don’t be fooled by the incredibly high graphical fidelity of Captain Price’s iconic whiskers within the Modern Warfare 3 campaign cutscenes. Don’t let General Shepherd’s realistically glistening bald head trick you into believing that no other Call of Duty game has looked as good.
Sure, the cutscenes in the Modern Warfare 3 campaign do look phenomenal in a pure “realism” sense. But they lack direction, style, and worst of all, they are used as a placeholder for proper storytelling. The MW3 campaign is taking a major narrative hit because of the cutscenes, and they need to be changed in the future.
Call of Duty Has Always Been About Storytelling Through Gameplay
Action has always happened through your own eyes. If you don’t remember the original Modern Warfare games or you haven’t played them, I implore you to watch some old clips. Nearly all of the storytelling happened to you. Each character you took hold of witnessed the story in real time. If a missile takes out a city and is shortly invaded after, we don’t get a cutscene that debriefs us with Laswell and Price staring at each other. No, instead, we used to watch buildings fall on top of us as our squad struggled to escape and keep the invasion at bay.
We all remember the infamous “No Russian” mission. That would cross every line today, but the sentiment was there. The player doesn’t need to be told about what happened, they should play it and find out. Of course, some missions were set up with a quick briefing to explain how the mission would go. That wasn’t the norm, though. Even meaningful conversations would happen as characters were looking at you as if you were part of the action.
If Black Ops were to be released today, all the times that Mason sees Reznov would be done in a cutscene. There would be no in-game hallucinations or incredible set pieces to sell the narrative. Now, the cutscenes serve to make you believe there is a worthwhile narrative at all.
Cutscenes Only Serve as a Bandaid to the Lack of Storytelling in Modern Warfare 3
Half of the Modern Warfare 3 campaign, if not more, is Open Combat Missions. Players are dropped into an area and allowed to tackle the mission however they want. Freedom is always better, right? No, it just frees you up to come up with the story yourself like you’re playing with action figures again.
Story beats are few and far between when you run the Open Combat Missions. They are essentially Spec Ops or DMZ objectives with no meaning or set pieces. Nothing special or incredible happens. So, how is the narrative told in a game where the objectives are essentially placeholders? Nearly every time it’s Task Force 141 speaking to Laswell at a table. When Makarov sets off some of the missiles in Urzikstan, we even get a video call with Shepherd to make things interesting,
The campaign consists of running to pointless objectives with next to no design and then they are tied together with these cutscenes. Trust me, searching for five phones around the map and killing small amounts of AI was important; you, just need to watch Farah have a conversation after.
I won’t spoil it, but the end of MW3 might be the most anticlimactic ending I’ve seen in a Call of Duty campaign. Just like all the other missions, the entire emotional load is supposed to be built up through cutscenes, and even the ending is glued together with more scenes. They need to be taken out entirely. Bring back those emotional instances with well-thought-out “scenes” that use your character’s eyes as the camera. Bring us back to the action that made COD campaigns the on-rails action thrillers of the games industry.
If you decide to jump into the story yourself, check out the full list of missions and rewards from the Modern Warfare 3 campaign.