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Thursday, November 24, 2022

Call of Duty Warzone 2 in review: A lot still has to happen!

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How much we in the editorial team were looking forward to the battle royale action of Warzone 2! It could only get better than the first one. Couldn”t it? But fiddlesticks.

I am one of those people who prefer to experience most things alone or with at most one other person. Travelling. Or photography. Or sports. Or Warzone 2. In the latter, I”m actually solo 90 per cent of the time because it means I can change my running route without making arrangements. Because I don”t have to worry about other people”s equipment. Or even their deaths.

Being on the road alone also has the advantage, at least at the moment, that you don”t have to listen to others complaining about the problems of the game. That only drags you down even more than the lags and bugs already do.

But here”s a sentence you might have to digest first: I love Warzone 2. Because behind all the bugs, glitches and goofy design decisions that are currently stuck in it, I can very much feel the great gameplay experience. How nerve-wrackingly exciting to rush up the mountain to the observatory. Always with the fear that there might be a sniper lurking around somewhere.

How groovy it is to parachute onto the train, yet blow away the player who made it a second before me with a quickly snatched SMG. How fantastic the feeling of sneaking right along the gas cloud into the final battles. And then to win, too! The basic thrill is underlined by the fantastic weapon handling and the buttery-smooth movement. You have to experience it yourself to know how good it all is.

The mood of the user reviews on Steam and Metacritic is different, it”s going towards the basement level. I can understand that, it”s the mixture of the usual trolls and people like me who were really and truly looking forward to Battle Royale but are now sincerely disappointed and need to vent their frustration; certainly very often after a round that was fantastic up to point x.

Point x marked perhaps one of the numerous complete crashes. Or a stupid death because you couldn”t pick up a weapon. And has anyone mentioned that one ladder you can only climb halfway up because: Bug? Jeez, Infinity Ward, as if that never happened to anyone in all the QA sessions and internal testing before!

Jesus, Infinity Ward: Bigger doesn”t automatically mean better. Which brings us to what is probably the biggest (ha!) problem with Warzone 2.0. And that, stupidly, won”t scrub away as easily as most of the others.

Al Mazrah is too huge

When you first jump over the new map, it takes your breath away. A gigantic stretch of land, full of smaller and larger locations (which many already know in parts from the multiplayer mode or from the campaign, the multiplayer map Quarry from the first MW2 from 2009 is also in it, by the way).

So is this a playground of endless possibilities for exciting battles? More like a playground of endless possibilities to avoid others. Al Mazrah City alone, the largest town, has so much floor space due to its high-rise buildings with floors, small rooms and large offices, lifts, halls and shops that, depending on the match, you might want to stand on a roof and call out to opponents: “Hello! Here I am!”

(To my right, Al Mazrah City with its skyscrapers and many, many rooms.)
(To my right, Al Mazrah City with its skyscrapers and many, many rooms.)

And the City is not alone in this problem. Have you ever looked at the airport with its huge hangars? After all, depending on the route of the initial dropship, it”s pretty well frequented, because there are lots of cash registers waiting to be looted, and right on the roof of the main hall you can spend your money at a buying station.

In short: Al Mazrah is not only silly huge because of the floor space, the many height levels of the houses, the amount of rooms – all this makes the map even more gigantic. Too gigantic for 150 players for our taste. By the way, the problem is exacerbated a bit by the new circle mechanics.

Brief digression for people who don”t know what I mean: Warzone 2 works like any other Battle Royale at its core. Groups or individuals jump over a map, land via parachute, ammunition themselves up, shoot the first enemies over the pile. Then the map is artificially reduced in size. In Warzone 2, as in the first part, it is a cloud of gas that slowly closes. And in the end it leaves only a tiny circle in which the last five to ten players fight for victory.

Back to the new circle mechanic: Chance and your group size determine in Warzone 2 whether a circle closes or three separate circles slowly merge into one last small one. And yes, it has happened that all the action happened in circles two and three, while even in circle one you felt like you were wandering around completely alone. What I”m saying is that Al Mazrah clearly gives too much to idling … space.

(Depending on the dropship route, the airport is well attended. I can collect a lot of money there).
(Depending on the dropship route, the airport is well attended. I can collect a lot of money there).

This should eventually get on the nerves even of people who prefer to advance more quietly and get their ammunition on first. Because in a Battle Royale, almost nothing is more annoying than calmly equipping yourself for 15 minutes, then getting careless out of boredom and then getting whacked out of nowhere. Well, the only thing more annoying is to have managed five or more fantastic kills in glorious action – and then Warzone 2.0 crashes. Sure, we”ve been through this before, but I still want to emphasise it again.

Give me MY weapons!

I started the first Warzone quite late, and that too without having played Modern Warfare (2019) before. I want to say: I played my loadouts together completely in Warzone and the one-minute pre-matches and not before in the multiplayer modes.

