Call of Duty: Warzone review

Enter The Warzone:

Call of Duty: Warzone is like watching a Marvel movie. There’s a part of you that wants not to like it. That hates the easy, CGI factory-made nature of its annual releases. There’s a part of you that wants it to be bad. For it to give you a reason to agree with Scorcese that it isn’t cinema … but you just can’t. Despite all of the reasons, it should be something my pretentious, indie self should hate. When all the Avengers came together at the end of Endgame, I can’t deny I was cheering along with the rest of the packed-out cinema.

Playing Warzone is like watching a Marvel movie, its mindless copy-paste entertainment. Its yet another annual cod release and yet another battle royale game in a neverending list of them. Warzone should be the kind of apathetic predictably release that I’d groan at before uninstalling and moving onto something else. But it just isn’t. Through its ultra-polished gameplay, stunning graphics, and unbeatable gunplay, Warzone is undeniably enjoyable, and its big-budget thrills bring a welcome respite from idle lockdown hours.

Call Of The Armistice:

Exactly what Warzone is is a stand-alone, battle royale mode added to last year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. It takes the engine, gameplay, and progression system from last year’s entry and throws them into a huge mishmash of the game’s existing maps and assets. That set up might sound pretty familiar to gamers who were around in late 2017 when Fortnite practically rebranded itself overnight and changed the multiplayer landscape over the preceding years. And the set up isn’t the only thing that Warzone borrows from the Epic owns borrowed game mode. But where Epic’s game was put together in about a month, Warzone comes four months after Modern Warfare’s release.

Buying killstreaks and loadouts are Warzone’s unique features. 

Warzone clearly benefits from the extra lot of development time. The game is incredibly polished out of the gate with the kind of smooth gameplay, sleek menus, and intuitive controls that you’d expect from the most successful game franchise. Warzone is, for the most part, the same mode we’ve played in numerous different forms over the last few years. But, the team at Infinity Ward has, as usual, polished it to a bright silvery sheen, and with the addition of some great quality of life, improvements elevated the battle royale game … even if it is only slightly.

Modern Improvements:

First off, there’s the mechanics and progress carried over from Modern Warfare. For simplicities sake, Warzone is Modern Warfare; it even shares the same experience, load-outs, and progress systems between both games. This means that Warzone has the same excellent gunplay, graphics, and sound design from last year’s annual entry. This isn’t anything new for the franchise. Black Ops 4 passed up a single-player for its own battle royale mode in 2018. But, where the mode in Treyarch’s entry was forgettable, Warzone fairs a lot better by being based on Modern Warfare, one of the better entries in the franchise in a few years.

What is a free to play game without premium skins?

Modern Warfare (2019) added a weighty feel to the shooting of the series. Guns feel satisfying to shoot, shotguns blast with a hefty kickback, and snipers crack with a weighty punch. While it’s likely been mentioned in reviews of the original game, it bears repeating that the sound design here is incredible. Gun, movement, vehicle, and explosions all feel weighty and impactful, and this elevates Warzone’s theatre of war. While playing, I had to turn my game volume down because the boom of grenades rang so loud. It’s an invaluable asset to a mode where sound and spacial awareness are essential.

Open Space:

All of the base mechanics pulled from MW to Warzone transition well into the huge, open map and freeform gameplay of the Battle Royale genre. It feels like an easy switch, and Warzone’s two modes actually improve elements that weren’t as well played in the base game. Namely, it makes good use of Modern Warfare more vertical and large scale maps. It was a common complaint in the base game that many of the multiplayer maps were a camper’s dream house, and the addition of Battlefield style open maps didn’t benefit the series usual stop and pop gameplay.

On the games huge map of Verdansk, the game manages to mix the huge interweaving cities and skyscrapers with roving farmlands. The map is generously littered with populated areas and impressive location variety. The variety of environments constantly forces players to change up their tactics and come up with on the fly approaches to each situation. In areas like Tavorsk district, players have to move quickly through the buildings watching the roofs for snipers on rooftops. In places like the Gora Dam, a sniper is essential for surviving the large open ice lake below.

Big Scale Warfare:

As well as the elements that Infinity Ward carries over from the base game, Warzone adds its own minor but appreciated touches to the genre. Namely by upping the player count to 150 players and adding in its own unique respawn mechanic, the Gulag. When a player died in Warzone, their lifeless body gets carried off to the less than five-star quarters of the Gulag. There you and all the other unfortunately killed souls wait your turn for a one v one duel in the shower pit. The winner gets to parachute back in and if their fortunate with their landing regroup with their team.

Verdansk is a wide and varied map 

It’s a simple and fairly innocuous mechanic, though it goes a long way in solving one of battle royale’s biggest problems. Namely, the early game deaths or failures from an unsuccessful drop. A quick exit in the early game has always been one of the biggest faults with this genre. This mechanic at least gives players a second chance before having to rage quit. It isn’t perfect, a late-game return from the Gulag can often be a death sentence for a player returning without a piece of body armor to call their own. But it is a welcome addition to the game.

