Caldera is here, but does its addition advance the popular battle royale title enough?
The latest era of Call of Duty: Warzone has been out for a few days now, bringing a variety of changes to Activision's massively popular battle royale. With a new map, Call of Duty: Vanguard integration, new vehicles, and more to check out, I've spent the last few days hunting for elusive victories, to see just how this next iteration of the game shakes up and advances the BR that's reached over 100 million players since launch.
First off, the biggest change is of course the new map: Caldera. This sunny, Pacific island is a far cry from the snowy, mountainous state of Verdansk, and is pretty much different at every single turn. There are jungles to navigate, straw hut villages to loot, plenty of World War 2 buildings and points of interest (including Sub Pens from Vanguard's multiplayer) to visit, and the entire island is surrounded by golden beaches and a vast azure ocean which cannot be swam in.
On the surface, there's not much to dislike about Caldera and its variety. The locations and various unique biomes are a welcome change to the mostly concrete and snow-covered Verdansk. Whether you're fighting in the thick, verdant vegetation of the island's jungles, or instead clawing for ground across open spaces, such as at the Airfield, this map is not only massive, but it boasts a wide array of verticality. The many towering rock formations that dot the beach fronts usually feature ziplines to traverse up and down the cliff faces, and this is even found at the highest point on the island, at the Peak, which is hollowed out and filled with loot of all kinds.
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So, you might be thinking that Caldera is a pretty welcome improvement to Warzone, and while it is in certain places, the map also features a strangely washed appearance that drowns the beauty of the island in a dull brown and beige colour palette in-game. It really is a shame considering just how fantastic the visuals of Vanguard are at all times, and it makes it hard to appreciate a lot of the improvements that have been introduced with Caldera.
But, this isn't even the biggest of issues I've experienced so far. I've had game crashes and weird visual bugs, and worst of all, the integration of Vanguard has been handled in a really peculiar and frustrating manner. Despite Warzone serving as a place to unite Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and Call of Duty: Vanguard, the weapons that are shared between the games operate as separate entities in-game. If you've levelled up a PPSH-41 in Cold War, you'll have to do it all over again in Vanguard to get the attachments necessary to make pulling one out of a Loadout Drop worthwhile. And this extends to weapons such as the Kar98k in Modern Warfare, which is very difficult to come to terms with, especially considering how long it takes to rank weapons up these days.
Then to add insult to injury, you can only use Vanguard weapons in a lot of the game modes, essentially limiting the ability to use a lot of the gear you've amassed over the years, unless you play specific game modes that aren't locked to Vanguard-only items. I understand the importance of historical accuracy where possible in a World War 2 shooter, but you can still customise the reticles of weapons with bizarre holographic shapes, despite that hardly being accurate historically. It feels like the developer just couldn't pick a lane to follow in at times.
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Since this is a new map, there are a few other areas that have been tweaked as well. The Gulag for example is now less open and is even covered in a lot of places so that spectators will have a tough time to keep up with what is going on inside the arena. On one hand, I can see the benefit to this, as it hampers a team's ability to communicate with one another, therefore making the 1v1 all the more important, but at the same time the arena aspect was what made the Gulag so unique, and losing that in places is a bit of a blow.
The other major addition are planes, which are operable vehicles that allow players to take to the skies to gun down other enemies and to cross larger distances at much faster rates. I was worried that these would become far too powerful when I heard about their inclusion in the BR, but the challenging controls and gameplay required to successfully pilot one does make them feel far more balanced and like a valuable addition to the Warzone experience.
It is also worth noting that while there has not been an engine upgrade, meaning the gunplay and gameplay feels pretty much the same as it did prior to the launch of Warzone Pacific, the introduction of the Ricochet anti-cheat system has made the Warzone experience significantly better from what I've seen. I've yet to have a cheater ruin any of my games, which is a massive improvement considering previously it felt like you'd hit the jackpot if there wasn't a cheater in every other game you played. So, that's a huge plus.
Yet, even though Warzone Pacific has brought several improvements and benefits to this battle royale, this still isn't the massive jump that I hoped it would be. The new map is great and the Ricochet anti-cheat system is a huge plus, but the Vanguard integration is frustrating to say the least, and on top of this, the lack of a defined Xbox Series or PS5 version of the game is trapping this popular BR in the past (PC players will notice this less, but console players still don't have a field-of-view slider to play around with). This is a fun change to Warzone, one that is worth checking out if you haven't already, but it could be so much more, and frankly it's a little disappointing that it isn't.
7 / 10
Caldera is a welcome change to the Warzone experience. Ricochet anti-cheat is a huge plus. Planes are a cool addition.
Vanguard integration is frustrating. Still no new-gen version of the game. Gulag is hit or miss.