Reviewed on Xbox One X - Final Score 8.5/10
Activision's latest attempt on the ever saturating Battle Royale genre, Warzone takes a definitely unique approach. Warzone is a semi-standalone expansion? Existing owners of Call of Duty Modern Warfare received an update that integrates Warzone as just another major mode like Campaign, Multiplayer, or CO-OP; however, it is possible to just download Warzone by itself for free if you are not a Modern Warfare owner. It is clear Activision is trying to find a "have their cake and eat it too" approach when it comes to this hybrid game style. They don't really want to let go of the past with their annual AAA 60$ franchise releases, but they also want to add the success of a fortnite/apex legends style free to play BR game. Activision might be figuring out this balance, as it is nice that the battle pass seamlessly integrates into both the "main" game and Warzone, as well as the multiplayer load outs can be accessed in Warzone. It seems like a hybrid that blends the past strategy with a more modern live service. I give them huge credit too in that still all these months after launch Activision still has not gone back on their word and added loot boxes. Activision in fact has been making more money on their Battlepass then they did before on loot boxes and other monetization. My question is what is going to happen to this separate free to play Warzone once Call of Duty 2020 arrives. Activision is still missing a key advantage of “permanence” of in game items that their biggest competitors have. All my day one Overwatch, Fortnite, Apex Legends cosmetics and content all still carry over year over year. What is going to happen to all the unlocked content? While I acknowledge their hybrid approach is clever, I firmly believe Activision may still see players hesitant to spend more money on items they can't keep. Will Activision ever switch to a permanent season-based live service? Do we really want them too?
Let me move on the Warzone itself. It is definitely a super fun, polished, strategic Battle Royale. I joined the Battleroyale craze much later than many, not really playing it until Call of Duty: Blackout. The lack of a campaign forced me to try out the mode or skip the game. Turned out I loved Blackout and couldn't get enough of it. It was super fun to play alone and play life or death hide and seek or play with others and hunt down other squads. Victory felt hard fought and made me have a love for this new genre. I eventually tried out PUBG and Fortnite a little but still enjoyed and preferred Blackout. Fortinite grew on me and I do enjoy it, especially post Chapter 2 and it's special events.
Then came Apex freaking Legends. Apex has become one of my all times favorite games. It has dethroned Overwatch as my default game to pass an hour by. It is also the standard by which I now measure battle royale and multiplayer.
So the real question for me is how does Warzone compare to Apex Legends? The simple answer is that it doesn't. Warzone and Apex may be both battleroyale but they are so different. Apex is faster, smaller. It seems harder to avoid enemies. Victories are hard fought but they do happen.
Warzone is a whole other animal. Compared to the 60 players in Apex, or ever the 100 standard in PUBG, Fortnite, and Blackout, Warzone hit the scene with 150 players! This is the largest battleroyale mode yet, and even still 200 is coming eventually! Warzone not only has a player count roughly double of the competition, dying is very much not the end. Warzone makes the player death count seem to count down so much slower than any other game. Not only does the game have a "down" mechanic like the others, and not only did it adopt Apex's "respawn becon" mechanic to respawn fallen team members, but it has added a third method of reveal, the "gulag". When players are killed, they first go to a "mini-mode" where they face off 1v1 with a random weapon and random other dead enemy. If a player wins, they respawn and skydive to their team. If they lose, their team can still buy them back with match-earned cash. The game offers more ways to get back into action than any other Battle Royale in history and while this does seem to lengthen matches they seem to forget something very important: player patience.
I have spoken often about how small squad games need beef up punishments for what I refer to as "disconnect culture". The idea that you should rage quit and skip passed in game methods of revival leaving your team at a huge disadvantages. I get it, we all have rage quit before, even me, butI am referring to those who do it very frequently in multiplayer. Any game that has squads four or under should punish players who disconnect prematurely and often. I can't tell you how many times I have lost Apex matches I should have won because players quit with no remorse. There is ZERO accountability. I stressed this with Apex Legends. I stressed this in my first impressions review of Modern Warfare's 2v2 mode. The reason I reference this issue is balance and many players have zero patience. The amount of times I have seen players instantly disconnect in Apex the second they are downed is insane. I ping them saying I'm coming. I speak into the mic saying I'm coming. The game asks them to wait 30 seconds to be revived and that is too long.
Warzone’s expectaction for players to wait around for is too long. If a player is shot, they are downed until they eventually die. Then they wait in gulag. Then if they die in gulag, they have to wait for a member of their team to earn over 5000$ in cash (which can take quite a while depending on their aggression or exploration) and proceed to respawn station. Activision expects gamers to wait around for 10 minutes to be revived when there is no repercussion for just quitting and starting over. It is almost as if Activision has never played an online game before or ever met another gamer. I want frequent disconnectors punished in games but even I think the wait time to get back in Warzone can be hilarious. It is almost as if the mode has too many ways to come back and yet they are all all too long?
I will say that while the whole respawn/revive economy may need a rebalance I give them credit for creativity. Also, because it takes 3x as long to get through that 150 player count it does make victories all that more sweet. I was playing with my good friend Blake, and we got our first ever victory in Warzone together. It was an amazing experience. Your first Warzone victory will feel like you survived a war as opposed to beating a match. The match length adds to the high you feel during victory. However, this has an opposite effect when you play for a long period of time and then die for a stupid reason. Imagine playing for a half hour only to be sniped in the head...or what happened to me. Blake and I were doing very well and getting near the top ten. The ring was closing in, and we got killed because of a two foot ledge. That's right, the map had a lengthy ledge running along a road; it was barely high enough to notice but the experienced battle hardened soldier you play as can't climb a two foot hill. It was like a massive invisible wall split half the map. We were killed by the ring because of a tiny ledge.
One of the things I do like about Warzone a lot is the weapons. The variety, yet simplicity of attachments is perfect. You have the ability to spend cash on bringing in your tailored custom load outs if you want your favorite multiplayer gun. However, the guns on the ground don't have complex attachments or modifications to worry about. It is a perfect balance for those who want the simplicity of a Fortnite-style “Star system” for guns or want to nitty gritty customization.
At the end of the day, Warzone is more polished and even better than Blackout. It is a blast to play, and really rewards players with a long strategic battle scenario. I give huge props to Activision for making it free to play for all players. This is a must try for FPS, COD, or BR fans!