The RPS Advent Calendar 2020, December 20th

To open the twentieth door on the RPS Advent Calendar you’re going to need to squad up with some of your best buddies, strap on a parachute, and remember to check your corners.

It’s Call Of Duty: Warzone!

James: I don’t need to tell you how this year has been. Scary, lonely; we’ve all been through it. Isolation hit me pretty damn hard. Stresses from all corners of life melt into a giant ball of terror when you’re alone in a two-metre square bedroom on the top floor of a 19th century Kemptown mansion. In those long spring months, all I wanted was to explore the beautiful city I’d moved to, find new experiences, and meet new friends. Things don’t always work out that way though.

2020 has become more about coping than anything else. Mourning the loss of opportunity, financial security, family members, and relationships, with no end in sight. For a long while I needed a constant.

Looking back, Warzone fit me perfectly. It got me through a huge amount of the year and gave me that constant source of Literally Anything my brain wasn’t able to get from the outside world. I had fallen off the Call Of Duty train a while back, and hadn’t properly got into any of the games since I whiled away ludicrous amounts of time on Modern Warfare 2 back in the day, but 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot brought me right on back. Warzone, the game’s Battle Royale mode, was the perfect combination of familiarity and cool new stuff.

Warzone’s list of accomplishments is a mile long. The gunplay feels satisfying, the best guns being powerful and heavy in your virtual hands, and the elation of landing a sniper headshot to finish off the final member of an enemy squad is as intact as any polished AAA first person shooter. The map is varied, and the constant extra content and range of weapons and characters mean you can customise your experience to bring the best for both yourself and your squad.

To me, though, all the good stuff Warzone had was secondary. I’d be playing it anyway for work, after all. No, Warzone was my game of the year because other people liked it. It’s the first Battle Royale game, hell, the first game in general, that’s resonated enough with both me and a group of friends to the point where we can enjoy it together like we’re hopping online after school as soon as we’ve finished out homework.

Through all the bad backs and difficult days, Warzone, and the squad I drop in with, have got me through a really rough year. Thinking about Warzone for what it is, it seems almost silly to attach such emotional weight to this ridiculous shooty bang bang game that lets you buy weed guns and anime trucks. Honestly though, Call of Duty: Warzone is a banger, with all its brilliant limited-time modes (Armored Royale, I’m looking at you) and it’s one of those games that’s a joy to guide. Any excuse to jump into Verdansk with the squad is a delight for me.

A screenshot from Warzone Season 6 which shows two players flanking an armoured truck. One fires an RPG, while the other aims an assault rifle at it.

Ed: James and I were out in Verdansk together for most of the lockdown, and he’s summed up my thoughts on Warzone pretty nicely. For me, as much as it was for him, getting on Discord with The Boys after work and dropping into Call Of Duty’s battle royale mode was an important way of connecting with actual human life forms.

We were all basically an advert for crossplay too. Despite us playing on a bunch of different platforms, Warzone was one arena which let us crack on regardless. As I write this article, I’m reminded of how brilliant this is. That we were – and still are – able to catch a ticket to Verdansk without even thinking about compatibility remains magic to me.

Warzone’s free to play as well. It’s free. This experience costs nothing (apart from literally warehouses of SSD space) and it’s something that’s quite easy to forget. Again, it was perfect for those lockdown sessions as there was no monetary barrier, we could all get involved simply by clicking install.

I can’t shake loose the idea that to play this game it doesn’t cost money, probably because it’s so polished. It’s pretty much a live service mode that feels stripped straight from £50 Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare. There’s no cheaping out on graphics or gun play here, it’s a triple A experience, just funnelled into a big multiplayer mode.

Having said all this, as lockdown wore on I’m not sure we even cared about coming out on top and securing that Warzone victory. In the end, Verdansk became more of a chatroom for us to air our frustrations, have a chortle, and just exist in a space that wasn’t our rooms. Essentially a mental health tool which happened to involve dropping onto a map, surviving poison gas, and shooting baddies.

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