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Modern Warfare 3 was a crunch-driven 16 month project that began as a Mexico-set spin-off, according to reports

Sledgehammer say claims are "simply not true"

The cast of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2023)'s campaign
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Activision

This winter's dismally received Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was created in "less than a year and a half", with staff working overtime to make up for mid-development changes of direction, according to a new report published on the day of the latest Activision shooter's release.

The story comes from Bloomberg, and is supposedly based on interviews with over a dozen current and former Call of Duty developers, who have asked to remain anonymous. It restates the paper's earlier claim that this year's Modern Warfare 3, developed by Sledgehammer Games, was first planned as an expansion for last year's Modern Warfare 2, hence the carrying over of weapons from the previous game. It was allegedly upgraded into a full sequel following the delay of another Call of Duty game once slated for release this year.

According to Bloomberg, the project that became this year's Modern Warfare 3 began life as a smaller-scale Modern Warfare spin-off set in Mexico. Codenamed Jupiter, it was designed to be relatively economical to develop by virtue of focusing on a single location, rather than zipping across the globe like the numbered Modern Warfare titles. In summer 2022, however, publisher Activision rebooted the game as a full direct sequel to Modern Warfare 2, featuring the villain Vladimir Makarov.

To pull this off, the anonymous devs say they had to crunch, working nights and weekends over around 16 months, in order to develop a longer campaign set in various locations. The developers also say they had to deal with friction with executives at Infinity Ward, lead developer of the Modern Warfare series, who had executive oversight on Sledgehammer's work and offered feedback late or made what Bloomberg describes as "significant and sometimes unwanted changes".

In our own Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 campaign review, Jeremy spots evidence of a shorter development time in moments of "uncharacteristic clumsiness... from the subtitles that fire too early in cutscenes, ruining character reveals, to the interstitial dialogue that sometimes overlaps with subsequent shootouts".

"There’s a sense that less time has been spent honing the pacing and polish of these levels than in previous years," he goes on. "And in a series all about slick, curated movie moments, those details matter enormously."

Activision have naturally denied Bloomberg's report, or at least sought to reframe aspects of the claims, telling Bloomberg that Modern Warfare 3 was conceived as a "premium game" from the beginning. Sledgehammer Games studio head Aaron Halon suggested to the paper that there may have been confusion among developers stemming from Modern Warfare 3 being "a new type of direct sequel", which carries over a lot of stuff from Modern Warfare 2.

Halon has also posted a response to the story on Xitter, insisting that this year's Modern Warfare 3 has been "years in the making" and defending it as the "first ever back-to-back sequel in Call of Duty".

"We're proud to be the team to lead the way on Modern Warfare III," the statement reads. "We have worked hard to deliver on this vision which has been years in the making. Anything said to the contrary is simply not true - this is our game and we cannot wait to play it online with all of you."

Activision are no stranger to reports of crunch and mismanagement. Call of Duty specifically has always followed a high intensity development schedule, with studios alternating release years. In January last year, staff at Call of Duty: Warzone studio Raven Software unionised in response to "untenable" working conditions together with "the continued cultural and ethical conflicts currently circulating the company as a whole".

Bloomberg's report also claims that Sledgehammer pitched a follow-up to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare in the wake of 2021's Call of Duty: Vanguard, codenamed Anvil. This, however, was shelved in favour of the new Modern Warfare project.

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