Inverse Game Reviews

Call of Duty: Warzone 2.0 has an identity crisis

Inverse Score: 6/10

Activision

Only a handful of squads remain in the final moments of this brutal Warzone 2.0 match.

I fearfully throw my back up against the wall, peering through a nearby shattered window at the toxic storm closing in. I just used the last of my gas mask and Self-Revive Kit during a previous engagement, so I’m left with diminishing odds of survival. Suddenly, an enemy pokes their head out from a window in the building ahead as I move between cover, leaving me exposed.

I make a beeline for a backpack that’s been abandoned nearby as bullets whiz past me. Salvation: There’s a Durable Gas Mask in the bag. It’ll let me run through the gas safely to secure a better position on the enemy ahead. But I fumble through the clunky button prompts as I try to place the gas mask in my inventory, and I’m shot from behind and quickly fall to the ground.

All that for nothing.

The inventory system is one of many perplexing changes to the Call of Duty battle royale that does more harm than good. There’s no denying Warzone 2.0 is fun, but it’s also frustrating more often than it should be, due to some puzzling design choices. Instead of being a suped-up sequel, Warzone 2.0 is an alienating experience that has faint echoes of former greatness and growing pains galore.

An uncertain direction

Warzone 2.0 doesn’t feel much like a sequel, but rather, a new take on the original formula.Activision

The original Warzone was a wonky work in progress that never truly reached its full potential. That’s why Warzone 2.0 was so promising. It could finally address many of the original’s biggest issues, such as an imbalanced weapon meta and overcomplicated mechanics. It could also build upon ideas that already worked well, like weapon customization and a fast, fluid, and satisfying gameplay loop.

The new inventory system feels like something out of an RPG, except the robust suite of customization options is poorly suited to a fast-paced battle royale. Your backpack can have lots of storage, but when it requires so many inputs, the feature becomes more of a burden. It takes so long to move items around that you’re likely to get shot in the back when trying to simply replace one piece of equipment with another. Even picking up items from the ground or from a backpack is painfully slow, leaving you wide open for an attack.

So it’s a bit surprising that floor loot is more viable than before. Many of the random gun spawns feel just as viable as loadout weapons. And it’s harder to get your hands on custom weapons in Warzone 2.0 anyway, so loadouts don’t feel as useful. It’s a significant strategic shift that obliterates what gave Warzone its unique identity and strays too far away from what made the original so much fun.

Moreover, the introduction of AI-controlled Stronghold bases feels out of place in this game, likely in an attempt to cater to newcomers. “Can’t take out real players? Here, have some AI to mow down!” It’s an odd choice that feels like a way to pad out the flow of a match instead of simply placing 200 players on the map.

To a crawl

The new Al Mazrah map is excellent but feels too big for the low 150-player count.Activision

All of this culminates in some terrible pacing issues. Like Modern Warfare II, the new Warzone 2.0 favors slower playstyles, rewarding methodical, patient players while punishing those who prefer to run and gun.

Moving around too much makes you vulnerable, so you’re forced to endure more downtime. You might think it would be ideal for snipers, yet it’s virtually impossible to one-shot anybody even with a direct hit to the head (with the exception of the Victus XMR rifle).

The limited 150-player count also seems too low for the otherwise awesome Al Mazrah map. You’re less likely to come across opponents as you move to different POIs. While it’s nice to be given the chance to survive longer, the actual gunfights are few and far between, especially if you aren’t chasing down other players actively.

This game also shares the same frustrating minimap system as Modern Warfare II — wherein you don’t show up on the map, even when firing an unsuppressed weapon. This makes it too difficult to find other players, resulting in an experience that’s boring and slow far too often.

But above all else, all of these issues are made even worse due to the game’s fast time to kill (TTK). It’s immensely frustrating to get taken out by a player who just so happens to already be aiming in your direction, especially 10 to 20 minutes into a match. It would be nice to have some time to react, so as to not penalize you for running around, managing inventory, interacting with items, or applying Armor Plates.

A glimmer of hope

Like many live-service games, Warzone 2.0 has the potential to improve over time, so long as Activision takes the community’s feedback into account.Activision

Warzone 2.0 has a lot of potential and will undoubtedly evolve a great deal over time.

Thankfully, there are still a number of features that work well in Warzone 2.0, such as the Al Mazrah map itself. This new map is much more akin to Verdansk, with a wide variety of POIs including densely populated cities, intricate structures to navigate, and plenty of cover between major hubs. It’s a major step up from Caldera in the original Warzone.

Notably, Warzone 2.0’s weapons feel balanced right from the start, which is always a challenge with games like this. It’s a notable success that encourages players to experiment with different builds, thereby keeping gameplay fresh for most over time. Warzone offered over 120 different primary weapons, but favored only a handful, making most options feel redundant. When you’re rolling with the same weapons over and over, things could feel stale. Warzone 2.0 does not have that problem.

The new Warzone 2.0 2v2 Gulag is also a delight, pairing you with another random after your first death for a high-pressure shot at redeployment. The last squad standing gets to dive back into the match, giving newer players greater chances than the previous 1v1 Gulag. It’s one of several refreshing and welcome changes that give the game a slightly different feel, for better or for worse.

Warzone 2.0 tries to cater to a wider audience by borrowing ideas from its competition, but it delivers a hodgepodge of ideas that seems to forget what made the original Warzone so iconic.

6/10

Call of Duty: Warzone 2.0 is available for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. Inverse reviewed the game on PS5.

INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.
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