This, coupled with that bolstered player count, means Warzone games are longer and more eventful affairs than other battle royale. You’re constantly under fire or hunting down other players in the games long, forty-minute matches. With the addition of vehicles, getting to the next firefight is usually quick. Again it isn’t exactly a cure-all, and it does come with its own issues. Early game drops can be a crapshoot, and without building mechanics like its cartoon inspiration, the final stretch can be a free for all.

Vehicles add a new layer to combat 

But overall, the flow of combat in this edition of battle royale felt refreshingly brisk and constant. The flow of combat has more in common with Respawn entertainments Apex Legends. (ironically made up of former Infinity Ward devs) Teams are made up of three, and the game incorporates a similar smart marker mechanic where a click of L1 will mark points of interest, and a double-tap will point out enemies. But Infinity Ward’s effort forgoes the hero shooter leanings of Apex for the series classic loadout and killstreak options.

Customization Is Key:

Warzone throws loadout and killstreak boxes among the loot and pickups scattered around its map. Players can swap wads of cash found in loot boxes for their custom their own custom load-outs and killstreaks; players can even opt to buy teammates back with the right amount of cash flow. This system works fine, but it does feel like it can undermine the looting of the battle royale mode. The system also hints at imbalance with players who previously owned Modern Warfare being able to access better load-outs and guns to new players coming into Warzone for the first time.

Bounties add varied objectives for players to complete.

You earn money and experience throughout matches by picking up mini objectives around the map. Capturing objectives, assassinating a target, they’re nothing substantial, but they continue to add variety to your matches. It gives players more to do during their time on the ground, and it was always an intense experience when you find yourself the target of another team’s bounty.

Trying Something New:

Infinity Ward hasn’t just put out their version of battle royale in Warzone, though. Alongside the traditional mode, the game also offers players Plunder. The new mode introduces respawns and with a set time limit sets players off to retrieve as much cash as possible and extract it at pick up points. Though the idea is fairly novel, the mode quickly loses interest. The open map and build up gameplay of a battle royale map doesn’t really work with constant respawning, and the mode usually devolves into teams dominating areas of the map and snowballing their hold on the pick-up points.

Plunder is a unique but forgettable mode. 

Plunder feels like an afterthought, though the attempt at doing different things with the battle royale framework is an appreciated one. Though after a few games, the mode loses any novel fun and just feels lethargic. Hopefully, Infinity Ward continues to try and innovate with the formula in future modes. As the dwindling player bases of  Apex Legends show, the mode only has a certain shelf life with players.

Modern Tech:

The problems in Warzone start to surface when mostly on the technical side. Call of Duty games seem adverse to ever running well, and Warzone definitely isn’t bucking that trend. The game lags fairly frequently, with server disconnects and crippling lag showing up in a lot of my matches. The game also has a lot of early game bugs. At best, they are minor graphic inconveniences. But, at their worst, they are spawning me into the toxic cloud and causing me to lose a match.

Teamwork is key to victory.

Warzone’s main issue is the obvious one of originality. As I said at the start, this is as by the numbers and derivative as it gets. Warzone is yet another version of essentially the same game. If anything, it lacks when compared to previous entries to this genre. Where Fortnite brought a playful tone, with building mechanics and a unique variety of weapons; Apex Legends came with a unique hero shooter class system. With each character bringing unique abilities and powers to their squads. Warzone doesn’t have much to call it’s own. Beyond the loadout system, perks and respawn mechanics, most of which are gleaned from Modern Warfare proper.

Warzone, despite being the latest game in the genre, feels like it’s ripping off the original Players Unknown: Battlegrounds the most blatantly so far. There’s nothing much that’s new here, and this is very much just another battle royale game. Players who didn’t love the genre, to begin with, might not find enough to suddenly convince them here. However, this is the genre at its most refined. With the incredible shooting mechanics and framework of Modern Warfare, this is the strongest the genres moment to moment gameplay has felt for a while.

Conclusion: 

I went into Warzone, filled with apathy. I thought my time with the game would be a boring slog, that reaffirms my disinterest in the battle royale genre, before quickly being uninstalled. So it’s genuinely surprising to say that I’ve had a blast with Activision’s battle royale game. As I said at the start, this is as stock as it gets. It’s the same game you played last year, and it’s not doing much to do anything that prior games haven’t already done.

But, with an excellent level of polish, the incredible gunplay, varied map, and presentation Warzone can be a real blast. This is as close to a popcorn movie as gaming gets. Enlist some friends, dust off your headset, and Warzone can be far more fun than expected. But if you’ve already slogged hundreds of hours into another weapon infested island, there might not be much to make you relocate.

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THE GOOD
Excellent shooting mechanics
Varied map
Incredible sound design
Unique respawn mechanic
THE BAD
Lacks originality
Technical hiccups
7
Good

Review Summary

A fun and polished addition to the battle royale genre. There’s nothing new here but with a group of friends and some RnG luck, it can be mindlessly entertaining. Warzone’s excellent base mechanics make it worth a download. 

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Adam Whiles

When I'm not writing articles I'm usually knee-deep in some obscure JRPG.

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