I made the reference in last season’s intro paragraph to “one shot”, a pretty standard shooter call-out that has connotations with how Season 2 went. With Season 3 finally here, it feels eerily the same, but in a different way. Instead of being upset with 6v6, with Warzone getting more attention, it feels like the opposite has happened. There are many things to consider with how this game in the franchise has gone, and it’s nothing that can be fixed in a single patch. They’re moving in the right direction, which I think is happening, but more steps need to be taken.
That being said, there are some real highlights in this update. Starting with the weapons, I absolutely love the FJX Imperium sniper and the Cronen Squall battle rifle. First up is the FJX, which most will remember as The Intervention back in the day, a fan favorite. This sniper feels heavy, with a longer ADS, even without any attachments. So far, though, it packs a punch, reminding me of the Victus XMR while having a bit less of a “punchy” sound. It’s what the people want, a sniper that’s pretty good all around.
Second, the Cronen Squall. I’m not a fan at all of the Battle Rifles in this game, but somehow this one has won me over. While all the others start as single shot, the Squall is auto, which is a little less thinking on my part. Even better, it still can be operated as single shot, whether switching over to it or just bump firing to control it. The Squall packs a punch too, with a high TTK and pretty good recoil control as well. It’ll probably have to be balanced in future patches, but at least in 6v6, it’s been extremely good. It shoots well at all ranges, meaning you can swap out attachments at will to make it more SMG-like or closer to a Marksman. Versatility is nice, and it’s especially great in the battle rifle category.
The maps included in this season’s roadmap are a bit of a mixed bag. This isn’t because they’re bad, but because I like the diversity, but I’m not sure where they fit. Pelayo’s Lighthouse intrigues me, an island map that’s bigger than it looks. It also takes place on a rainy night, similar to the visual feel of Shipment (which, funny enough, you can find in the distance off the island coast). There is a lot of elevation here, with a house on a hill, but while that works you have too much ability to swim out and find annoying creddy spots. I don’t mind swimming; it makes sense the way Zarqwa Hydroelectric does it, but here you should be out of bounds a lot earlier. That said, I want more time with it to see where it belongs in the cycle.
Black Gold is the other map, a piece of Rohan Oil from Al Mazrah, but given it’s a unique locale it’s certainly welcome. What most may not find as welcome is that it’s a night map, meaning you play it with night vision goggles and forced lasers on your guns. And that’s whether you’ve equipped one or not. I like the idea of the mode, it’s fun in doses, and it’s a nice change of pace. But, after a while, it does get a little bit old. If we could maybe get an “at dusk” variant to play regularly, I could see it being fun. Otherwise, it’s hard to judge it beyond Black Gold breaking up the formula.
The last two maps are of the battle map variant, and I’m honestly just done with this mode. It seemed cool at first, like a spin-off of what Battlefield does, but with two more sections of Warzone coming to the mode, it’s just not working. Let me start with Rohan Oil, in that I couldn’t even get it to queue in order to try it. From there, I finally got to play Sattiq, only to find it completely unplayable. The way the lanes are set up, everyone camps in a spot, and maybe it was just our spawn specifically, but I couldn’t ever get to a spot where I could fight back. It reminded me of everything I hate about Battlefield, in that you spawn, run to a spot, get sniped, and repeat. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the last battle maps, and this continues the trend. It’s time for these to go, or at least be scaled back to adding one at most a season.
One of my biggest surprises has been how much fun Gunfight has been. Everybody remembers this stellar mode, 2v2 limited lives with rotating weapons and loadouts until someone wins six rounds. It’s as fun as you remember, a classic that just works. Even better is that the maps are almost all good, with Shipment fitting perfectly as one, Exhibit being a nice slice of Museum, and the new Warzone gulag Blacksite all handling with aplomb. The only one that’s a bit finicky is Alley, another piece of the Warzone map, this time from Ahkdar Village. It has more verticality and many weird corners and sightlines, meaning if you get the right RNG, people will just sit back and look for someone peeking. Beyond this, Gunfight is a real win for players in Season 3.
