When I heard months ago that there was a chance that Call of Duty: Warzone 2.0 would launch this year, I thought it was crazy. I figured letting Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II breathe a bit was the play; you don’t want to cannibalize your own game after all. But here we are – and only twenty days after MWII dropped, Warzone 2.0 AND DMZ jumped out of the aircraft right behind it. After putting a bit of time into it, not only was launching this quickly a fantastic decision, but both of the games are a great start in what is sure to be a good run in the live service space.
So, this is certainly the big one right? When Warzone dropped during the pandemic it was huge, and Warzone 2.0 has proven to be just as big. There are going to be similarities when it comes to Modern Warfare 2019, but in the end, playing it feels like taking a big breath of fresh air. It’s going to be very familiar to anyone who played Verdansk, but the way Warzone now plays is how things manage differently.
Before we move into the gameplay details, we’ve got to talk about the new map: Al Mazrah. It is larger than Verdansk was, but still manages to feel simple enough to traverse. There are plenty of POIs (Places Of Interest) there, including both old favorites (like High Rise and Terminal) and new map locations (Taraq and Zarqwa) from the multiplayer, and they never feel too spread out. You aren’t going to get stuck out in the open for long, and even if there’s a bit of a journey in front of you, I always felt like the terrain allowed me to stay in some sort of cover, be it a hill or rocks. Everything is nicely layered to give everyone a chance, which is appreciated. I also love the train, a returning feature from Verdansk, that moves around the map.
Like DMZ, which we’ll talk about below, there is plenty to find in Warzone 2.0. You have tons of contracts to do, and AI strongholds are a new addition to Warzone. I’ve never been one to chase the contracts, but the strongholds are a cool idea. These are randomized, go live on the map at a certain point of the game, and have high value loot if you take the time to clear the enemies out. Of course, you’ll have to get to it all before the circle closes, and that’s even gotten an update. At different points after the circle collapses down, it can turn into two or three circles, which will eventually collide and merge. I don’t know that it really changes things up too much, but it’s a nice departure from the norm.
As for rewards, Warzone 2.0 seems to give you a lot, even if you don’t go overboard engaging in different activities. Ground loot is pretty regular, along with chests to find several items, but I’ve almost never felt like I dropped into nothing. POIs have the most, but even smaller groups of houses have plenty of plates, equipment, and weapons. One thing I’d like to see is the color return to designate higher value weapons. I’m having to guess based on attachments rather than that, which is a system we’re all used to. Something else that I find satisfying is contextual loot. Finding stims in a med-kit on the wall or cash in a cash register is oddly gratifying.
Another thing that’s oddly abundant: killstreaks. Whether mortars, precision airstrikes, UAVs, or more, if you visit plenty of bigger locations on the map, it’s nearly impossible to walk out without a full contingent of streaks. Heck, I ended a game the other day with three UAVs without visiting a buy station. If that doesn’t prove it, I don’t know what will. I think it’s largely because of them not being as present in buy stations, but I prefer it to happen more randomly anyway. Although it does lead sometimes to a boring endgame with tons of streaks being used, so maybe there should be more of a cap?
The reason I had that many is a change in what you can pick up, with Warzone 2.0 utilizing a backpack system. I know there are both pros and cons, but I personally love it. Being able to stow away an extra streak for a rainy day is nice, but with the caveat I have to remember it and equip it in time. What’s been really useful is being able to pick things up and take them to my buddies, because when looting it can be impossible to remember everything you’ve found. Rather than pinging it and forgetting, allowing the ping to eventually disappear, I can make sure my friend on the other side of town can get a three-plate armor vest rather than leaving it. Being able to find bigger backpacks to carry more, like carrying a ton of plates for the squad or an additional weapon for situational combat, is pretty awesome and adds yet another layer to your gameplay.
Part of these changes are to make things more tactical. That’s what was preached at the CoD NEXT event, and it holds true even with adjustments to the current Warzone 2.0. I always felt like the previous Warzone iterations could still be played slowly, but you could lose everything because a team could slide cancel on your butt and break your cameras in a building. The worry with this variation in 2.0 has been that you won’t be able to get away without advanced movement, but I’ve not felt that to be the case. In fact, the only times I’ve been killed trying to get away is when being chased, something that would have happened in any of the previous Warzone maps.
