Here are the top takeaways after two hours in the game. We’ll update this with a full review later this week.
How does it compare to Blackout?
Warzone is a very different battle royale than Blackout, the previous battle royale mode from Black Ops 4 (which, for context, I loved). But most of those differences are welcome ones.
Blackout set a high bar for Warzone in that it was a very enjoyable battle royale if you previously enjoyed the Call of Duty franchise. You didn’t have to worry about building defenses, as you do in Fortnite. It was smoother than PUBG. All in all, it was a pretty great mode.
What Blackout didn’t do was play similarly (at all) to the core multiplayer modes in Black Ops 4. It felt very much like a different game. A good one, but a different one.
Warzone plays almost identically to Modern Warfare’s multiplayer modes. It’s just much bigger and more immersive. Some of the new features it introduces are extremely enjoyable and a big improvement on Blackout, as well. The map is bigger and more nuanced — building layouts are unique, so you don’t see the same shed multiple times around a map. The gun play is closer to the game’s core multiplayer modes. Inventory management is easier. And the new wrinkles (collecting cash and purchasing perks, killstreaks, etc. at Buy Stations) are intuitive and exciting.
Finally, the only way you can play is trios, so if you only want to play by yourself or with one friend, you’re playing at a distinct disadvantage.
The Gulag is pretty awesome
Not saying you should try to get to the Gulag, since you’re nearly eliminated, but it’s a unique BR wrinkle that is highly enjoyable.
Get killed in the main game and you’ll go to the Gulag for a 1v1 gunfight. The winner returns to the battlefield, the loser is eliminated. I went 1-for-2 in my two showdowns and in the second I watched my squadmate precede me in the pit. I called out the position of his opponent and tried to throw rocks at him (which was harder than throwing projectiles in regular modes). He still lost. RIP, Kmillie91!
If you win you can redeploy with just a pistol and even try to buy back your squadmates if you can scrounge enough in-game cash.
Also notable: You go to the Gulag even if you’re playing solo.
Plunder is fun, but long … and a mystery at the end
The secondary mode, Plunder, allows players to try to grab and bank cash to be the first team to reach $1 million, winning them the round and a bunch of XP. It was pretty enjoyable once you grasped the main points (it’s a bit like a mode from Battlefield Hardline where players try to extract bags of cash by helicopter). Respawns felt reasonable, and since players don’t drop all their money when they’re killed, campers can’t just set up shop around the exfiltration zones and vulture cash from dead players.
The biggest problem came at the end. The scoreboard view only showed our team, and not our team’s standing overall. At one point, an in-game notification said we were leading all teams. When the game ended? Nada. That was a letdown.
An Infinity Ward spokesman confirmed that the end game for Plunder only shows your team. Hopefully that changes down the line.
Damage heals over time, and fall damage is muted
Forget trauma kits and bandages. Just find a place to hunker down and you’ll heal up after a little while. You will have to find more armor if your opponent broke it, but that’s it. In gunfights, opponents didn’t feel like bullet sponges, so it clearly requires a distinct respite to start the healing process.
Also, I was certain I’d fallen to my doom on my first game from a second-story roof. Not only did I live, I didn’t even take fall damage. Infinity Ward confirmed that you will take damage if you fall from a tall building, so remember to pull your parachute if you’re base jumping. It remains to be seen what the threshold is for fall damage though.
Gunplay is great. Like really great.
If you’re like me and think that Modern Warfare has the best gunplay of any Call of Duty game in the series, you’re going to love Warzone because it’s almost identical. Be forewarned that attachment-less weapons feature serious recoil. Plan accordingly.
Vehicles are fun and easily controlled
For whatever reason, I’ve always thought the vehicle controls felt really squishy in the Ground War mode. They’re much sharper here, and pulling an e-break on an SUV to drift around a corner is a lot of fun. Fast movement is a big part of the game, so you’ll want to familiarize yourself with all of vehicle types. And unlike Blackout, where vehicles could give away your position from across the map, they seem to be less of a giveaway here.
One negative though is the sound of the helicopter. If you’re riding with a squadmate, you will not be able to hear yourself think, let alone hear your squadmate talking or calling out enemy positions.
Finishing moves are included
In Blackout, you could only finish or humiliate foes if they were downed. Here it looks like you can take them down from full health, just as players can in Modern Warfare. And frankly, that’s the way it should be for such a risky, but spectacular, play.
Pacing wasn’t an issue
The question I had with such a big map — and with buildings featuring nuanced interior layouts — was that you would get slow matches chock full of campers. That wasn’t a big problem in my early matches. The UAV sweeps (or gunfire echoes, I couldn’t be sure) highlighted enemies on my mini map, and I never had to wait too long before I found someone nearby.
I was playing pretty aggressively to try to see a lot of the map and experience all the dynamics I could quickly, and I’m sure others may have played similarly, so it’s possible things could bog down in the days ahead as a meta develops.
Looting is a breeze
One of the biggest issues I had with Blackout was that inventory management was a chore that required players to make important decisions about what to carry on a screen that left them exposed to enemies. Near the end of the game, if you were low on ammo or heals, you were taking a huge risk to loot any enemies you took down.
By contrast Warzone’s inventory system is super easy. If you walk over ammo or other inventory items already in your possession, you absorb them into your loadout. If they’re still on the floor, it’s because you can’t carry any more of that item type.
Your total loadout is exactly like your multiplayer loadout in Modern Warfare, particularly if you’re used to playing co-op. In fact, in Plunder, you just pick your loadout from Modern Warfare. In Battle Royale, you start with a pistol and then can loot to add up to two weapons, one type of tactical equipment, one type of lethal equipment (grenades/mine/throwing knife) and one field upgrade. Beyond that, you can find killstreaks, or purchase them with in-game currency. You can add up to three armor plates to your vest, but you don’t need to track down various levels of armor. Oh, and you don’t have to worry about healing either.
There did seem to be a glitch in which my pistol was showing up looking like an M4 on the ground, which made me try to repeatedly pick it up only to never see an M4 in my possession. If it happens to you, just keep the pistol and move on.
Parachutes are fine (but wing suits were better)
Dropping in isn’t as slow and boring as it is in Fortnite, but it’s also not as fun as Blackout’s flying squirrel suits that let you zoom nearly anywhere on the map.
In Warzone, you can wait a long time to pull your 'chute and you can even cut it and pull others if you decide you want to fall faster for a spell. You can’t cover as much ground as you could in Blackout with the wingsuit though, so don’t drop immediately unless you want to end up very close to where you first leap from the plane.
Matchmaking was an issue early
Several times it took upward of 10 minutes to find a viable match. Part of this was no doubt due to the limited number of players early. Only Modern Warfare owners got to jump in at 11 a.m. Eastern time, with the free-to-play download crowd coming later Tuesday afternoon. Presumably, wait times will drop as more people download the game. That had best be true though, because there was plenty of grumbling in the pregame lobby as the player number crept toward 150 only to nose-dive as people got fed up and bailed.