While we’re still talking multiplayer, let’s move over to Ranked. We’ve had improvements come occasionally to what’s already a great system, and it’s continued here. The immediate ban on the Cronen Squall is appreciated, especially in a mode where you don’t want to deal with cheese. Beyond that, however, has been the feeling that the tuning behind the scenes on matchups, maps, and modes is finally coming together. So far it feels like I’m playing people in my skill range, and I’m also not having to play a bunch of one map or mode in a row. I understand that sometimes things just don’t break your way in the RNG, but I can tell Treyarch is finally getting things just right.
When it comes to Warzone 2.0, there’s not a whole lot to talk about. The biggest addition, Plunder, is a later drop (as of the time of this writing, Raven has gotten it in). For now, we’ve got Big Resurgence, which is a normal Al Mazrah match but with Resurgence rules. My word, is it terrible. I thought adding the option to respawn would work, but all it’s done is make the sweatiest players run you down with no abandon. Hey, if you don’t have a fear of death, it’s easier to rush in. It doesn’t empower casual players, so it’s not a good fit. At least on Ashika, it’s a much smaller number of players, making it a bit easier to survive.
I do like bringing back redeploy functionality, this time via drones. The balloons from Caldera were a great addition, and these drones will actually reposition based on the circle. It adds a lot more verticality and repositioning to what’s a humongous map, so I appreciate the insertion. We also have deployable buy stations and perk packages returning, along with a 1v1 gulag on a great map in Blacksite, so the best things of Warzone are finally making an appearance. Warzone 2.0 Ranked will also be arriving mid-season, so hopefully it’ll give the battle royale a boost as many players tire of it.
We’ll talk more about this later, as I’ve not had much time to play DMZ recently, but there are great changes that have been made that continue to elevate it. I love the barter system, allowing the materials you pick up to be of more specific use, along with a workbench to change up attachments on your Contraband weapons and make them better. Active Duty operators also add the ability for casual players to breathe a little easier, with the ability to build up several operator kits before you risk them on a tough mission. You can be more particular in your build without giving up the potential of tackling others.
What I don’t like though is the paid component. Put me on the record as not minding the state of microtransactions in the game, with most of it being cosmetic in nature – even if you get a good blueprint, you have to be able to use it. That being said, when you start adding items that give you an advantage in-game, whether it’s a UAV or a backpack, it’s a bit much. Sure, the UAV is time-gated, so you can’t use it immediately, but this is so blatantly pay-to-win. I’m against the practice, and I hope the dev teams can figure out better ways to monetize the system.
So, on monetization, do you want to know about the new way the battle pass works? The regular battle pass is exactly the same, with the only thing changing being the deluxe version of the pass. It used to be a combo of the battle pass and tiers skips to twenty (twenty-five on PlayStation) for $25 or the equivalent COD points. Now, BlackCell has replaced it, although it costs $30, and then only in cash. While that kind of sucks, what you get in return is actually pretty good.
There are 2500 COD points, with 1100 right away and the 1400 you can usually earn through the pass, the aforementioned tier skips like the previous deluxe version, multiple sectors to start your journey (being able to earn certain items way quicker), along with a special BlackCell operator and weapon blueprint that are exclusive. Atom, who looks somewhat like his DC counterpart, is actually a really cool-looking operator, and the BlackCell variants for other operators are also really awesome. Really, if you already spend plenty of COD points on bundles anyway, this is a good buy. If you don’t really care, not for you. The loss of cheap tier skips stinks, but that’s about it.
While plenty might walk away this season without their thirst quenched, I feel like this is at least a solid season of Call of Duty. With some nice additions at launch and several big pieces coming in the reload, Modern Warfare II and Warzone 2.0 can really start to fill out.