I’ve had a small pit in my stomach ever since we learned the next Call of Duty is likely another WWII game codenamed Vanguard. Here I thought 2017’s forgettable CoD: WWII made it clear that fans are tired of the 1940s, but maybe that was just me. More than a potentially dull campaign, though, I’m worried about what Vanguard will mean for its battle royale cousin. Activision hasn’t yet said how Vanguard will interact with Call of Duty: Warzone, but here’s hoping we’re not in for a repeat of the last few painful months.
After debilitating bugs, stagnant metas, and confusing messaging following the integration of Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War, I don’t see how injecting Warzone with another game’s worth of stuff would do any good.
Warzone will be better off if the next Call of Duty stays the heck away from it.
Prior to the union of Warzone and Cold War, I was excited about the idea: two games, one battle pass, and 30 new guns to play with in Warzone. It was an ambitious goal to so closely integrate two games with different engines and teams making them. It’s impressive to me that the venture has worked at all, but it’s hard to argue that Cold War’s infiltration of Warzone has been good for the game.
Look no further than the last few months of Warzone. On day one, Cold War weapons proved to be awkward (and often overpowered) fits in Warzone’s arsenal. Remember when the DMR 14 was so dominant that people started protesting in the streets and called the game DMRZone? I expected balancing issues when all 30 Cold War guns were added to Warzone all at once, but I didn’t anticipate a mess so big that it still hasn’t been cleaned up four months later. Some Cold War attachments still don’t work as intended. The FFAR and AUG, two Cold War guns, are so good that they essentially define the meta. Last week’s midseason patch finally saw the return of Season 1’s attack helicopters after they were turning players invisible, but they were removed again one day later for doing the exact same thing.
Raven Software’s transition to Warzone’s lead developer and the challenges of Covid-19-era game development likely played a role in the Season 1 chaos. I’d argue the game’s continuous problems have more to do with forcing a square peg into a round hole. Call of Duty’s main menu would have you believe that Warzone and Cold War exist as one cohesive package, but the games are incredibly different.
Even before Warzone released, Modern Warfare’s weapons were designed with the eventual battle royale spinoff in mind. Cold War, with its limited Gunsmith (the game has about a thousand grips and four good scopes, somehow) and emphasis on Wildcards, feels like it was designed with classic 6v6 Call of Duty in mind. Everything from Cold War’s health system to its movement, animations, and sound propagation works differently than the Warzone rules that players are attuned to. As I said in my Cold War review, “Casually switching to Cold War after a few Warzone matches is like jumping from a bike to a skateboard—same idea, but different in every way that matters.”
It was always going to be an imperfect marriage. I wouldn’t expect Treyarch to optimize its dozens of guns for a separate game that ultimately has nothing to do with Cold War. But in terms of balance and consistency, Warzone was in a better place before Cold War came along.
And it doesn’t have to happen again. Hey Activision, this was a fun experiment—let’s not repeat it with Vanguard. If you thought Cold War’s 80s-era attachments were an odd fit, just wait until there’s an MP40 in Gunsmith. What am I even supposed to do with that, affix a bayonet? I dread the day that players are demanding nerfs to the M1 Garand while others exploit a bouncing betty trick that somehow makes them invincible.
The sentiment on Warzone has never felt as volatile as it does right now. Activision’s most successful game has become synonymous with game-breaking bugs, poor balancing, and persistent cheating problems. Warzone doesn’t have to join at the hip of every new CoD to be the marketing tool Activision wants it to be. The games can still share cosmetics, reference each other with in-game events, or collaborate in smaller ways that don’t completely upend the game in a single patch and introduce more potential points of failure. Maybe Raven should be allowed to scale back on new content altogether until Warzone is a stable piece of software. Reports suggest a new map is coming later this month—I wonder how long it’ll take for someone to clip under it.
It’d be nice to play a version of Warzone that isn’t constantly on fire. Activision is going to double dip with a new $60 game this year no matter what, but there’s no need to drag Warzone down with it.