Call Of Duty: Warzone first impressions review – COD does battle royale, again
Modern Warfare’s long-awaited battle royale mode is now free for anyone to play, but even if it doesn’t cost money is it worth your time?
The existence of Call Of Duty: Warzone has been probably the worst kept secret in recent video game history. Its existence has been known about since last year and all the specific details were leaked out long before the launch this week. Given that, and the fact that 2018’s Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 also had a battle royale mode called Blackout, you’d assume you’d know exactly what to expect. But the best thing about Warzone is that it does have the ability to surprise.
Warzone is available as either a free update for Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare or as a free download that doesn’t require you to own the parent game (you won’t need PS Plus either, but you will need an Xbox Live Gold subscription if you’re playing on Xbox One). There is a battle pass that the game is constantly trying to tempt you to pay for, that costs 1,000 COD Points (around £8), but all extra content is cosmetic so you’re not losing out if you don’t spend any money.
Despite the differences, the primary appeal of Warzone is the same as Blackout: that this is a battle royale game with top notch gunplay. Fortnite might be fun but its action is mediocre by most standards, and by comparison Warzone handles almost exactly the same as Modern Warfare (the only noticeable difference is slightly more recoil and that headshots seem to do more damage). That alone makes a major difference but while the basics of Warzone are the same as any other battle royale a lot of the details are not.
At the moment, Warzone supports up to 150 people per match, with the aim to get it up to 200 in the future. That’s more than normal, although the map is so large that you don’t really notice the difference. The ping system is slightly awkward to use, but even so there’s no difficulty in finding other players and coordinating without voice chat.
Trios is the only way to play though, so there’s always at least someone around, while the size of the map means that vehicles are essential for getting around. Thankfully, the controls for them are a lot tighter than in the main game, so bombing around on a quad bike is a lot of fun in its own right.
What also impresses is that despite the size of the play area the buildings are much more distinctive than Blackout, with no copy and pasted layouts. A lot of thought and effort has gone into Warzone – it’s clearly not just a cash grab – and that’s also evident in things like the gulag, where if you die you get a one-on-one fight with another loser for the chance to rejoin the game, as other dead players pelt rocks at you.
Meanwhile, elements that frustrated in Blackout, such as the fiddly inventory, have been improved and it’s now much easier and quicker to loot dead bodies, as you pick up ammo automatically. Loadouts work exactly like Modern Warfare, so while you only start battle royale with a pistol it’s still all set out the same. Collecting extra armour is simplified though so you just add extra plates, picking them up automatically, rather than having to worry about different types.
Killstreaks can be either picked up or purchased with in-game currency, which seems a slightly odd way to do things at first, but we assume it’s to stop more skilled players having an even bigger advantage, since there isn’t any skill-based matchmaking.
Operators do appear in Warzone but they’re purely cosmetic and you don’t get to use any of their special abilities from Modern Warfare’s other modes. You don’t heal with items though, but instead regenerate health. Thanks to the two pieces of armour you start with you will last a little longer than a regular deathmatch, but not by much.
Battle royale isn’t the only game mode in Warzone though, as there’s a second one called Plunder – which did almost manage to remain a secret until launch. It involves the rather un-Call Of Duty-esque activity of trying to pick up and bank cash, with the goal of being the first team to hit $1 million. Here respawns come as standard and you don’t lose all your money when you die, so it doesn’t reward negative play as much as you might fear.
Plunder is clearly not going to rival battle royale for popularity but it’s a welcome addition all the same. Although there seems to be some sort of bug at the moment, where at the end of a match you don’t get to see how well you did compared to other teams.
You’ll notice a few graphical glitches as you play both modes, and matchmaking has been highly variable at launch – although we’re not sure that wasn’t because people didn’t have the patience to wait for the lobby to full up with a full squad of 150 players, since they weren’t used to such numbers. But there doesn’t seem to be any major problems, which is encouraging on the first day.
Like any multiplayer game, Warzone will evolve considerably over its lifetime – which given the free-to-play version might be much longer than usual for a Call Of Duty game. Even after just a few hours of gameplay it’s obvious that this is an important contender in the battle royale genre. Whether interest will quickly fizzle out, as happened with Blackout, remains to be seen but the early signs suggest Warzone will rage on for some time to come.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC
Developer: Infinity Ward
Release Date: 10th March 2020
Age Rating: 18
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