Modern Warfare’s Warzone isn’t Call of Duty’s first foray into the battle royale (BR) genre. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 was released with the Blackout mode in 2018.
There are many similarities between Warzone and Blackout, but in many respects, Warzone built upon the skeleton of Blackout. Warzone significantly improved and refined the scale, mechanics, and features of Blackout.
The most obvious difference between the two games is that Blackout cost money, whereas Warzone is free to anyone who wants to play it. Blackout’s player base started out strong since many players were interested in a Call of Duty take on the BR genre. But within a year, the player base dwindled, especially on PC. Many players were reporting difficulty finding Blackout lobbies in early 2019.
Part of the issue with Blackout was that there are a ton of great BR games that are free-to-play. Apex Legends and Fortnite are both incredibly popular BR titles and both of them are free to download and play.
Activation decided to jump on that free-to-play bandwagon by making Warzone free-to-play. This could help the game maintain a strong player base for years to come, instead of it falling victim to the six to eight month churn cycle of a Call of Duty title’s popularity.
Simplified loot system
In Blackout, armor came in level one, two, and three, with each level being better than the last. The armor became a big issue in the late game because after taking a certain number of shots, the armor would disappear with no options to repair it. This system disincentivized aggressive play since players wanted to save their high-level armor for the final fight.
Warzone addressed this issue by adopting a system similar to Apex where you can find and carry replacement plates for your armor. Players are able to carry five replacement plates with the ability to wear three plates of armor at once, with no need to find different levels of armor. This system is much more simple than Blackout. It keeps players on an equal footing and doesn’t fall apart in the late game.
While Blackout saw players dropping in with just their fists, Warzone players start with a pistol. Guns that are scattered around the map have attachments on them already that can’t be adjusted. Weapons also come in varying rarities, much like other BR titles. The system is greatly simplified over the Blackout system, where players find and add attachments to their weapons throughout the match.
Killstreaks, Buy Stations, and Money
Warzone added Buy Stations throughout the map where players spend money to buy killstreaks, equipment, and redeployments for their squadmates. Players collect money by looting or completing contracts.
There are three types of contracts:
- Bounty contracts involve players hunting down and killing a specifically selected opponent.
- Scavenger contracts require players to seek out and loot a set of crates.
- Recon contracts require players to capture various flags around the map.
The Buy Stations have a ton of interesting equipment to buy that can help you outlast your enemies. You can find the full list here.
Buying a redeployment at a Buy Station isn’t the only way to respawn a fallen comrade. Possibly the most unique new feature available in Warzone is the Gulag respawn system, where players can fight to redeploy themselves back into the game.
When a player dies, they aren’t immediately eliminated from the game. Instead, they’re sent to a prison where they await their one-vs-one fight. When it’s your turn to fight, you’ll be dropped into a small prison map with a flag in the middle. If a player wins their one-vs-one against another player who’s also been eliminated, they’ll respawn back into the game with their squad. A message then appears on-screen reading “no more second chances.”
If the player dies again, they’ll be permanently eliminated unless their teammates pay for them to be redeployed at a Buy Station. In the traditional Blackout mode, there’s no respawn method.
The new game has important improvements over Blackout. It’s clear that the developers learned a lot of lessons from Blackout and other BR titles, while also introducing their own new mechanics that push the genre forward.