Nevertheless, I was very happy with my weapons. That”s why I thought it was even better that I could count on a private loadout drop soon after the game started. I didn”t always reach it alive, but I did in about nine out of ten cases. And how good it always felt to have my own guns and gadgets in my hands. With them I always played a little more confident, safer, better.

Private loadout drops are history in Warzone 2. If you want to sneak or shoot your way to the finale with all your Rambazamba, including Perks (you can only choose from fixed builds), you now have to make a much greater effort. There are two options.

First: You wait until the map shows so-called strongholds. These strongholds are guarded by numerous insanely good-hitting and sometimes disgustingly armoured AI soldiers, who first have to be removed. Only then can you grab your loadout there.

It should be understandable, however, that there aren”t always lots of AI soldiers and you hanging around the fortresses. However, it is good that once a fortress is open, anyone can go in and help themselves, as long as the circle has not already closed too far. But the design decision to pack strong AI into a Battle Royale and to link it to one”s own loadout on top of that makes for frustration much more often than for fun.
Secondly: In the last third of a game, loadout drops are dropped, but all players can loot them. Here, too, it”s understandable that you rarely get the chance to help yourself there without being bothered. Besides, it is quite late in a match.

At least there is a third alternative, but it only concerns the primary weapons: If you have collected enough money beforehand, you can also buy them at the now much more numerous buying stations. You need 5,000 dollars per weapon. Hence the airport mentioned above. But others know this too, don”t forget.

In this context, however, it is only logical that one”s own loadouts no longer play a role in the pre-match either, where we are now assigned random weapons. Basically, just like in the actual match, as long as we do without strongholds, loadout drops and shops.

(In the pre match we get random weapons assigned.)
(In the pre match we get random weapons assigned.)

So if you”re a Free2Play player hoping to be able to shoot up your stuff in the few seconds before the match actually starts, you”ll be left out in the cold, as it now takes much longer to level up. And it”s not really targeted any more either.

Even as the owner of the Vault Edition, this doesn”t make me happy. Why did I shoot up umpteen weapons in the multiplayer of Modern Warfare 2 and tune them up and pimp them visually? So that I only get to see and touch them once every three matches in Warzone 2? And in my opinion, Activision is shooting itself in the foot. Because why should I buy fancy blueprints and ornaments in the shop (or via the Battle Pass) under these circumstances? Exactly!

Comical balancing act

Infinty Ward”s idea behind Warzone 2 may have been to create a hybrid of the first Warzone and PUBG. A touch of realism and all that. At least that”s the impression you get. The weapon crates on the map are more discreetly coloured, the killstreak cards you can find no longer scream at you either. A lot of stuff lies neatly on shelves instead of just on the floor. And then there”s the matter of fuel.

Vehicles, planes and boats now consume fuel. Once empty, you have to refuel at petrol stations or by means of previously found canisters. The canisters end up in your new backpack, which comes in different sizes. If you need stuff from it, you have to click on it and move it to your usual quick menu.

(Train robbery! With an old Ford Escort. (By the way, my first own car back then.))
(Train robbery! With an old Ford Escort. (By the way, my first own car back then.))

Even the battery of the heartbeat sensor is now gradually draining. Good for him who has a second one in his luggage. Whereby: The thing is probably also bugged. If your sensor is almost empty, simply pick up another object in slot one, such as a flash grenade. Then pick up the heartbeat sensor again and bang – back to 100 per cent battery power. Sigh!

As nice as the idea with the backpacks may be, it is fiddly to pick around in the remains of dead enemies, especially under time pressure. However, this is merely a problem of adaptation on the part of the players. It gets annoying, however, when a backpack lies on a weapon and you can”t pick it up. This has happened to me several times, a well-known problem, especially after intense shootouts with many deaths.

(Also such a stupid bug that the chat with its valuable word messages sometimes does not disappear by itself.)
(Also such a stupid bug that the chat with its valuable word messages sometimes does not disappear by itself.)

By the way, a similar bug can also occur at buying stations. If a weapon is lying on the crate, you can either not activate the shop at all or only from a certain angle. This costs valuable seconds, tens of nerves and, in the worst case, your life. By the way: If you don”t like hanging around near buystations and waiting for people to buy, please cast the first stone.

Two in the Gulag

How brilliant can a transition be? Just a minute ago I was talking about dying in Warzone 2.0, and rocks. And poof – we”re in the gulag together, waiting for our turn and throwing stones at each other”s heads in the meantime. So everything is the same?

Not at all. Instead of playing for a second chance in a one-on-one fight as in the first Warzone, you now go into battle in pairs: either with pistols, revolvers or shotguns. And lots of grenades lying around on the ground. They”re not only there to blow up the enemies, you can also use them against the prison guard.

