Activision couldn’t help itself and had to jump into the Battle Royale genre with their most popular franchise. Call of Duty (COD) Warzone is the newest offering competing with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and the more kid friendly Fortnite. Warzone falls more under the PUBG umbrella since it is more grounded in reality. There is only one map and two different game modes offering a range of experiences. It is trying to grab fans from both Fortnite and PUBG.
I don’t actively keep up with Call of Duty these days and was, genuinely, surprised by the release of Warzone. Luckily, I have a good friend who convinced me to download the massive 100GB game. Yeah you read that right, it’s a 100GB download. To play Warzone, you have to download the whole Call of Duty game. It’s madness. The 100GB is after you download an update that takes another 17GB and then cleans up the old files leaving you with 100GB sitting on your storage device. PUBG and Fortnite are around a 20GB download. I have no clue why Activision didn’t break this off into its own download to allow for more people to play. Some of my friends and co-workers won’t play it because it takes up too much of their Xbox storage. Be prepared, if you don’t have good internet, to feel like you are back in the dial up era of waiting two days for a song to download from Limewire/Napster.
Once your device finally downloads this massive game mode, Activision decided to make it more difficult to play by having you sign into an Activision account. Just to let everyone know, it would not let me use my Blizzard account (what is the point of merging if you can’t share info?). On console, this is painful because you have to manually sign in everything and if you, like me, have a long ass name/email then it feels like forever. Okay so now that you have spent hours downloading and another twenty minutes to log in, the ability to play said Battle Royale begins.
There is a pretty decent training and it really helps those of us that haven’t played COD in years. There are all sorts of new things that make it feel a little more like Battlefield. You can now call out enemies, locations, and things of interest. In Warzone, you don’t have to worry about racking up a ton of kills to get killstreak bonuses, you just have to loot them from the world or off other players. In a few short minutes, you are dropped into the training simulation and get your taste of fighting against over a hundred killers all trying to be last man/team standing. This gives a low risk shot to learn what exactly the game is all about.
Once I teamed up with my wife and brother, we fired up Battle Royale and jumped into Vardansk (the only map available right now). For the first few jumps, it’s a bit of a guess on where to jump and your kill/death (KD) ratio might look really bad. Everyone has different play styles so finding the right place to jump is important. We initially started jumping on the Stadium because we like getting into the thick of it early so there is no wasted time if the squad gets wiped. Soon enough we were down to one man, my brother, and my wife and I found out that we were not out of the game yet. Once you die, you get “captured” and taken to the Gulag where you have a chance to face off one on one with another player. Whoever wins the face off gets to jump back into the fray. There's also the option to buy back your teammates after death.
The Gulag is a funny and weird place. You get rocks to throw into the arena below where two people are duking it out. Throwing rocks makes it more difficult for the players below to hear footsteps and if you hit them with the rock it gives them a hit marker from that direction. So, you might have the chance to help your fellow player if they died at a similar time. Most people decide to be weird and just punch each other in the face. The one thing that sucks, at least that I have had to deal with, is that you start with a random loadout. Sometimes you will get a revolver, or other small semi-auto pistol, and a grenade or, in the unlucky case, a throwing knife. The arena itself reminds me of the scene in The Rock where the Navy Seal won’t stand down and everyone but Nick Cage and Sean Connery die. You are on opposite sides of a grungy shower room that feels tight, claustrophobic, and dangerous. I have only made it out once.
After playing this a few times we decided to try the second game mode, Plunder. Plunder falls into the loot and shoot model. This might sound easy but there are up to fifty other teams working their way across the map also collecting a limited supply of cash. If you are one of the top few people carrying a lot of cash you become marked, adding to the difficulty. Luckily, they decided to warn you when you are marked. We almost always jump on the bank first because, if another group doesn’t land on it, you get free run of the place and there is a lot of cash. If someone does jump on it and you can kill them for the cash. To add another fold to the mode they allow you to deposit your cash allowing you to be unmarked. This can be done in one of two ways 1) call in a helicopter at the limited number of helipads or 2) purchase/find a cash balloon. The balloons can be purchased at stores that are scattered around the map.
