How does Call of Duty: Warzone stack up to other free-to-play Battle Royales?

Apex, Fortnite, and Danger Zone should take notice.

Image via Activision

With the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Warzone, Activision has entered the market of free-to-play (F2P) battle royale (BR) titles. Activision is hoping to compete with the three other major F2P BR games—Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Counter-Strike Danger Zone.

How will Warzone stack up against these other titles? It’s hard to say for sure, but from my experience playing Warzone over the past day, it’s already one of the best F2P BR titles available.

Time will tell if Activision will make huge sums of money off this game, but in terms of gameplay, Warzone pushes the BR genre to new heights through innovative gameplay, incredible scale, and unique mechanical systems.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Warzone

Call of Duty‘s battle royale title is far more impressive than I could have ever imagined. When Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 released its Blackout mode, I excitedly logged on, expecting Treyarch to have pushed the boundaries of BR. I thought we would be getting a battle royale game with a Call of Duty flair. Instead, I found an uninspired take on the BR genre.

Warzone, on the other hand, is everything I wanted Blackout to be. Not only did they fix everything wrong with Blackout, but they also produced a cutting edge game that has the potential to hold my attention for years to come.

Warzone adopted a lot of features from Apex Legends. The developers implemented the ability to respawn eliminated teammates, the ability to recharge armor, and the ability to acquire special abilities throughout the match.

However, Activision didn’t just copy features from other games. They implemented their own new systems as well. Instead of having different heroes with abilities tied to them like Apex, Warzone introduced Buy Stations where players can buy a plethora of extra abilities or redeploy their teammates. These Buy Stations require players to loot and complete contracts to get extra cash for goodies.

The contract system in Warzone helps add depth to the game, offering a variety of ways to play. You can take more risks to complete contracts since the money will buy you better loadouts, perks, and killstreaks.

Alternatively, you could stay on the down-low and try to survive through carefully planned stealth and strategy. The game rewards risk, without demanding it from players, which for me is the ideal balance in a battle royale.

That said, the killstreaks can be a little bit oppressive at times, especially in the late game. Airstrikes specifically can feel unfair as the circle shrinks. It will be interesting to see if any balance changes are implemented over the next few weeks.

I also love the gulag respawn system. In duos and trios, if you die you are “captured” and put into prison. In prison, you have the opportunity to earn your freedom by winning a 1v1 duel with another player. It’s a really cool mechanic and demonstrates the innovation the Warzone development team is trying to put into their game.

The final aspect of Warzone that places it above the other F2P BR games is its scale. When you play on a map with 150 players, the spectacle is quite impressive. When you win a Warzone game, it’s because you outlasted 149 other people, which is really cool.

All this, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare gunplay? Yes, please!

2. Apex Legends

Apex Legends is an amazing game. It was developed by Respawn Entertainment, the same folks who brought you Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, so it’s not too surprising that Warzone and Apex have a similar look and feel to them. Apex Legends is set in the Titanfall universe, and it brought some important innovations to the genre.

Apex Legends is the only major BR title with champions. Champions all come with unique active and passive abilities, as well as an ultimate ability that charges over the course of the match. Respawn Entertainment also introduced the idea of rechargeable armor, the ability to respawn fallen teammates, and a fast fluid movement system that makes it enjoyable to move around the map.

The game’s theme is refreshing and fun. Where Warzone is trying to give a gritty take on the genre and Fortnite is trying to be whimsical and cartoony, Apex’s theme is a game show. There are leaderboards scattered around the map highlighting the kill leader in the server and all the different champions have a unique personality to latch onto. Of all the F2P BR’s, Apex wins for best storytelling.

The primary reason it is behind Warzone on this list is that the scale is smaller, with only 60 players. 60 players is a pretty decent number, but the technical genius it takes to put 150 players on the same map is worth the No. 1 spot. I also personally prefer the shooting mechanics in Warzone.

Apex Legends is an excellent game and a very close No. 2.

3. Fortnite

Fortnite is one of the most successful games ever, in no small part due to Epic’s tireless work to provide an accessible and competitive experience that can run on almost any computer, console, or even phone. The cartoony graphics are iconic at this point and the inventory system is very simple and elegant.

It’s hard to compare Fortnite to Apex, Warzone, or Danger Zone, because it’s kind of its own thing. Although Fortnite has a lot of similar mechanics to the other games on this list, it is a third-person experience and is heavily focused on building.

I personally am not a big fan of building, but I can see why people like it. The big reason it’s not better than Apex or Warzone is that Epic is pretty confused about who this game is for.

Epic runs huge competitive tournaments, but the game is poorly supported for competitive players. It often introduces items or abilities into the game that just break it for a period of time.

Examples of broken mechanics include a sword that gives players double health and lets them kill anyone in two hits. Epic introduced large mechs which ruined an entire season of Fortnite. People really didn’t like planes, because you could essentially just hide in the sky until the last circle. None of the other games on this list consistently break like Fornite.

The game design is just worse. They don’t put competitive players first and that ends up hurting the balance and quality of the gameplay.

4. Counter-Strike Danger Zone

Danger Zone is Counter-Strike’s attempt to make a BR game. It is heavily limited by the aging Source engine. Whereas the previous titles we have discussed run on current generation engines, allowing them to operate on large maps with long draw distances, Danger Zone‘s engine limitations really let it down.

Danger Zone maps are noticeably smaller than these other titles. Each map only boasts 18 players, which definitely detracts from the feeling of scale present in the other F2P BRs on this list. The map geometry also suffers from some odd visual glitches at times.

I play a lot of Counter-Strike with my friends, and I don’t know a single person who plays this mode consistently. It felt like a tack-on from Valve, which never truly supported or sought to improve the mode. This is unquestionably the worst BR on this list.

It’s been a few years since the BR craze showed up. Many games have been released and many have been shut down. Of the ones remaining, Warzone is probably the best one. Maybe we’ll see Apex and Fortnite upping their game in the near future to compete.