Call of Duty: Warzone got a surprise launch one year ago today, after a number of rumors, leaks, and finally a mysterious countdown timer in Modern Warfare’s main menu. The enormous free-to-play massively multiplayer shooter turned both Call of Duty and the battle royale genre on its head. It featured the biggest pool of players (150 default per match, and up to 200 in certain modes), an enormous map, and fresh twists on massively multiplayer shooter ideas. It also tied into other Call of Duty games in unprecedented ways.
Activision celebrated the one-year anniversary of Warzone with a look back at some of the biggest moments throughout the year. At launch, it featured both last-player-standing battle royale and new experience called Plunder, where players had to collect the most cash before time ran out. Plunder was a particular favorite of ours when we first reviewed Warzone as an addictive respawn game mode within the battle royale idea. Warzone would go on to expand on these ideas a lot.
It also tied into Modern Warfare, sitting somewhere between an additional game mode and it’s own separate game. Players didn’t need to buy Modern Warfare to play Warzone, but Operators, weapons, cosmetics, and progression carried seamlessly between the two. The Gulag was also a fresh concept—a 1v1 second chance; a sort of “loser’s bracket” that allowed you the opportunity to drop back into Verdansk if you came out victorious.
Warzone also continued to expand on the story from Modern Warfare, which extended from its campaign to the multiplayer, and finally to the events of Warzone in Verdansk. Each new Season pushed that narrative forward and made small changes to the map to account for the story progression. Price joined as a playable Operator. Shadow Company blew open the stadium. And most recently, a crashed ship has brought a zombie outbreak to Verdansk’s shores.
In late August 2020, after plenty of teases, Warzone played host to the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War reveal. An in-game playlist changed up what players were tasked with doing. Players met the Black Ops series infamous Frank Woods, were given his unique sniper rifle blueprint, and had to make a mad dash for the Stadium as air raid sirens signaled something to come. At the end of the event, a trailer for Treyarch’s Call of Duty game was shown.
For Halloween, Warzone became haunted with the Haunting of Verdansk event. This changed the time of day to night, brought a number of haunting elements to the various corners of the map, and introduced a mode where players could become zombies themselves. Our review of the event was highly positive, lauding what these kinds of big changes and events meant for the future of Warzone. Oh, and the jump scares in caches? Yeah, jeez, those were a thing.
Shortly after the launch of Black Ops Cold War, Warzone became integrated with that game too, linking three Call of Duty games together in a way the franchise had never done before. It also brought Rebirth Island and the Resurgence game mode, which, in my opinion, is the best iteration of the battle royale formula yet.
Finally Season Two brought zombies. Long teased, a ship with a mysterious cargo from Rebirth Island has crashed at Verdansk. Zombies are starting to spill out of the wrecked hull. While the map isn’t overrun yet, it seems that it’s just a matter of time before the undead hordes can be found everywhere. And the rumored way to contain that outbreak is to bomb the map entirely. A number of rumors have said the outbreak will lead to Verdansk being destroyed and making way for a new battle royale map.
Right now, Season Two is continuing the beginning of the end, and big changes are expected when Season Three rolls around. In fact, in its celebration post, Activision said, “Once again, thanks to you, the community, for being with us for the past year of Warzone. With Season Two’s story continuing through the game’s one-year milestone, we cannot wait to share with you what’s in store for the year to come… but it’ll be better for you to experience it for yourself.”
If previous live events such as the Black Ops Cold War reveal or Haunting of Verdansk are anything to go by, the upcoming plans are expected to be big. In addition, looking at how other multiplayer battle royale games handle player engagement with big map changeovers (Fortnite, for example), expect an event that’s a whole lot bigger than a simple cutscene to mark whatever comes next.
Our biggest wishes for the second year of Warzone are a proper next-gen version (currently PS5 players are just running the PS4 version via backwards compatibility) and a shift so that the game sits within the same install as Black Ops Cold War (instead of being a part of thee separate Modern Warfare). Treyarch seems to be excited for what’s to come too:
— Treyarch Studios (@Treyarch) March 10, 2021
Activision has committed to supporting Warzone for the long haul, connecting it to other premium Call of Duty experiences in the future. After a record year for the Call of Duty franchise, and growth only seeming to continue, expect Warzone year two to be even bigger than the first.
Want to celebrate your own first year of Warzone? Drop your tag to get your stats:
One year of Warzone. Countless matches.
— Call of Duty (@CallofDuty) March 10, 2021
What would you like to see in Warzone Year Two? Drop in to the comments below and let us know.