Call of Duty: Warzone is the latest in the battle royale genre, and the second for the Call of Duty lineage after Blackout from Black Ops 4. While almost nothing is totally innovative here, there are reinventions that capture that Call of Duty feel.
As with any battle royale, the loot is the main focus. With 150 players on an absolutely massive map (and possibly 200 coming), there is a lot of loot to gather. Where Blackout focussed on building out your weapons as the match progressed, Warzone adopts a Fortnite-style loot system. Every gun is pre-built with a rarity ranging from common to legendary. What's unique here is the loadout drops. These can be purchased or found in the map, and if you can get one you'll be able to select from one of your own pre-built loadouts, bringing in weapons and attachments that aren't available otherwise.
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One has to assume that Activision will be rotating the weapon pool to keep the gun selection fresh, which would be a very smart and easy way to add variety as the game matures.
Adopted from the amazing and gone-too-soon Radical Heights is the cash system. Looting and killing players drops cash, which you can use to purchase items at bank locations. These range from kill streaks to self revives, and very importantly, the ability to call back in teammates if they failed their gulag bout.
Also adapted from Blackout is the armor plate system, which was used to repair Tier 1, 2, and 3 level armor. Gone are the tiers -- just the plates are here to protect you, which is a nice change since Blackout had a horrendous time balancing the armor tiers.
One original concept is the miniquest system. These range from locating a bounty to eliminate to finding specific loot caches, and doing so will net you cash and experience. It's a clever way to keep you moving and engaged because like in any battle royale, there is inevitable down time as you rotate around the map. The miniquests limits those moments to a minimum, and in a map this big, it keeps you focused and directed.
Down but never out
Warzone borrows from Apex with the call-in respawn system, though unlike Apex (and Fortnite after it), it's not free. A cool $4,500 is needed, and it might take a little while for your buddies to collect the cash. Fortunately, you can pool your resources together if, say, someone has $2,500 and another has $2,000.
But before that, there is the gulag. If you do end up biting the dust, you're sent to the gulag for a one-on-one confrontation. Win and you're back in. Lose and you need to rely on your team to bring you back. It's a great system that keeps you invested in the match, hoping your buddies can succeed where you may have failed.
Pick up the pace
All of this lends itself to a breakneck pace, which mimics Apex in speed -- but not so much mobility, though there is plenty of that. Because the guns are prebuilt and there is an auto pickup system in place for most items, you're often running and gunning, moving from location to location rapidly. Due to the respawn system, there are often many players and teams left before the last few circles -- confrontation is inevitable, and gone are the days of one- or two-kill wins. You're going to need to get in the thick of it eventually, which creates a much more engaging final few circles.
Let's be pirates
All in all, these are welcome reimaginings of established systems for the battle royale genre. Where things change up a little bit is the second mode, Plunder. You're never actually eliminated in Plunder, and you bring your own loadouts into the match to start. You can still loot other weapons, but the objective is to move as fast as possible and be the first to trigger the endgame by depositing a million dollars. If you die, you respawn and parachute in to continue your pirate ways. Implemented here is the loot extract system from The Division -- call in a helicopter at a set location to bank your cash. The problem is everyone is alerted to you doing so, making you a target.
The miniquest system really shines in this mode, too. Since your first objective is cash, not survival, you'll be looking for direction, and nothing gives better direction like a player bounty.
Warzone isn't exactly unique. It's more of a beautiful Frankenstein's monster -- a sum of parts from others before it, stitched together into its own thing. And that's OK. The wheel didn't need to be reinvented, it just needed to have a Call of Duty covering. In that respect, Warzone delivers so far.