I’ve played a couple hours of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s take on battle royale, dubbed Warzone, which released this past Tuesday. My experience has been a mix of fun interspersed with some quality of life frustrations.
If you’re unaware, Warzone is Call of Duty’s take on battle royale released as a free update. There are two modes: battle royale and plunder. I’ve only played the battle royale mode, so these impressions will focus largely on that.
Battle royale sees up to 150 players dropping in to be the last man standing. Plunder sees you compete for in-match cash by looting, completing contracts, and more. There is only one map featured in Warzone at this time, and there are plenty of vehicles to use should you wish.
First, the good. I like that Warzone is a free update whether or not you own the base game. There is a battle pass which works largely similar to other battle passes, but the fact that this update is free is obviously great. The continuation of cross-play here is also great, and although I don’t believe I played with anyone on console, it’s still nevertheless a pro-consumer feature.
Mechanically, Warzone feels solid in these first few hours of play. The base game itself has some of the best shooting mechanics I’ve experienced in any shooter, and that competence carries over to Warzone. Weapons feel appropriately weighty, gunshots sound amazing, and the overall mechanics of traversal, mounting weapons, taking cover, and more feel good.
Warzone, like literally every other battle royale, has loot scattered throughout the map which you’ll scavenge to gain an edge. It’s here where my quality of life frustrations come into play. The loot follows the familiar colored tiered structure to which we’ve become accustomed. But there is no actually inventory screen to compare your loot or even see the weapons and gear you have.
Holding Tab opens a very basic inventory popup which only displays your ammo, armor pieces, and some tactical equipment like grenades. You can drop and share ammo from here too. But it does not indicate at all which specific weapons you have, their tier, or their stats.
I feel like this is a huge miss. I get streamlining the UI to make things easier to manage during the heat of battle, but I feel like this current inventory popup is just woefully inadequate. Even having a slide-out panel which shows you your weapons, their color tier, and high-level stats would provide a quick glance-able UI to help decide which weapon I should pick up or ignore. I’m really hoping this can be patched in. If something like this does exist in the game, I certainly haven’t seen it.
Perhaps my biggest frustration with PUBG, other than its garbage performance and general lack of optimization, is that you can spend a long time looting and simply getting to the play area, only to be picked off immediately. Yes, it’s called #competition, but it’s easy to become incredibly frustrated after this happens over and over again, forcing you to completely start over.
This is where I feel Warzone shines. Once you get shot up sufficiently, you are put in a downed state in which your teammates can revive you if they get to you in time. This is familiar to other multiplayer shooters. But if you happen to bleed out or you’re finished off, you get sent to the gulag.
The gulag is actually quite sick. The gulag is designed to look like an actual gulag. You’re forced to fight 1v1 against another player who was also recently killed. But there’s a slight twist here. It isn’t a straight 1v1 gunfight. There’s an incentive for you to fight (apart from being brought back to life again) which prevents you from simply sitting in a corner and waiting for your opponent to come to you.
There’s a flag in the middle of the very small arena. The first player to capture it gets to respawn in the match. This is honestly brilliant. I love this second-wind mechanic and I think it’s so well-designed in its simplicity.
What happens if you lose the 1v1 gulag encounter? Well, your teammates still have an opportunity to revive you by literally buying your life at a respawn station using in-match cash. This whole death mechanic is honestly really cool, and I love how it continually gives you and your teammates multiple chances to stay in the fight to the end. But you have to earn your chance to be revived, and it’s this gamification of death which I appreciate.
I mentioned cash earlier. Cash can be earned by simply finding it in the map, or by completing contracts. Contracts are located throughout the map and essentially require you to complete a certain objective in order to receive the payout. You can then use this cash at certain stations to buy perks and equipment like UAVs, additional armor pieces, and more.
Honestly, I don’t really care for the whole contracts mechanic. I’m sure some will get use out of it, but I’d rather just loot more on the map and get into position. As for the loot itself, I feel like the team have done a good job providing enough density of loot in a given area on the map. I don’t feel like it’s too much, nor too little. It’s Goldilocks.
Other than that, Warzone is fun, but I can’t see myself playing for months on end. There are definitely some cool mechanics like the way the game handles death, but the whole lack of true inventory is incredibly frustrating to someone like me who wants to see those RPG-like stats for decision making.
But hey, it’s free. It’s fun. No harm in dropping in and checking it out.
[Editor's Note: We corrected a statement which said Warzone is free if you own the base game. It has been corrected to indicate that Warzone is free whether or not you own the base game.]