We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

MW3 campaign explained, rewards, story, and more

Here's everything you need to know about the MW3 campaign, as the 2023 Call of Duty game delivers a bombastic narrative follow-up to its prequel.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 campaign: Captain Price aiming his weapon to the left side of the image. The background is tinted green.

As the third entry in a reboot trilogy that takes creative liberties over the original games, 2023’s Call of Duty MW3 campaign takes things up a notch with the formal re-introduction of the iconic villain Makarov. It’s probably been a while since you last played the story modes of the previous entries, so here’s all you need to know to get up with speed with the Modern Warfare 3 campaign and story, including missions, characters, and more.

The Call of Duty MW3 campaign may not be the best story in the series’ history, as we mention in our Call of Duty MW3 review, but it’s a good stepping stone to getting used to the game before dropping into the Call of Duty MW3 multiplayer. It’s also a good excuse to catch up with some old and new MW3 characters before the eventual Modern Warfare 4 arrives.

MW3 campaign explained

The 2023 MW3 campaign features 14 missions that follow Task Force 141 against the increasing threat of Vladimir Makarov, who was seen briefly at the end of the Modern Warfare 2 story. These missions are split into traditional, linear levels as well as new Open Combat Missions.

Following the campaign mode of MW2 (2022), players are in for a globe-trotting story, with action-packed set pieces and infiltration missions that make use of the deep weapons sandbox, equipment, and vehicles.

The MW3 campaign also introduces Open Combat Missions, a brand-new feature. You’ll find several of these on the MW3 missions list, and they are designed to give you more freedom and agency about how you complete your objectives. The levels are bigger, and there is not one linear route or single method for completing an Open Combat Mission.

YouTube Thumbnail

Another first for the series, the MW3 campaign marks the first time in series history that we’ve got a direct sequel in back-to-back years. Despite the original trilogy ending with Modern Warfare 3, it seems like Call of Duty is setting its sights on at least another game this time for the subseries, with the ending teasing MW4.

MW3 campaign: An infographic showing all of the campaign rewards in CoD MW3.

MW3 campaign rewards

The MW3 campaign rewards are:

  • “Breather” Calling Card
  • 30 mins Double Player XP Token & 30 mins Double Weapon XP Token
  • “Corso” Operator
  • “Ghillie Guy” Calling Card
  • 30 mins XP Token and 30m Weapon XP Token
  • “Pathfinder” Operator
  • “Toxic Drip” Calling Card
  • 1 hour Double Player XP Token and 1 hour Double Weapon XP Token
  • “Doc” Operator
  • “Skull Rhapsody” Calling Card
  • 1 hour Double Player XP Token and 1 hour Double Weapon XP Token
  • “Jabber” Operator
  • Campaign Completion Emblem
  • Campaign Completion Weapon Blueprint

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that there are 14 rewards on this list. That’s right, there’s a reward for each mission you complete throughout the campaign.

The most notable rewards are the four Operators (Corso, Pathfinder, Jabber, and Doc), and the Weapon Blueprint. The remaining rewards are largely profile customization items, though the XP Tokens will be very handy when the full multiplayer modes unlock.

MW3 campaign story

With the end of Modern Warfare 2’s story hinting at the arrival of Vladimir Makarov – the main villain of the original trilogy – the MW3 campaign and story focuses on Task Force 141 attempting to stop Makarov before it’s too late.

The story of the Modern Warfare 3 campaign takes place over the space of several days, as Makarov’s plan moves into action. His overall goal is to start another world war, with the villain planning numerous terrorist attacks across Russia and implicating Farah’s home country of Urzikstan, as well as her militia resistance, the Urzikstan Liberation Force (or ULF).

During the events of the story, the members of Task Force 141 – Price, Soap, Ghost, and Gaz, led by Kate Laswell – attempt to stop Makarov’s plans.

You can watch all of the cutscenes below thanks to YouTuber ‘GameClips‘, but beware, there are heavy spoilers for the plot of the latest game:

YouTube Thumbnail

The other villains include Philip Graves, the founder of Shadow Company, and the notorious General Shepherd. In the last game, Philip Graves was believed to have been killed while in a tank, however, MW2 Season 5 confirmed that MW2’s Graves isn’t dead, and he makes a return for MW3.

Graves’s return is a major narrative error – Sledgehammer clearly knew that Graves would need to return in MW3, and retconned his death. This blunder removes stakes across the board because as soon as you allow someone to come back from the dead, there’s always a possibility they could return. But, we digress.

