‘Call of Duty: Warzone 2.0’ first impressions: high speed, low drag

Warzone 2.0 Credit: Activision Blizzard.

Warzone 2.0 is here, and while this isn’t the big shiny NME verdict (expect that early next week), we’ve managed to put a few hours in to get a sense of Activision’s latest free-to-play life devourer. Our initial thoughts are that a lower time to kill has made the already fast multiplayer shooter feel even faster.

To the inexperienced player – that’s me, I haven’t played Warzone in six months – this means that you’ll take a few bullets and eat shit the second you see someone, often before you get a chance to put a plan into action. Damage models are the same as Modern Warfare 2’s, with the extra health bonuses from putting armour into the mix, so dropping someone in six shots from a pistol or a short burst from an SMG or assault rifle seems to be the norm here.

These estimates account for my fairly terrible aim, too: as players get more familiar with Warzone 2 and its arsenal, expect engagements to get even shorter and exponentially more lethal.

Warzone 2.0. Credit: Activision Blizzard.
Warzone 2.0. Credit: Activision Blizzard.

There’s a lot I like: the new Gulag is a highlight. It pits four random dead players against each other in a 2v2 fight to the death that theoretically can end with all four joining to kill the minigun-toting jailed NPC, although I have never seen it happen. These tense and tactical firefights offer a tantalising promise of a second chance for players that can win in the arena.

Warzone’s Gulag is pretty tired at this point, so something a little more tactical fits the bill and means you genuinely have to switch on. Pairing up with a random player, in some cases a player you’ve just sent to the Gulag yourself, feels like a machine to generate anecdotes – and if nothing else it’s a nice bit of excitement after you’ve been unceremoniously dumpstered.

The new loadout system will be controversial: getting your loadout is now a matter of hoping to get one of the few scant loadout crates dropped around the map in the mid to late game, or clearing out one of the enemy AI strongholds that appear on the map over time. Both of these options carry a lot of risk, but I think the change is a good one: perks are incredibly powerful in Warzone so limiting them makes them feel like more of a reward. It also means people with a sniper rifle will be more likely to camp Loadout Drops though, so watch yourself.

Warzone 2. Credit: Activision Blizzard.
Warzone 2. Credit: Activision Blizzard.

The new desert wasteland of Al Mazrah still has that new map smell so no one really knows the best places to loot or angles to engage, but there’s a little frisson of excitement each time I land somewhere, look around and realise I’m stood in a perfect recreation of a classic Call of Duty map. This – I maintain – is the reason I got killed while admiring a skyscraper built entirely like the original MW2’s high rise, but there are other multiplayer maps layered into Al Mazrah for beady-eyed CoD fans.

If I have any complaints about the map it’s that it’s big and it’s messy. It’s hard to identify quickly where you might be taking fire from, and every area of interest across the map is full of darkened windows and potential sniper nests. Scope shine will help you identify some people shooting at you, but most players are just going to have to die a few times while they work out the safest angles to approach.

Warzone 2.0. Credit: Activision Blizzard.
Warzone 2.0. Credit: Activision Blizzard.

The biggest complaints about the game are the unrestricted voice chat, which means you can hear enemy players – or more likely PS5 players listening to music unaware that their controller has a built-in mic – whenever they’re close to you, which feels annoying, especially as you get to the smaller final circles. Then there’s the game’s backpack system, which feels largely irrelevant, as very few players are actually going to dig into their pack to grab the right grenades ahead of a fight. For a game laser-focused on keeping you in a long-running fight, the backpack feels like a speed bump rather than a viable tactical option.

While we haven’t had time to dig into DMZ, Warzone 2.0 has given us plenty to be excited about. We’ll have the full NME verdict on Monday.

Warzone 2.0 is available to play on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC

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