Four score and seven years ago, some game developers brought forth into the industry a new multiplayer mode known as battle royale, and dedicated it to the proposition that it is fun. Now, we are engaged in a great war, testing whether that multiplayer mode, or any game with that multiplayer mode, can long endure. I have played many an hour of the new, free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone and not only do I believe it will stick around, but I really want it to.
If you pay any attention to video games, battle royales are not unfamiliar to you. The massive success of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, Fortnite, and Apex Legends have molded the landscape of competitive shooters for the past few years. From Fallout 76 to Cuisine Royale, there have been dozens of games that copycat the battle royale formula. The latest of which is last year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Though saying that Call of Duty: Warzone is copycatting would be a disservice, because it integrates a plethora of new and exciting ideas into the genre.
First, let us get the similarities out of the way. Like most battle royales, each match begins with every player dropping onto a large map from a plane. If you and/or up to two friends land without breaking your legs, your goal is to find loot, avoid a shrinking circle of harmful gas, and be the last player(s) standing. There are vehicles such as SUVs, four wheelers, and helicopters that you can use to get around, and a wonderful ping system exists to assist in squad communication.
Now, here is where Raven Software start to mix up the formula. Yes, like other games, you must collect different ammo types for assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns and so on. But you collect ammo simply by walking over it, and I cannot stress how much I love that. In fact, you do not have a backpack or limited storage space at all. You have a set limit that you can carry for each ammunition type, but you can hold the maximum amount for every ammo type. Like other battle royales, there is repairable body armor that blocks damage done to your health. Now, that armor comes in the form of armor plates which are picked up instantly, do not interfere with your storage space for ammo and are applied to your person fairly quickly.
The more that I think about it, some of the best parts about Warzone are that everything happens so much faster. Your health naturally heals after being outside of combat, self revives and reviving teammates do not take eight years, and the time to kill for enemies feels appropriately lengthen. The map is so densely packed with areas of interest that walking from place to place is much more of an exploration joy than the latest, boring walking simulator. Speaking of the map, it is absolutely ginormous. There is a huge dam, an entire airport, a large city, a tall, castle-like prison and more. All of it is mixed together to create a great variety of environments for intense shootouts. Despite its enormity, the matches felt much quicker than any I have ever played in similar games. This is thanks to all of the quality of life changes I have mentioned about storage, the vehicles, the quickly shrinking circle and, the best part of Warzone, contracts.
Let me briefly mention that I am not a big battle royale fan. I have played a lot of them for brief amounts of time before deciding that my time could be better spent playing other games, or cutting my toenails. This is mainly because I hate having to walk, pick up loot, walk, pick up loot, get in a small fight, die and repeat the process. Warzone's contracts obliterate the battle royale monotony. Contracts can require you to hold objective points on the map, open a number of specific loot chests or hunt down a specific player. It gives you something to do. It makes it feel like you are actually playing a game in-between the moments of frenetic, shooter action. Complete your contract and you will earn a hefty cash prize that you can spend in spots called buying stations. These allow you to purchase upgrades, killstreaks or your squadmates that have fallen in battle. Of course, there is a fun twist on dying back in the battle royale game: the Gulag.
Standing as another wonderful addition to keep you engaged, the Gulag is where players are sent after their first death within a match. Upon your arrival, you will watch as other dead players compete in one-on-one matchups where the victor earns a second chance on the battlefield. If no players are already dueling, then it is automatically your turn to go toe-to-toe with a random weapon against another desperate soul. one-on-one matches would normally make my blood run cold, but the Gulag is so quirky and winning is so exhilarating, that I cannot wait for the chances I have to compete there.
Although the Gulag can be fun, Warzone’s second game mode has my favorite idea for dying in a battle royale. In this mode, known as Plunder, your goal is to gather up one million dollars. You do this by the same methods of acquiring money in battle royale. Kill other squads, open loot crates, and complete contracts. Since the goal is not to be the last team or person standing, however, that means you respawn after each death. I know one of the big parts of a battle royale is the permanent elimination of downed players, but it is a lot of fun to respawn and keep going. What’s more, is that Plunder feels like the most accessible battle royale.
I know a lot of people, myself included, are a bit reluctant when it comes to multiplayer games like this. They may not feel like they are helping their friends or team if they cannot get a whole bunch of kills. In Plunder, kills are not the goal. Sure, they help, but cash is king. If you can complete contracts, open loot crates and safely deposit your money so that you do not drop it, you will find yourself being a great asset to your squad.
Of course, I cannot talk about any of this without mentioning that the gameplay feels just as slick and powerful as you would expect. If you have played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, you will know exactly what I am talking about. The shooting sets the bar incredibly high for FPS action due to some fantastic animations. Downing another player in either of the two game modes makes you want to keep playing just to get that next kill.
In all honesty, the biggest compliment I can give Warzone, is that I look forward to playing more. In the past, when I would receive invites from friends to play Fortnite or Apex Legends, I would groan, accept and bellyache to myself about how much fun I was not having. Warzone has completely reversed this for me, and I am now pestering my friends to get the game installed - it feels like it is full of potential. I cannot say how long Warzone will stick around, but I can definitely see myself playing it for a score or two into the future.
You can play Call of Duty: Warzone now on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Check out the video below for direct gameplay.