The other antagonist, as mentioned previously, is General Shepherd. In MW2, Shepherd placed a hit on Task Force 141, attempting to kill Ghost and Soap using Shadow Company to execute his plan. Fortunately, it didn’t go well, with Task Force 141 escaping alive and eluding Graves’s forces. You’ll have to see how the squad handles Shepherd in our Call of Duty MW3 ending guide.

MW3 campaign gameplay

Modern Warfare 3’s campaign gameplay is very similar to MW2 (2022)’s. Throughout the campaign, you’ll take on the role of various members of Task Force 141 as you attempt to complete the missions. While Call of Duty’s classic on-the-rail style chapters still exist, you’ll encounter several Open Combat Missions.

As mentioned, these keep the core of Call of Duty intact but allow you to opt for different strategies to complete them. For example, in the first Open Combat Mission, we opted for stealth and defeated Makarov’s forces without raising the alarm, but you could easily complete it by going guns-blazing.

There’s a large variety of MW3 guns to find and use within the Open Combat Missions, allowing you to experience the latest weapons that the series has to offer. From silenced pistols that can take out unaware enemies with ease, to powerful shotguns that devastate any opposing forces, there are plenty of options available. The options aren’t quite as granular as something like Hitman 3, but we thoroughly enjoyed them during our review playthrough.

The Open Combat Missions also require you to find different pieces of gear. You’ll need to find Ascenders, Parachutes, and Armor Plate Carriers. The first allows you to ascend or use zip wires, the parachute allows you to jump from great heights without falling to your death, and the Plate Carriers will give you additional slots to fit in Armor Plates.

You can see some gameplay of one of the Open Combat Missions below, courtesy of YouTuber ‘coreross‘:

YouTube Thumbnail

For anyone who has played one of the best battle royale games with Call of Duty Warzone, many of the Open Combat Missions play very similar, so you’ll be fairly used to the various systems and stashes across each location.

Does the MW3 campaign have co-op?

The MW3 campaign is single-player only, without any multiplayer co-op support. Given the lack of co-op functionality in recent Call of Duty campaigns, this isn’t all that surprising even if it is unfortunate. For co-op action, you’ll be better off in Zombies or multiplayer.

Though the series has dabbled with co-op in the past, such as in Modern Warfare 2’s PvE Raid missions, campaign co-op is generally not a supported feature.

MW3 campaign: Makarov looking menacingly at the camera.

MW3 campaign difficulty modes

The MW3 campaign features many of the same difficulty modes as the previous two games. These are:

  • Recruit
  • Regular
  • Hardened
  • Veteran

Recruit and Regular are the standard difficulty modes that most players should use, at least on their first completion of the campaign. On the other hand, Hardened and Veteran takes the difficulty up to very tricky heights.

Strangely, the Realism difficulty mode seen in both the previous Modern Warfare games in the reboot series is notably missing in this entry. While it may be added in a future update, we don’t expect the story mode to receive any major updates after launch considering that MW3’s multiplayer will be the focus.

Is the MW3 campaign worth playing?

Yes, the Modern Warfare 3 campaign is worth playing, but only if you’ve played through the story modes of the previous Modern Warfare titles since 2019. Not only is this the worst of the bunch, but it makes a bad impression for what has been mostly a good storyline.

If you really want to know what happens ahead of a likely MW4, we’d recommend going back and playing Modern Warfare (2019) through to MW3. Or, if you don’t want to purchase numerous games, you can find a recap below from ‘Tdawgsmitty‘ on YouTube before playing the Modern Warfare 3 campaign:

YouTube Thumbnail

It’s also a good training ground before jumping into the multiplayer, and lets you get used to some of the best MW3 guns that make up the MW3 meta. Admittedly, there are not many Modern Warfare 3 guns within the story, but there are a few you can test out against AI enemies before going up against real players.

However, the overall consensus is that MW3’s campaign isn’t very good. From our experience, it’s a glorified expansion of Modern Warfare 2’s narrative that doesn’t deliver on the stakes that it sets up. The game has received a 56 on Metacritic for PS5, showing a consensus among critics that the campaign isn’t good. For other platforms, the Metacritic scores are 64 and 53 on Xbox and PC respectively.

That’s all there is to know about the Call of Duty MW3 campaign. Despite the disappointing narrative that Modern Warfare 3 delivers, the multiplayer and Zombies modes do help it become one of the best FPS games.

Before jumping into the MW3 campaign, prepare your gaming setup for the experience ahead with the best PS5 accessories and best Xbox accessories. Be sure to also read our Modern Warfare 3 VPN guide for information on how to get the very best experience out of the game once you get your hands on it.