However, one fun change in the Gulag is that you don’t necessarily have to beat all the enemy players to get back into the match. Instead, everyone can band together to take down an AI-controlled Juggernaut Jailer that jumps into the arena after a certain amount of time has passed; if you’re successful, everybody who is still alive can redeploy. Alternatively, you can continue to try for a full enemy team wipe as chaos ensues – and predictably, most of the time people have opted for the bloodthirsty option of killing each other in the hopes of a selfish revival. I also had a match where the Jailer actually ended up taking out the last enemy player for me and I got redeployed with my teammate, so the new variation of the Gulag certainly has some really fun moments when it works properly. Hopefully over time we’ll see people team up against the common foe more often.

Hold Your Friends Close, and Keep Your Enemies on Proximity Chat

One of the best new additions in Warzone 2.0 is proximity chat, which allows anybody who gets close enough to listen in on your voice coms. That’s a fun and sneaky experience that you don’t get very often in battle royales. I could, for example, hear a team in the building next door discussing how they could hear me and my teammate looting, giving away their location when they might otherwise have gotten the drop on me. Warzone has always had death comms where you’d hear the enemy player’s mic just after you’d killed them, which is a fun way to revel in their defeat, but proximity chat really changes that in an interesting way.

Proximity chat has made the whole experience of Warzone so much better.

Proximity chat is one of those mechanics I didn’t think an FPS or battle royale needed but it’s made the whole experience of Warzone so much better. Because Warzone is crossplay, you can sometimes hear people unknowingly playing with their mics open on their controllers once you get near them. I’ve had some fun conversations with enemies too, just talking to them casually and butting into conversations, or throwing playful banter around as we try to hunt each other down. It’s also allowed for some really funny moments where people will get creative with it and, say, pose as taxi drivers for otherwise hostile players in a temporary truce and exchange money for rides around the map.

Proximity chat has really made Warzone feel like a lively battleground with the constant reminder that the players you’re fighting against for survival are other humans. Of course, this doesn’t always mean those interactions will be great – I’ve gotten some less-than-tasteful remarks and overheard certain conversations I’d rather not have. But most of the time it’s a fun option to turn on if you’re interested in being social or hearing when enemies are nearby to get a slight advantage.

Stilted Lootin’ then Shootin’

I’m less enthusiastic about Warzone 2.0’s new lootable backpacks, which allow you to carry more items without sacrificing ammo and armor plate space. It’s certainly a bold choice for Call of Duty because Apex Legends’ similar tiered backpack system has been a topic of contentious debate among that community – rather than having to find them as loot, should we just have bigger backpacks on drop or be able to craft one consistently?

Having limited slots in a backpack is a bit annoying.

After playing with it in Warzone 2.0, I have to side more with the latter camp. I’ve found myself frustrated when I’m running out of ammo or armor plates because I couldn’t carry enough with the standard backpack and wasn’t able to find an ammunition replenishment crate or armor supply crate to carry as backups. Previously, ammo and inventory management wasn’t really an issue since you could just collect the max amount for each type and auto-fill your tactical and lethal equipment as well. Having limited slots in a backpack is a bit annoying, especially now that in order to loot specific items you have to click on what you’re looting, say a box or an enemy’s dropped backpack, and individually click on what you want to take or swap. This slows down the looting process and can mean an aggravating death if you’re looking through an enemy’s backpack and suddenly need to swap guns or ammo. It’s just made gameplay more sluggish, and it feels like a step back from the original Warzone where you could simply run over things, loot quickly, and proceed with your game.

Additionally, the armor vests have been changed so that you only get slot-two armor plates on drop, forcing you to loot a higher value three-plate vest just to be protected at max capacity.

One nice thing about this change is that when you hit an enemy you get an indication as to what armor they’re wearing: blue hitmarkers reveal an enemy has the two-plate vest and purple indicates a three-plate. This gives you more information as you’re making the split-second decision on how you want to approach the enemy – if they have better gear than you, a hasty retreat might be a better idea.

A revised ping system has finally caught Warzone up to other battle royales.

Elsewhere, a revised ping system has finally caught Warzone up to other battle royales, which was long overdue. It gives you a whole wheel’s worth of options for how you’d like to point out enemies, allowing you to play without having to be on voice chat. Even when I am, though, I like to use it to point out specifically where I saw an enemy by Double-tapping the ping button. Highlighting an enemy with a live ping, where the ping moves with a tagged enemy for a short amount of time, is especially useful and nice to have. Also, if you wanted to avoid being overheard on proximity chat, this could double as a stealth tactic. It’s only improved the gameplay of Warzone 2.0.

Despite everything that’s been improved, the overall user interface of Warzone 2.0 has left a lot to be desired, especially since things seem to have been made complicated for no reason. The gunsmith’s unlocks work by progressing through a new gun family tree called Platforms. You have to hit specific weapon levels within a Platform to unlock new Receivers, weapons in its line. For example, if you unlock the M4, you can open the progression tab and see you’ve got two tracks to unlock the 556 Icarus or the FTAC Recon. It’s very visually confusing, though thankfully not a huge deal overall as you still unlock guns really quickly just by playing Warzone or the new DMZ mode. In fact, DMZ is the best option for unlocking and leveling guns since you can pick up any weapon and level them just by having them in your loadout.

DMZ is the best option for unlocking and leveling guns.

DMZ pushes Warzone beyond the traditional battle royal crowd as Call of Duty’s take on an extraction mode. No doubt inspired by the success of games like Escape from Tarkov, DMZ has strongholds stocked with big groups of NPCs located throughout the map that you can infiltrate, which keeps rounds from ever feeling like they are lacking gunfights – and of course there’s a server of up to 66 players or 22 three-man human teams vying for the same targets. It’s a really fun and refreshing change of pace between rounds of battle royale.

Since it also takes place on Al Mazrah, I’ve found that DMZ is a great way to explore and get familiar with its locations. It also has its own set of faction missions you can complete for XP bundles and additional rewards like weapon blueprints, calling cards, operator skins, and others. You can select up to three missions at a time from the factions: Legion (the easiest difficulty to complete), White Lotus (medium difficulty), and Black Mous (hard difficulty). I thoroughly enjoyed strategizing with my teammates about which missions we could work to complete together since the entire team can help – if the mission calls for you to destroy six vehicles, anyone on your team could destroy a vehicle and it would count towards your completion. Mission systems like this are really nice for adding replayability and direction to a PvPvE mode since that format can sometimes get stale without any clearly stated goals.

I’ve kept coming back to DMZ over Warzone due to it being so easy to just queue into and play, without all the commitment of a full 25 to 30-minute battle royale match. You control the match length since you can opt to extract at any point, or try to hold out for the final extraction time at the end. Even if I don’t get an extraction and lose the items I had collected, I don’t feel discouraged because the experience of DMZ with your squad is just so fun on its own. Being able to run around, explore, and rampage through AI enemies on Al Mazrah is a fresh break from the battle royale survival tactics. You can breathe, have fun, and focus on completing missions for rewards you share across your Warzone account rather than always trying to be the last person standing. That shared progression in particular really encouraged me to put more time into DMZ without feeling like I was neglecting my Warzone unlocks.

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