Activision's grand plan for Call of Duty involves integrating traditional games in the series with the phenomenally successful battle royale Warzone. It's an idea that in principle benefits players, with cross-game progression for soldiers, weapons and even the battle pass. But in practice it has been a messy business.
When Black Ops Cold War began its integration with Warzone, the battle royale received a raft of weapons from Treyarch's shooter for use out on the field. Players predicted weapon balance chaos and so it proved, with three weapons from Black Ops Cold War overpowering the Warzone meta over the Christmas break. Three weeks later, Warzone custodian Raven released a nerf for the DMR 14, the Type 63, the Mac-10, and dual pistols in a bid to improve the state of the game. Now that the Call of Duty community has had time to dig into the detail, many feel these nerfs do not go far enough. The dreaded DMR, it seems, is still the go-to choice.
Shooter metas change as new weapons are added, and Call of Duty is no different. But what's interesting here is this new nerf update from Raven starts the beginning of a weapon feel difference between games.
Raven's recent tweaks to the DMR and co are exclusive to Warzone. The guns remain untouched in Black Ops Cold War multiplayer. So, Call of Duty fans who play both games now have to keep track of two separate lines of balance updates to the same set of weapons that already work differently in two separate games.
Overall, the gun integration has gone badly. Players have complained about weapon stats that don't make any sense, poor quality skins and broken damage numbers. I've mentioned the broken meta - considered by some to be the worst Call of Duty meta ever - Warzone suffered over Christmas as Black Ops Cold War's weapons took effect. Raven's nerf is in place, but established Call of Duty content creators who fuss over changes to weapon balance have revealed the ultra powerful Black Ops Cold War weapons remain ultra powerful. Call of Duty YouTuber Xclusive Ace reports in the video below that the DMR may be a little more accurate post-update, which is quite the thing.
It's an awkward situation given Activision's cross-platform, cross-game strategy here. When you boot up either Black Ops Cold War, Warzone or Modern Warfare, you're presented with a three-pronged menu screen that gives each game a slice of the virtual real estate. It's a unified front, a message to Call of Duty fans that no matter which game you play, the ecosystem has you covered.
But season one of Black Ops Cold War and Warzone hasn't gone as smoothly as many players had hoped. Fans of Black Ops Cold War who have no interest in playing Warzone aren't thrilled at the constant in-game push towards the battle royale. Confusingly, Warzone has two AK-47s, one labelled Black Ops, the other Modern Warfare. I've mentioned the menu screen, but there's more: you have to play Warzone to unlock some Black Ops Cold War cosmetics, which is annoying if you own Black Ops Cold War and don't play Warzone.
For example, at level 30 of the season one battle pass you unlock the Bad Blood skin for Park, as well as Park's season one battle pass mission. This mission includes four objectives that, once completed, unlock two skins, an emblem and a calling card. The fourth objective requires players to play Warzone.
"Just wanted the skin at the end so I did all the challenges (multiple times because they barely even tracked) but since they don't let you see the challenges in advance I found out that I had to play an entirely different game for the one thing I wanted out of this," said redditor iceyk111.
"It's not a debilitating issue but I hate Warzone with a burning passion (no offense to any Warzone players but it's simply too slow for me) and would appreciate alternative challenges for people who don't want to switch TO AN ENTIRELY OTHER GAME!"
Speaking of the battle pass, I've already reported on how Modern Warfare deserves a next-gen update and a full-blown second year. As it stands, season six is its last, with only scraps of new content to shoot for. While Modern Warfare players can buy and level up the new season one battle pass by playing Infinity Ward's game, no new Modern Warfare content is included within it. It feels like Modern Warfare is being left behind in this new, integrated future.
Raven's decision to tune Warzone's Black Ops Cold War guns separately from Black Ops Cold War itself sparks an interesting question: should Warzone break off from the yearly Call of Duty series to become its own, entirely separate ongoing game, with its own set of operators and weapons? I can't see it happening myself, given Activision's realisation that Warzone is the ultimate shop window for new Call of Duty games. After all, the company revealed Black Ops Cold War within an in-game Warzone event.
Perhaps more reasonable is for all Call of Duty games to be built on the same engine. Infinity Ward did wonders with 2019's Modern Warfare and Warzone. Black Ops Cold War, which runs on a different engine, feels like a step back in many respects. If the Call of Duty games were built on the same engine, weapons would in theory at least feel consistent across the various experiences. I wait with interest to see how 2021's big new Call of Duty game, no doubt an effort from Sledgehammer, tackles this issue. Do players face Warzone getting an influx of new guns from yet another new game in just 10 months' time? If so, will Black Ops Cold War be left behind after just one year, as Modern Warfare has?
Activision presents Call of Duty as an open church, but it's clear that at this early stage in the new way, there are more than a few loose ends. Meanwhile, players of each game - Black Ops Cold War, Warzone and Modern Warfare - feel like their favourite would do better as a lone wolf.