The helipads work exactly like “extractions” in The Division. You run out onto the helipad and throw down a smoke and after a few moments a helicopter arrives lowering a cash bag. Each player can run out onto the pad and put as much cash as they have on it. The downside is obvious. The smoke and helipads attract scavengers. Each time you are killed you drop half of you cash. During our first game, I was carrying nearly 150K and lost 75K of it when I was killed and my team couldn’t get to my body before the other team snagged the cash and ran off. After that as soon as one of us hit 100K we started looking for a pad or a place to buy a balloon. However, after getting jumped a bunch of times at helipads we rarely use them. The balloons only hold 150K and cost 30K so we have to make sure it ends up being worth it and we fully load the balloon. People will still hunt you but the helipads are damn near a death sentence and a guaranteed loss of a lot of cash.
The map is huge but somehow it feels busy everywhere you go. You can go out to the lumber yards and there will be squads or people will be all over the tops of buildings sniping everyone below. Doesn’t matter where you are it’s almost assured you are fighting someone. When we have won the Plunder game mode it revolved around getting transportation. There is a lot of vehicles scattered around the map allowing you to move around to areas of interest and almost guaranteed cash piles or people carrying a lot of cash. The one big upside about the vehicles in Warzone is that you don’t have to worry about barely bumping your teammate and killing them (unlike PUBG). Players can jump in when you are going full speed or jump up into a helicopter. Yes, there are small attack choppers you can use to get around. They are the most useful because you can move all over awfully quick and with no impedance.
The reason vehicles are very important in Warzone, in particular Plunder, is to pick up cash drops and contracts scattered across the maps. The cash drops work exactly like PUBG’s loot boxes that random planes drop. It announces that there is a cash drop and then a plane will fly over and drop a pallet of cash on the designated area. They are denoted by a green flare or in the Tac Map a square with a dollar sign. This means that people can begin moving to said area before the crate hits the ground. This means it is a big risk but big reward. The pallets are carrying 150K. That’s 15% of your total in one drop. With a chopper you can hit them quick and get out quick. We had one or two people jump down and grab it while the chopper circled. This also works with some of the trucks because it can be used as mobile cover too but the chopper is faster and you can escape the area without having to worry about buildings or blocked roads. We used the chopper multiple times to win by jumping from drop to drop and then completing the contracts. The contracts are dropped all over the map and include securing areas, killing other players, or finding supply crates. Each of them pays differently and is another quick way to get cash. Because along the way you can keep looting. All three of them make you travel to a location or player. So, there is ample opportunity to work towards that million dollars.
With XP and of course winning comes rewards. You will unlock new weapons, player skins, weapon attachments, or in game currency. On top of that as you play with a weapon it levels up and you unlock more customization. You can add paint, charms, and stickers to each gun and even unlock a multitude of perks that help you in one way or another. Whether it be faster melee speed or better penetration and damage. The character unlocks, so far, are blocked behind a pay wall. You have to purchase their Battle Pass to get any new characters, aside for one that you get for playing the beta. Normally all of this would bother me because with the gun and killstreak unlocks it would be unfair. However, I have never felt like I was being out gunned because someone was a higher level. It really can be balanced by the skill of the player and there isn’t a real way to buy yourself to the best loadout, yet. The character thing does bother me because I hate paywalls for items. However, because it is a free game and it’s just cosmetic, I feel like I have to let it slide. They do have to make money on the game some way.
One of the best aspects of Warzone, the Plunder game mode in particular, is extremely enjoyable for my wife. She, in the case of shooters, feels like a liability a lot of the time. She isn’t the best shot and has panicked in a fire fight and has injured her own teammates. While playing Warzone not only has, she felt more relaxed but feels like a true member of the team. In nearly every match she has kept up with the amount of cash gathered and in many cases the body count. In fact, she likes this game so much that she has played without me and just teamed up with a friend and my brother. It has been great having one game as the go to without spending an hour before all of us come to some sort of agreement. Normally not all of us are thrilled. However, with Warzone everyone has been on the same page.
I really wanted to hate this because I have disliked almost every step that Activision has taken recently. No more so with Call of Duty and it’s constant rehashing, removal of single player and worst of all…loot boxes. But Warzone is one of the most exciting games I have played recently. My wife, brother, and I have made time almost every night to squeeze in at least a couple of games. It’s hard to find a game that everyone wants to play on a regular basis and so far, Warzone is succeeding at getting the whole family involved. If the updates and tweaks occur on a regular basis, Warzone has the chance to dominate the market.
Update: They added a third mode to allow for people to jump solo in the Battle Royale mode. So, if you are on quarantine and your friends aren’t, at least, you can still play without having to worry about an entire team jumping you.