Call of Duty: Warzone Review — Sticking the Landing
Call of Duty: Warzone turned out to be one of my favorite battle royale games thanks to its smooth gameplay and new gulag feature.
After so many years of the mode being mainstream, you either cringe or get excited when you hear the term “battle royale.” While some people might automatically be willing try out any title in the genre, others might lose their potential excitement immediately. For me, I take these games on a case-by-case basis.
Now, this isn’t the first time Activision has flirted with the battle royale genre in Call of Duty. Black Ops 4’s Blackout was technically their first attempt at the mode and for all intents and purposes, I really enjoyed it, but it wasn’t without its flaws.
When the rumors started pouring in that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was going to be getting its own battle royale mode, I was skeptical of how they would they be able to differentiate it enough to the point where it didn’t just feel like Blackout with Infinity Ward locations and guns. I wasn’t even sure I wanted a Modern Warfare-style battle royale mode altogether.
After playing with Call of Duty: Warzone for the past couple weeks now, I can safely say that this mode/game is pretty amazing. Barring a few minor problems I have here and there, it’s probably my favorite battle royale title to have come out thus far.
For starters, I have absolutely no idea how Infinity Ward got Warzone to look so good with 150 players and the map as big as it is. I’ve been playing on a standard PS4 and apart from some rare frame rate drops in the pre-game lobby, the game looks stupidly good. I stand by that Modern Warfare was one of the best looking games of last year and it seems like Infinity Ward didn’t really sacrifice anything when it comes to Warzone.
Gameplay-wise it’s pretty similar to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Everything feels intuitive and streamlined, especially the new features. Given that it’s a battle royale, Warzone was bound to have some slight differences in controls than previously released game modes. That being said, everything from the armor refilling, to the looting, to the dropping of money and ammo fits along nicely and doesn’t get in the way of the game still feeling like Call of Duty.
While the gameplay itself feels great, the game modes are where Warzone is a bit lacking. Standard, trios battle royale is the obvious center-point here. Teams of three battle to be the last team standing and win the match. While that concept is simple enough, Infinity Ward decided to throw in one of the best features for a battle royale mode that I’ve ever seen.
The gulag allows you a second chance at life once you die for the first time in the match. As long as it’s not towards the very tail-end of the match, you have a chance at redemption in a 1v1 match. I can’t stress enough how great this inclusion is for the genre as it almost completely circumvents the problem of annoying deaths. Did you die immediately at the beginning of the match? Did you accidentally kill yourself due to fall damage or a crate landing on your head? Well, now you don’t have to worry about that because you get a second chance at life.
And if you thought the Gunfight matches in standard multiplayer were stressful enough? The gulag feature will have you on the edge of your seat. Having both players recognize that this is their “in” back into the match causes everyone to be quite skittish.
Beyond standard battle royale, players also have access to a special mode called Plunder. In it, unlimited respawns are allowed, there’s no enclosing circle, and players can use their multiplayer custom classes whenever they want to. Each team tries to earn as much money as they can before the match ends. This feels like an even bigger version of the Modern Warfare’s Ground War mode. While it’s definitely not as intense as the game’s other modes, it’s still a lot of fun and worth playing when you’re tired of dying all the time and not winning matches.
Which brings me to my next point: while the aforementioned money is a staple of the Plunder mode, it’s also a feature in the standard battle royale — and a good one at that. Players can find money in loot chests and laying on the ground around the map. I found that cash spawns more in the Plunder game mode but that just might be my mind playing tricks on me, I’m not sure.
With the money, players can buy killstreaks, armor bundles, and even revives for your teammates in the normal BR mode. Unlike the gulag feature, you can buy revives as many times as you want to, making it all the more imperative that you hunt down the rest of a team after you down a player.
Beyond some of the previously mentioned frame rate drops, the only major complaint I have with Warzone is that of the map design. In retrospect, Treyarch relied too heavily on previous “legacy” multiplayer maps to fill in the space of the larger map in Blackout. Here, Infinity Ward has seemed to do the complete opposite: there’s only a small handful of locations around the map that have older multiplayer maps incorporated into them. Yes, Broadcast from MW1 is there, as is Scrapyard from MW2, but that’s about it. I would have loved to see more integration of older maps if they were to make sense.
That doesn’t mean I would want them to over-rely on them, of course. Too many familiar locations might restrict the ability to create new original places, which I also want in the future. But when you have places that are similar in spirit to some classic Call of Duty multiplayer maps, it doesn’t really make sense to not incorporate them in some way.
On top of that, I would say around 50% of the map itself is just Ground War maps all spliced together. Again, as someone who still plays Modern Warfare multiplayer, this was a bit disappointing, as there wasn’t a lot of excitement going to those areas since I already knew how they played. If you haven’t played the standard multiplayer in Modern Warfare, you might be ok with this, but as someone who’s already sunk days into it, I just couldn’t get past this.
Still, this is something that could easily be fixed over time. One of the main features of almost every battle royale is the inclusion of new features, new weapons, and new places over time. This is largely just how I feel about the map right now.
That all being said, a lot of the original locations on the map itself are great. Dam, Hill, and Park are all really fun, original places to drop in at with interesting layouts and a ton of loot if you know where to look.
Put simply, Call of Duty: Warzone is awesome. Between the gulag respawn feature and its seamless gameplay, Warzone is definitely worth playing, especially since it’s completely free-to-play. While the map locations leave a bit to be desired, it really doesn’t sully the overall package too much. With cross-play and cross-progression multiplayer fully integrated, there’s no reason to not play Warzone, regardless of whether or not you own the full version of Modern Warfare.