This adds up after a while in the fight, unless the drop is sucked after a few seconds, one team dead and the other back on Al Mazrah. And then, if you”ve activated the new proximity chat (lets us communicate with enemies over short distances) and can convince the enemy duo to throw all their power at the fat AI guy (Juggernaut type), then … everyone is sent back to the map who is currently hanging out in the gulag. All of them! Not just the four who laid the guard.

On the one hand, this is a cool idea, but on the other hand, it”s a stupid one. Especially for those who were just thinking, “Phew, only 26 left on the map, it”s getting exciting.” I chose 26 because the gulag automatically shuts down when there are only 25 left squatting in the bushes on Al Mazrah.

By the way, the editors are divided as to whether the new Gulag plays better or worse. For my part, I like it much better than the old one. There is more room for dodging and navigating, the additional grenades make it a bit more tactical.

(Örks, almost failed because of the claymore of the opponents. But Kastiel (Supernatural fan apparently) dies anyway.)
(Örks, almost failed because of the claymore of the opponents. But Kastiel (Supernatural fan apparently) dies anyway.)

And if you get eliminated, it was always the other person on the team”s fault for losing, logically. Joking aside, I win the new Gulag much more often than the old one. Added bonus: Besides the grenades, there are also better protective waistcoats with three slots (the normal ones only have two) in the arena. If you manage to put on such a waistcoat and win, you have already won a lot … erm, won.

Hope dies last

You know what else is great? When you”ve escaped the gulag and you get the chance to land right on a loadout drop without getting mowed down. Or when you become the target of a bounty mission and can outmanoeuvre your opponent into biting the dust yourself. Or when you just barely make it out of the gas cloud.

In other words: Warzone 2 is often a fantastic experience from an objective point of view, but it has the problem of having to compete with the first Warzone. According to my (read) knowledge, not everything was gold in the beginning; Infinity Ward”s Battle Royale, like any other service game, only gradually grew to its final strength. But why they repeated old mistakes in places with Warzone 2 is a mystery to me.

What about DMZ?

The second Free2Play mode launched with Warzone 2 is called DMZ, which stands for Demilitarised Zone. The mode is oriented towards extraction shooters like Hunt: Showdown or Escape from Tarkov. DMZ is currently still officially in beta status and will not be included in the Warzone 2 rating for the time being.

DMZ can be played alone, in pairs or at most in groups of three. Beforehand, you are assigned so-called contraband weapons. Then it”s off to the huge map of Al Mazrah with a maximum of 65 other players, where you not only have to complete missions (scan radioactive junk, activate radio towers, collect certain amounts of money), but also blow away lots of AI opponents.

Particularly eager and brave players take on more crunchy tasks, which are then rewarded with blueprints for special weapons. But: If you don”t manage the extraction (escape from the map with the helicopter), you lose your weapons, so similar to Hunt: Showdown, for example, you lose your fighters

You could write whole papers about all the new problems. Or alternatively read the user reviews on Steam as well as Metacritic: Graphics errors, group errors, message errors, lags, jerks, frame drops, a similar menu madness as already in the multiplayer of Modern Warfare 2. As well as the other bugs already mentioned.

Nevertheless, I currently prefer playing Warzone 2.0 to Team Deathmatch or Domination or whatever all the multiplayer modes are called. Because I want to get to know the map better. Because the thrill is of a different quality than in Search and Destroy, for example. Always hoping that Infinity Ward and docked studios will remove all the annoyances as quickly as possible. And because I”m a realist, I”m replacing “as soon as possible” in my head with “in the next two or three months. “

Editorial conclusion

I didn”t get Warzone 2. All these big touted new features … I have to fill up with gas for my cars now? Um, cool? I can now spend more time underwater even though none of my guns work there? Um, great? More inventory management, two lethal domes instead of one, heartbeat sensors with battery, optional third-person mode – it all sounded to me, with a loud trombone, like “We want to continue Warzone from 2020 somehow, but we”re short on big ideas.”

By now I understand Warzone 2. Most of the “innovations” are actually restrictions to improve balance. My cart sinks so no Otto can thunder through the landscape in his truck uninterrupted for the whole match. I can only buy one UAV drone per shop so that the opponents have a chance to hide from me even in the lategame. And the water? Screw the water, I actually think that”s the usual “there are dogs now” marketing drivel that accompanies every new CoD.

Infinity Ward has dutifully kept the biggest innovation of Warzone 2 under wraps, because it is also the riskiest: Warzone 2 is in many ways an anti-Warzone. Because the original from 2020 jetted through the gaming landscape like a Battle Royale Porsche back then. No annoying inventory bang, custom loadouts, fast matches – Warzone 1 played uncomplicated, entertaining, sexy, instead of torturing me with endless traipsing.


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