Call of Duty: Warzone Undoubtedly Has Some Tough Competition
Nearly five months after its launch, Modern Warfare has finally released its Battle Royale mode “Warzone” to the public after tons of leaks and speculation on details. We first got a taste of what Call of Duty Battle Royale would be like with Black Ops 4’s “Blackout” and it was largely a success. The big difference on the surface this time around is that you don’t actually need to buy the main game to play Warzone. It’s 100% free to play for everyone and, yes, that includes crossplay. With its free to play nature, it’s sure to attract gamers by the millions. So then there’s just one question. Is it any good?
With many Battle Royale options on the market, Warzone undoubtedly has some tough competition. The obvious ones right now are Fortnite, Apex Legends, and PUBG. Out of those three, however, only 2 are free to play. But even still, free or not, each game brings its own flavor of free-for-all mayhem to the table. Inevitably, comparisons are going to be made when first jumping into Warzone. Thankfully, Warzone delivers enough originality to make its own version of Battle Royale feel challenging and unique in comparison to its brothers.
Dropping Into the Action
Right when you jump in, you’ll notice a few things. First, the map is HUGE. It seems to be near twice the size of any other Battle Royale map from any other game, and opening it up for the first time can be intimidating. And it needs all the space it can get since a full lobby contains 150 players, packed with vehicles scattered all around the map making it easier to get from point A to point B.
After dropping into a “Practice” mode, you and your squad will be ready to jump into the action. Just as in other Battle Royale games, you choose a destination, drop in and strategically make your way to said destination as quickly as possible. When you deploy your parachute, you’re given the option to cut it at any time making you fall to the ground. What makes Warzone’s dropping unique is that you can cut and re-deploy your parachute as many times as your heart desires. When you do this, your momentum shifts much faster toward your desired location, making dropping a sort of dance between cutting and re-deploying your chute to maintain maximum speed and distance.
Once you’re on the ground, it’s the classic “search houses for loot and get in the zone” routine. Loot boxes have a distinct audio cue when one is nearby making finding better loot a game of “listen for the loot.” Boxes will either be glowing blue or orange and, as is a tradition in Battle Royale games, opening them reveal items varying in rarity. Blue ones will contain a mix of a rarity in weapons, armor pieces, equipment, and ammo while the much harder to find orange boxes will contain at least one legendary item like a weapon fully decked out with attachments or a gas mask that briefly protects you against the fast-closing zone.
Simple is Good
The cool thing about looting in Warzone is that it feels simplistic in the best way possible. There’s no worrying about finding a bigger backpack as everything you pick up has its own dedicated slot in your inventory. There’s no scurrying around trying to find better attachments for your weapons because weapons already come equipped with attachments depending on the rarity. Even health is streamlined so that everybody has the same max potential armor at all times. Call of Duty has always been a pick-up-and-play kind of game and Warzone’s simplicity makes it feel right at home.
Each house and loot box you come across will contain varying amounts of money which can be used to buy a number of useful items at kiosks scattered around the map. For example, you can use your hard-earned cash on things like armor plates, ammo, and even killstreaks like a UAV or Airstrike. You can also save up enough dough to buy a loadout box for your squadmates, allowing you and your team to equip your own respective premade load-outs. There are also different timed objectives on the map that can be found and activated to give your squad a money reward upon completion. For example, “Bounties” mark a target on the map for your squad to eliminate while “Scavenger” marks loot boxes to find nearby. These objectives reward players to go out and explore while deterring players from simply camping in a building. Most importantly, it keeps each match of Warzone fast-paced and exciting as you’re often bound to run into other squads trying to complete their own objectives.
With all the chaos and mayhem players are bound to run into, you better be prepared to die… a lot. Luckily, after death, Warzone presents the Gulag. Upon dying you’ll literally be dragged inside a prison where you’ll find other fallen players waiting for their chance at redemption. You’ll then be randomly chosen to face off against someone else in a Gunfight-style 1v1 to the death where the winner gets to respawn back into the map. You’re able to watch other player’s fights as you wait, making it a sort of sick gladiator-like spectacle for those waiting their turn. And if you happen to die around the same time as your squadmate(s), you can watch their fight from the viewing balcony and even help them out by keeping them aware of their enemy’s position. While watching each fight you’re also equipped with rocks that can be thrown down at the skirmish, dealing small amounts of damage on direct hits. Not all hope is lost if you end up losing in the Gulag however since a squadmate still alive on the battlefield can always buy you back given they have the proper funds. Still, with its life or death consequences making every visit intense and nerve-racking, the Gulag seems like the gameplay element that truly sets Warzone apart from the other Battle Royale games.
With all the fun to be had in Warzone, there are a few hiccups worth mentioning. The terrain seems to be occasionally problematic when on foot, as some seemingly scalable objects and rocks turn out to be otherwise. One minute you’re getting shot by an unknown assailant only to fail at escaping because of a rock in the way. With the free-flowing maneuverability of games like Apex Legends, Warzone can feel a bit dated at times in that department. Bounties also seem flawed since you can still get rewarded without eliminating the player yourself, which literally defeats the purpose of an actual bounty. This means squads who activate a Bounty can not only see where another player is on the map but can also just wait it out in hopes that the target will be eliminated within the given time frame so that they can reap the unearned rewards. Right now there’s no penalty for failure, and that’s the problem.
Another disappointment lies with the given options for matchmaking. At launch, there were only options to play as a squad of three, jump in with just a buddy, or just go at it yourself without filling the squad. Jumping in a match without filling your squad, however, still forces players to face off against potential full squads of three. Recently an exclusive Solos mode was added which is a welcome addition, however, there is still no Duos and no option to play with a squad of four. Considering the enormous size of the map and a large number of lobbies, it’s especially odd that fours isn’t an option at the moment. Not to mention that most vehicles on the map seem to have room for four people. It’s a huge disappointment, but hopefully, it gets added in the near future as it seems like it would be a perfect fit.
It’s also worth mentioning that Warzone comes with an alternative game mode called “Plunder.” Plunder takes the same 150 players on the same map, gives them their own load-outs, and provides infinite respawns. Each team is to obtain as much money as possible within 30 minutes and drop it off at various banks that need to be called in around the map. The squads with the most cash in hand are marked by a general location on the map, making money hungry players flock to where the goods are. If you die, you respawn back in after taking both time and money penalty. First to a million dollars, or whoever banks the most money after 30 minutes, wins. The problem with Plunder is that it’s just not very fun. It plays out like a weird mix of Battle Royale and Kill Confirmed. When you supply a Battle Royale atmosphere, then take away the risk of permanent death, it ruins most of the tension. Sure, if you’re looking for something frantic and fast-paced then Plunder can be a nice distraction. But when the Battle Royale mode has so many factors playing into each match, sticking to one objective for 30 minutes just feels silly and repetitive.
Overall Warzone seems to have made a quality first impression on the Battle Royale market. There are still a few kinks to work out, but dropping into Warzone is consistently intense and exciting. With its vast explorable map and added elements like map-based objectives and the dreaded Gulag, Warzone allows players to dive into a Call of Duty Battle Royale experience like never before. And being free to play, fans of the genre have no excuse not to try it out.