A tense one-on-one respawn mechanic and excellent level design make for the best battle royale since Apex Legends. Check out our Call of Duty Warzone review below.
Problem was, you had to buy Black Ops 4 to play it-and then Apex Legends released a few months later, for free, and took all the wind out of Blackout’s sails (and sales).
Activision’s back for round two though, and this time it’s being smarter about it. Warzone, released yesterday, is the next evolution of Call of Duty’s battle royale-but this time it’s free-to-play. Modern Warfare owners can launch it from within the usual client, but anyone can download Warzone direct from Battle.net.
And you should, so long as you’re still interested in a battle royale circa 2020-and have friends who are interested as well.
Hurry Up And Wait
This is absolutely ridiculous. That’s a tenth of my monthly bandwidth cap, not for a new game but for a single update. Even if I’d kept Modern Warfare up-to-date, Warzone still would’ve necessitated a 22GB install. Apparently Modern Warfare now takes up 163GB of my 1TB SSD, an entire fifth of the drive. I don’t know what’s up with this engine, that it requires such absurd patch sizes, but it’s unsustainable.
And what’s even more frustrating is that Call of Duty’s gotten worse over the years. I wrote about the problem of ballooning installs in early 2017, and specifically cited Call of Duty as a model for the future. Back then, the games were still on Steam and you could easily install and uninstall pieces of it at will. Only playing Warzone? Keep that, and jettison the campaign. Team Deathmatch and nothing else? Launch the rest into the void.
That’s how it should be, but unfortunately that quality-of-life feature disappeared with the move to Battle.net. I’ve got plenty of storage space, but not infinite.
Wolf Among Wolves
Anyway, once I’d waited for the 115GB install-and then an additional ten minutes after the game launched, while it sat and installed shaders-I hopped into Call of Duty: Warzone.
As I said, bring your friends. My biggest disappointment with Warzone so far is the lack of a Solo or even Duo mode. I’ve long since tired of playing battle royale games with strangers, and Warzone hasn’t changed that.
The long, lonely wait for a Solo mode begins, I guess.
PUBG had hotspots, but it never really felt (at least when I used to play) like it was set up to support them. People would drop into Pochinki, but decent loot was so hard to come by that a lot of those early encounters turned into slugfests, and if you didn’t drop in hot you might go the entire game without seeing another player.
In Call of Duty: Warzone, loot is abundant from the get-go. A single two-story building might have three or four guns inside, which facilitates those early-game skirmishes. It felt like I was always in the action, no matter where I landed. Warzone also lets players buy their custom loadouts instead of relying on random loot, which is a neat addition, and looting is just as intuitive as it was in Blackout. No digging through menus to drop a single bandage. Grab what you want and leave the rest. It’s easy.
And since, at its heart, this is Call of Duty? The guns are a joy to use in close- to mid-range shootouts, the beating heart of Warzone. The (enormous) map is basically cobbled together from a dozen existing Call of Duty levels with some filler areas. “Terminal” is here, as are “Scrapyard” and “Broadcast.” On the one hand it makes the map feel less like a real Russian city and more like a cartoon as you stumble from setpiece to setpiece. On the other, these are legendary levels with excellent competitive flow. Every individual section feels like a miniature Call of Duty match, with a handful of people trying to get an angle on each other as the circle shrinks and the killstreaks get more intense. You can play long-range sniper battles if you’d like, but that’s not really what Warzone is geared around.
It takes some getting used to, moving from zone to zone without getting picked off. I’ve come to love it though. The environments have a lot more character than your average battle royale, and if you’re already good at Call of Duty’s traditional multiplayer then many of those skills map onto Warzone as well.
And when you do die, Warzone throws you into probably my favorite battle royale respawn mechanic so far: The Gulag.
You go to prison. You die, and then you awake in a dimly lit cell, looking down on the Gulag Showers map-itself a recreation of a scene from the original Modern Warfare 2 campaign (which itself is an homage to The Rock). When it’s your turn you’re teleported into the showers with a random gun, then forced to fight the other player one-on-one in under 15 seconds. Win? You get sent back to the main fight. Die? You’re dead.