Tactical gameplay has honestly increased my enjoyment of the game. Warzone 2.0 works because when I drop in, there’s not that extra variable. While I myself did plenty of slide canceling, and won several matches because of it, the pacing here mimics what I thought in our Modern Warfare II review; this isn’t to the detriment of the game. It improves it instead by rewarding smart players rather than the ones who can cheese a button press. I’m sure that statement may make some angry, but it’s the god-honest truth.
That being said, the time to kill in this game is quick, and that somewhat negates movement to a degree. It’s probably why so many are salty, because without the option to slide away it’s easier to abuse TTK. I haven’t found it to be abysmal personally, but I play more reactive as opposed to aggressive. Again, slowing down helps. Armor has also changed a bit in this one, requiring you to find a three plate armor vest in order to be at full strength. I’m not a fan of this change, I’d rather see the specialist version return for getting two big plates in place of three. Also, can we please run while plating up, Infinity Ward?
A quick funny note, the proximity chat in the game is also something tactical you can use, beyond just the hilarity of it. There have been times my team’s life has been saved because I heard someone talking. Of course, it’s also pure comedy, with listening to someone land in your area only to beg for their life or scream because they got caught. It’s also somewhat necessary in the new gulag.
When you get caught and killed, you drop right into the gulag. Instead of the old 1v1 though, you’re now in a 2v2 gunfight, with randomized weapons and proximity chat to formulate a plan if you’re with a random other player. Something really cool is dropping back in with said weapon if you win, but even more so is the ability to pick up some ground loot and bring it back in the arena. I found a three plate armor vest while fighting, and it made life easier when I came back to my squad. I haven’t seen better weapons, but dropping back with some extra equipment makes a difference.
If you’re patient and can convince the other team not to shoot, there’s also an option to fight an AI jailer for all four combatants to come back. It’s never managed to get there for me though, with there always being engagements. While some may bemoan having to depend on a random to win their match, I like knowing there’s somewhat of a second chance in the gulag even if I die. It’s not perfect, but a welcome inclusion. Not to mention buying your teammates back is still an option.
Buying things has been a staple of Warzone for a while, but it doesn’t look the same in 2.0. The buy station still has the OG icon and a similar menu, but your options for purchasing are different. Gone is the standard, everybody-can-grab-it (except for a few things like plates) stuff, and in are limited items. I absolutely love this change, meaning it’s not a given that a buy station is going to be your best friend. You could in theory also screw over the next guy in buying all of a specific item. It’s a cool system that changes your perspective, and I like it.
You also have the option of buying your specific weapons (not your loadout) that you’ve customized. Loadouts still make an appearance (a change made since the original reveal), but the game feels less reliant on them than the previous iterations. Part of that is because unless you’ve done a lot of work in building your weapon or loadout, the guns in the game are fantastically balanced. Winning a game with ground loot is more than possible, and that’s because Infinity Ward has somehow managed to level the playing field with a bunch of viable options, which is impressive. If you do want to put work into figuring out the meta though, go check out Warzone Loadout (@Warzone_Loadout on Twitter).
All of this, built on an incredible engine, featuring the best gunplay in the FPS genre? While there are little things that could be done better, this “Great Reset” has been a resounding success. There’s familiarity without giving the same old same old, and freshness without being too different. Warzone 2.0 is a great foundation that will quite possibly grow into the best battle royale in the business.
Most people are most interested in what DMZ has to offer the Call of Duty experience. For those unfamiliar with Escape From Tarkov, the explanation is simple. In this extraction shooter you load in with either nothing or a pre-set loadout, and from there proceed to gather equipment, money, and other things. Once you complete your objectives, you head for exfil. Where Tarkov is more punishing (at least from what I’ve heard), DMZ offers a more casual, laidback structure that I find incredibly fun.
Learning to play this mode feels like it’s going to be something I can’t stop trying to do. Every time I try new things, or go about something a different way, DMZ offers another problem to solve. That’s not a bad thing mind you, but rather a challenge given by the game that is fair and reasonable. Sure, I’ve had some frustrating moments, but my enjoyment of DMZ is only growing as I fail and get back up again.
Given the explainer at the beginning is super basic, let’s get into some of the nitty gritty. You start with the choice of going in with nothing, or with weaponry gathered from previous runs you’ve successfully exfiled with. Infinity Ward does start you with a few freebies, so you don’t start fresh at the beginning. There’s also an insured spot, so you can build out a specialty weapon or blueprint to take in, along with making sure you don’t lose it forever. Up to three of these slots unlock the further you complete objectives, and it’s a nice way to reward people who grind it out. That being said, if you’re unsuccessful, a timer is applied to any insured slot you’ve equipped, so you’re stuck without that weapon until it runs out or you bring it down from successful exfil XP.
