Months before Call of Duty: Modern Warfare hits store shelves, rumors are swirling that the game will feature a battle royale mode. Despite this, Activision has remained tight-lipped about any kind of battle royale for Modern Warfare, not officially confirming its existence until a day before its launch. The recently released Call of Duty: Warzone is one of the worst kept secrets in gaming, but it turned out to be one of the best surprises of the year.
Just like how Apex Legends launched in 2019 to rave reviews, Call of Duty: Warzone came out of nowhere and took the battle royale genre by storm. Warzone’s player population continues to grow every week, with the game being a top choice for streamers, fans of the genre, and even Call of Duty enthusiasts who haven’t been too interested in battle royales before.
Warzone is far from the first time the Call of Duty franchise has attempted battle royale, but it’s easily its easiest attempt yet. This is actually the first Call of Duty battle royale that actually feels like a Call of Duty game, whereas Black Ops 4’s Blackout and Call of Duty Mobile’s battle royale both play on PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
Call of Duty: Warzone sets itself apart from other Call of Duty battle royale attempts by introducing some innovations instead of just chasing the coattails of past battle royale games. Most important here are the changes it makes to the typical battle royale loot system so that players are constantly on the move instead of grappling with complicated menus.
In Call of Duty: Warzone, players don’t have to waste time collecting weapon attachments or digging around a bunch of healing items. Instead they find special weapons on the fully decked-out Warzone map, and they have regenerating health using a simple armor system. Warzone’s simplified loot system streamlines the battle royale experience and makes it more consistently entertaining from one moment to the next.
Another big innovation that Warzone brings to the table is the 1v1 Gulag respawn system. As long as it happens within the first half of the match or so, if a Warzone player dies, they will be sent to the Gulag. The Gulag is a prison complex where players battle an opponent in a Gunfight match for a chance to live again. So unlike other battle royale games where players have to sit back and watch their teammates play if they die, death in Warzone just means entering a different kind of battle.
Of course, there are times when players fail to win the Gulag, but even then that doesn’t mean they’re out of the fight. Instead of using revive tokens like in other battle royale games, Warzone lets players revive their teammates through a cash system. Getting money in Warzone is of great importance beyond just using it to revive teammates, however, as money also allows players to purchase killstreaks, namely powerful loadouts, armor plate bundles, and more.
Money is a big deal in the regular Warzone battle royale mode, but it’s even more important in Plunder mode. Plunder is a unique game mode where the goal is not only to kill all other players on the battle royale map, but rather to have the most money at the end of a match. Plunder is an interesting distraction, but most players will likely stick to standard battle royale mode most of the time.
Regardless of the mode they play, Warzone players need to make collecting money a big part of their strategy if they want to win. Money can be looted from the Warzone map, but it can also be earned by completing contracts, which serves as another great innovation that Warzone brings to the table.
Warzone contracts sometimes require players to defend a specific point or find hidden caches of loot. Some of them place bounties on nearby enemies, giving Warzone players a general idea of where to go next to find enemies. Contracts make this so that Warzone players always have something to do, and thus there are less frequent long runs on the map like what happens in other battle royale games.
It helps that the Warzone map is very dense and full of interesting locations. There isn’t too much wasted space on the map, and each point of interest has plenty of interior locations to explore, loot to collect, and vehicles to command for quick escapes.
At launch, Warzone has several different vehicles for players to choose from, including trucks, ATVs, and helicopters. Warzone helicopters are particularly fun to use, and often feature in some of the most action-packed and fun moments players will experience in the game.
In terms of pure fun factor, Call of Duty: Warzone is hard to beat. Compared to other battle royales, it doesn’t feel like a waste of the player’s time, and it does a great job of ensuring that players stay engaged in the action instead of looting or watching their friends play. But even with so much praise when it comes to Warzone, there are still some issues that need to be addressed.
Warzone has some bugs and technical issues that still need to be fixed. These range from inoffensive graphical glitches to more frustrating problems, like a poison gas glitch that kills players instantly after winning a Gulag battle. Call of Duty: Warzone player footsteps are mostly unheard at the time of this writing, which is especially frustrating for more dedicated players.
Warzone also suffers from a general lack of options in terms of team size. Warzone launched with 3-person teams and has since added solos, but the game still lacks the option for 4-player squads, which is standard for the genre. Infinity Ward has confirmed that Warzone will add more team size options at some point in the future, but for now players are stuck playing in trios and solos.
As Infinity Ward continues to add more team size options and other features to Warzone, it’s likely to become an even better experience. At launch, Warzone was one of the better, more polished battle royale games available, with a focus on intense, fast-paced stealth action and inventory management. Those who prefer the more realistic approach of games like PUBG may find the Warzone experience lacking, but most people will have a ton of fun with it.
And even if someone isn’t completely sold on Call of Duty: Warzone, it’s worth pointing out that the game is free-to-play. It’s available through Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, sure, but there’s also a free client that players on all platforms can download. Better yet, Warzone has little in the way of intrusive microtransactions or in-game purchases, unlike many other free-to-play titles. Players can purchase the Battle Pass (which is shared with Modern Warfare) or cosmetics if they want, but most can play the game without thinking twice about spending any money on microtransactions.
Call of Duty: Warzone is a top tier battle royale game and its first player numbers reflect that. As long as Infinity Ward manages to keep the game updated in terms of bug fixes and new content, it’s hard to see why it won’t remain one of the top battle royale games for a few months if not years to come.
Call of Duty: Warzone is out now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Today Technology reviewed the game on Xbox One.