Early last year, EA and Respawn Entertainment caught everyone off-guard when they dropped Apex Legends. The battle royale (BR) quickly became one of the most talked-about and played games of the year. It seems Activision wants in on the hype with this week's release of Call of Duty: Warzone. Although we knew this free-to-play mode was coming, it still feels like a surprise. Thankfully, it is a great deal of fun and a vast improvement over Black Ops 4's Blackout. Fortnite finally has a serious competitor for the battle royale throne.
You can access Call of Duty: Warzone in two different ways. Owners of 2019's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare can select it from the main menu (after installing a 18-22GB patch). Those who don't have Modern Warfare can download the 100GB game separately. Thanks to crossplay, users on PS4, Xbox One and PC can all play together. That fact — along with the game's free-to-play nature — ensures a large (and hopefully sustainable) player-base.
On the surface, Warzone is like other BR games. Players jump out of a plane and parachute down to an ever-shrinking map where they must scavenge for gear while fending off and eliminating other players. Since it has similar mechanics to other BR titles, Warzone is easy to jump into. However, playing even a single match reveals the game's unique properties.
Call of Duty Warzone basics
The most immediate difference is the 150-player count. The enormous map capable of holding that many players is also quite monumental. Even with so many folks running around shooting each other, the world never feels crowded. Things become tense as the map shrinks, but for the most part, there's plenty of breathing room. Even more impressive is the game's stability. I played on both PS4 and PC and never once experienced performance issues.
A map can have 50 teams composed of three players, each starting with a handgun right from the jump. While not an ideal firearm, it'll help you survive long enough to find a better weapon. Obtaining assault rifles, shotguns, LMGs, SMGs and rocket launchers doesn't take long as each building has more than enough weapons. They are either scattered on the floor or found inside chests. Players not need worry about finding backpacks to carry their items; there are two available weapon slots, as well as two other slots for one lethal weapon and tactical equipment. It's clear Warzone wants players to strap up as quickly as possible. There are no healing items since health automatically regenerates. Attachable armor plating boosts one's health from 100 HP to 250. Warzone's fast nature is a refreshing change of pace from similar titles that can sometimes feel too slow.
Although a faster-paced game, you can go for long stretches without ever finding other players (especially in the beginning). This could put off some users, but the lull in action serves as the perfect time to scrounge for better gear. It also gives you the opportunity to find a secure position to pick off targets at your leisure. Of course, given the always-encroaching deadly gas encircling the map, you’ll eventually have to move to a different location.
Aswith Modern Warfare's multiplayer, you can create your own customized loadout. The catch is, you don't go into the map with it. Rather, you must wait for a supply crate to drop from the sky. Since others can see crates falling, you risk exposing yourself to potential ambushes by going to a crate. Even if you make it to a supply crate unscathed, it will take a few seconds for you to replace your gear with your personalized one.
Besides gear, you'll find cash scattered inside of buildings. You can use cash at Buy Stations to purchase armor bundles, gas masks and self-revive kits. Best of all, you can revive downed teammates through these stations. Like supply crates, using Buy Stations is risky because you're exposed when making transactions.
Call of Duty Warzone killstreaks and modes
It would not be a Call of Duty game without killstreaks, which you can purchase from Buy Stations. At the moment, players have access to only three killstreaks: Cluster Strikes, Precision Airstrikes and UAVs. Players can carry only one killstreak, or special at a time. This ensures an even playing field. Killstreaks also don't have as much impact on gameplay as you'd expect. I never once had to worry about cluster strikes or airstrikes. It's possible the players I was with never attained the necessary number of kills to initiate killstreaks.
While your ultimate goal is surviving and being the last team alive, Warzone provides users with in-game challenges called Contracts. Found throughout the map, Contracts will tell you to do things like find pinged crates, take down specific players, or secure certain locations. Contracts aren't necessary but they are a great way to earn a ton of cash to use at Buy Stations.
You're not out of the fight if an enemy takes you down. Teammates can revive you if you're able to crawl over to them in time. Should you die, you'll end up in a gulag. Once there, you'll have to eliminate another defeated player. If you win, you'll parachute back to the map — although you'll have to obtain new gear. However, if you die in the gulag, you can return only if a teammate brings you back through a Buy Station. The gulag eventually closes its doors halfway through a match. Being eliminated early in a BR game isn't fun, so it's great that Warzone implements this kind of revival system. As long as one teammate remains, you have a chance to return to the game.
Plunder is Warzone's other mode. As its name suggests, this mode is all about grabbing as much cash as possible. Teams that either collect a million dollars, or secure the most cash when half an hour passes, win the match. Should the latter happen, an elimination round of sorts begins. The goal, as before, is to nab cash before time runs out. Aside from its cash-plundering main objective, this mode differs from the standard BR mode because there is no gas to worry about. There are also infinite respawns, and you don't go to the gulag if you die. You even return with your loadout. Plunder is hectic since players have to scour the map to quickly secure and deposit any found cash. This mode is a neat side diversion but it isn't as engaging as the regular BR mode. Still, it's nice to have it should you want something a bit different.
Call of Duty Warzone system requirements
In order to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (and thus play Warzone), you'll need relatively powerful hardware. It is recommended you have an Intel Core i5-2500K CPU, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 graphics card, 12GB of RAM, 175GB of storage and Windows 10 OS. To enable ray tracing, you'll need 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU, along with an Intel Core i5-2500k or an AMD R5 1600x CPU.
Call of Duty Warzone bottom line
Warzone takes the staples of the BR genre and expertly integrates them with Call of Duty's time-tested mechanics. It's hard to say whether Warzone has the staying power of a Fortnite or PUBG. That all depends on the frequency of updates and add-ons. But for the moment, it is a solid battle royale experience that should please fans of the genre and newcomers alike.