What’s insane is that it all takes place on the whole of Al Mazrah, the Warzone 2.0 map. While I’d love to see a different one, or maybe even a different time of day to change the feel, the map is fun to traverse being so large. Even being on Al Mazrah, it’s built to be a more intense and small experience, with only 66 players infiltrating in teams of three.
Where things change up is the AI, and they are smart little buggers. There are tons of them around, guarding different points of interest, along with things like Strongholds and Fortresses, two difficult areas that have rewards for those brave enough to enter. They are more than willing to engage you as well, so make sure to be intentional when you move into their sightlines. Fighting a little too much in an area can draw reinforcements as well, with armored enemies making their way into the fray. Given your objective is getting out safely, sometimes it’s best to just get out entirely.
As some start the mode, they’ll wonder as to the point of what they are doing. Sure, there are different contracts and little objectives on the map (like delivering an LTV with supplies from a garage to a helicopter awaiting pickup), but is there an overall aim? In short, there may not be an overarching story that’s obvious, but there is plenty you’re working towards. The objectives you load up with before jumping in are there and generally challenge based, e.g. destroy six vehicles. These have final objectives that are tougher (your first is infiltrating a stronghold and getting out with intel), sort of a closing to the tier of missions you’re working on.
Besides this, there is also a hidden objective that you may only just be finding out about. There’s a small radiation zone on the map that houses “The Chemist”, an enemy holding the M13B AR, which can ONLY be unlocked currently by exfiling with it. He doesn’t respawn either, so you’ll have to be the first to him if you want it. This means you’ll have to plan carefully; my party still doesn’t have it, but we’ve been intentionally jumping in and exfiling quickly if we don’t think we have a shot in order to keep our equipment for the next run, or gathering other things that might be useful. *UPDATE: We got it!* Something else cool, you can exfil with other weapons you haven’t unlocked as well, which gives them to you free of charge in multiplayer and Warzone.
Things get a little bit hairy if you stick around on the map too long though. There is a twenty-five minute timer when you drop in, and you only understand it when you overstay your welcome. We did that, running around the map trying to get more of an idea of the mode, only to have The Chemist do something bad which caused his radiation circle to expand. It’s kind of the opposite of Warzone, with this bad circle ballooning toward you, and it’ll kill you the same way the radiation does in Warzone. If it covers your exfil points (of which there are three), it’s over for you, and you probably should get to extraction before you’re even in that position.
Speaking of exfiling, it’s relatively simple. You get to the marker, request extraction, and wait for your helicopter to come in. What’s more interesting is there’s always a chance another team might be waiting for you, so you have to be on your guard so they can’t get the drop on you. Occasionally there will also be AI that tries to ruin your day, so if you think you’re always going to get away scott free, you might be the one that takes the dive. Nothing is given in this mode, and if you aren’t careful, you’ll lose a bunch of hard earned weapons or equipment.
Fighting other teams is something we’ve rarely done in our time in DMZ. I’m guessing it’s largely due to our pursuit of specific objectives, and the risk of losing my stuff to another team means we’re both avoiding a firefight. After all, if they aren’t hampering my interests, it’s better to let bygones be bygones. DMZ has a different feel to it than Warzone, and caution seems much more important than kills. It’s a nice thing though, and creates a different dynamic in this mode.
Overall, it’s amazing how good DMZ is right away. It provides almost a mini-rpg for the Call of Duty series, and the ways it could grow is exciting. It feels new in the same way Warzone felt so new back in 2020, and almost seems more laid back than Warzone 2.0. We’ve always had this cutscene narrative for new seasons existing in the background of Warzone and the mainline entries, but I could see that fully explored in DMZ. The future for this mode is as bright as it could be.
Call Of Duty: Warzone 2.0
Warzone 2.0 is every bit the sequel you hoped it would be. While minor improvements could still be useful, Al Mazrah is arguably the best map to ever grace the Call of Duty battle royale experience. The tactical pacing is a welcome change, DMZ is a revelation for the extraction shooter casual space, and it’s all built on the best gunplay in first-person shooters. Infinity Ward has knocked it out of the park.