Call of Duty’s battle royale Warzone is just under a year old. When it launched in March of 2020, I praised the 150-player online game for smooth gameplay, simplified mechanics, and fast-paced action. But all of the features that once made Warzone one of the best battle royales to drop into now feel hindered by the wreckage created from recent updates. As it stands now, Warzone is a rough mess of bugs, cheaters, and gun balancing issues.
Keeping up with the trend of games as a live service, piling on constant updates to a massive game like Warzone can be both a blessing and a curse. New content keeps the game fresh through new weapons, modes, and cosmetics. But every time something gets added to the game, something else seems to break.
At the end of last year, Warzone spent many weeks plagued by an unlimited juggernaut glitch, which allowed players to spawn an infinite number of juggernaut killstreaks. The juggernaut suit consists of heavy armour and allows the player to wield a minigun, making for a frustrating battle royale experience when dealing with just one or two of those menaces. Thankfully, this glitch has been patched out for now. But some old glitches have resurfaced, including the stim shot flaw.
The stim shot is a piece of tactical equipment used for healing, but it’s abused with an exploit that lets a player have continuous and infinite healing. This allows players to stand in Warzone’s toxic gas, which would otherwise cause imminent death, and outlast all other opponents for unfair wins. Developer Raven Software tweeted that the issue with the stim shot was resolved with a patch last week, but some players are still reporting abuse of the equipment.
One long term issue that hasn’t been addressed is the loadout freeze. Many players have reported that their game freezes for several seconds after trying to collect their loadout drop, thus leaving them vulnerable on the map. I haven’t personally encountered this issue, but it seems to be popping up quite a bit for others.
Gunfights have also been rough since December 16, when the developers integrated the Black Ops Cold War guns into the Modern Warfare-based Warzone. Dumping all those extra weapons into the mix created some bugs and balancing issues. Cold War’s DMR 14 tactical rifle quickly became Warzone’s most overpowered gun, dominating the meta, closely followed by the dual Diamatti pistols and the MAC-10 submachine gun. An update on January 13 provided nerfs to both the DMR 14 and the dual Diamattis, but they are both still powerhouse weapons, especially since the pistols feel completely unchanged.
On the bright side, the DMR 14 nerf has players branching out to try to find the next best gun for long-range firefights. I’m still seeing a lot of players running and gunning with the MAC-10 and Diamattis, but it’s nice to see a slightly better variety of weapons in play. Modern Warfare’s CR-56 AMAX assault rifle is my favourite go-to for Warzone, and it feels like it can be a contender again without the DMR meta in play.
There’s also a reload issue that can occur with some of the integrated weapons. You can initiate a gun reload and watch the animation happen, but sometimes the weapon isn’t actually reloaded. This cost me my life in more than a few gunfights when using the Cold War weapons in Warzone.
Some players want the Cold War guns to be removed from Warzone, but I think the weapons just need some proper balancing. Of course, it’s worth noting that as Warzone continues to be the bridge that connects future Call of Duty titles, the weapon and equipment pool could become an overwhelming mess. I think Call of Duty would do well to take a page from Fortnite, vaulting certain weapons to preserve the balance of the game and keep things fresh. I can understand hesitation to vault weapons for which players have purchased cosmetics, but it would be less of an issue to vault an item like the stim shot so players don’t have the opportunity to abuse it.
Item problems aside, there’s still rampant cheating in Warzone. Activision started battling cheaters in Modern Warfare and Warzone in April of last year, but nothing seems to stop the influx of wallhacks and aimbotting that chisel away at the integrity of matches. All players can really do is report the cheater from the in-game option, but Activision reviewing and banning accounts doesn’t seem to matter; cheaters just make new accounts. Last May, Activision added a two-factor authentication requirement for all new Warzone accounts on PC. But hackers are good at finding workarounds, and they’re still blatantly cheating. No one wants to deal with cheaters, and many content creators and pros are pretty fed up.
Couldn't have been a more different #Warzone experience today. 12 matches in total, cheaters in I think 9 of them?
Raven needs a ban wave out soon or implement a proper anti-cheat. It's really disheartening to die to cheaters late in rounds after you've played so well ????
— Westie (@MrProWestie) January 17, 2021
In terms of integrity in Warzone’s competitive scene, prize money tournaments are often compromised, with players finding ways to get around the game’s skill-based matchmaking to get placed into “bot lobbies” of lower skilled players. There have been multiple methods exposed, including specific routers to ping locations or using accounts with reverse-boosted stats. The current Twitch Rivals Doritos Bowl is the first major Warzone tournament since the Black Ops Cold War integration to feature private lobbies to prevent any discrepancies with skill-based matchmaking. Hopefully, all future competitions will feature private lobbies, especially those big money tournaments.
Besides all these bigger issues, one petty criticism I have is that the Verdansk map is stale. I’ve long complained that there’s so much untapped potential in the landscape of Verdansk. Instead of getting Verdansk map updates for Season One, we got a second map: the smaller, Cold War-themed “Rebirth Island.” A smaller map does add some variety in terms of the scenery and pace of the matches, and I often enjoy the faster, high-kill matches over the slower, campy matches on Verdansk. While I still don’t think it needs all the same bells and whistles as the larger Verdansk map, Rebirth Island is now my preferred option for Warzone matches.
All the complaints here aren’t meant to say that Warzone can’t be a fun time, but it can often be ruined by bugs or cheats that shouldn’t remain as constant factors in an online shooter. I’ve dumped countless hours into Warzone, and I want it to remain my preferred battle royale, but it’s now too rough around the edges to enjoy in the current state. I’d love to see a huge update that just focuses on cleaning up the bugs and balancing the weapons, which is more important than just cramming in new cosmetics or adding limited-time modes. Warzone needs a little TLC to return to the fantastic form that it launched in last year.
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