The release of Call of Duty: Warzone Season 2 has brought zombies to the shore of Verdansk. Although it has not evolved into a full invasion as of yet, they still present an unexpected obstacle for Battle Royale fans to encounter. Call of Duty: Warzone fans are excited at the undead possibilities, but this is not the first time that a battle royale has brought Zombies into the mix.
With Verdansk takings its official step into the world of the undead, players are unsure to what extent Treyarch will take the new addition. Call of Duty: Warzone last saw undead during the Halloween event, but now the Zombies are acting as interesting map features with a limited drop capacity. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War players may have been hunting the undead since launch, but this is Warzone’s first official leap into that world.
In Call of Duty: Warzone, the Zombies are found at the new Shipwreck location. Players will have to explore the depths of the giant ship to find the undead crawling around and causing trouble. These Zombies drop a Yellow Keycard, which is then used to unlock loot crates within the Shipwreck. Although this sounds great in concept, many fans were expecting a Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 take on Battle Royale undead.
In Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, zombies became a part of the daily Battle Royale experience for dedicated fans. After several locations guaranteed a constant Zombies spawn, players were given a spot for alternate loot drops and a bonus reward if they could eliminate the undead threat. From small graveyards to zombie-filled boxing gyms, players could spot the undead threat by the light beacon that would appear in the sky. The light could also determine if a mini-boss zombie would spawn or if it was a normal horde. Either way, players who could clear the undead away before the zone closed in could score bonus loot in the round.
While the undead quickly became a known feature across the map, players found it an occasionally interesting encounter. While the final loot was usually rewarding, the standard drops from the undead were underperforming weapons. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 was carefully balanced in its Blackout mode, and that is one of the features that many players appreciated throughout the game mode.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 made zombies an optional feature with general rewards. The fact that the zombies were not forced could be avoided and yet were still available for those interested were the highlights of the Blackout mode’s Zombies. While the developers could have made them a much more impactful feature, the fact that they blurred into the backgrounds part of the charm that Black Ops 4 had.
Battle royales are about the players, and it is the intense player versus player action that brings the adrenaline to the game. Adding a non-player enemy to the Call of Duty: Warzone environment holds the danger of shifting the game’s focus from the player versus player dynamic. Fans decide to stay circling zombie locations rather than confronting enemies. While this does not disrupt the game’s end objective, it does change the gameplay loop that Call of Duty fans has grown used to.
Previously, Call of Duty: Warzone has dabbled into the undead nightmares with its Halloween event. While they took an old idea, allowing players to become zombies, players responded with a mixed reception. While the idea of zombies in a battle royale may be viable, it has to be handled with a proper amount of balance and care. If Call of Duty does not handle zombies well, it could easily shift the Battle Royale focus and cause unintended side effects to the overall game experience.
Balance is the key lesson to be learned from Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Too many zombies and the game’s objectives shift; too few zombies and players might as well not have them at all. The goal is to remain impartial between the two and present a Call of Duty: Warzone zombie option that is both rewarding and optional as an objective. From a developer standpoint, this is a difficult thing to balance in a game so far from its release. Designed with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in mind, Call of Duty: Warzone is not in a state to accept a permanent zombie encounter. The world’s story, the graphical realism, and the overall gameplay experience are not built to facilitate zombies well.
Despite this, there is a potential in Treyarch’s design that could make zombies functional. This potential opens up the door that the developers are currently using, but the concern is that Call of Duty: Warzone will not accept the zombie incursion. To fix this, Raven Software needs only look at Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode for answers.
At the end of the day, zombies have the potential to exist within Warzone without disrupting anything. The risk is that they become a minor accessory, but the potential opens up an option for an alternative strategy. Skilled zombie killers might be able to gain an edge, and that was the point of Black Ops 4’s design. Zombies were never intended in the game to provide a win but rather to provide an alternative chance to gain an edge against the other battle royale participants.
It is important to not copy the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 experience but to innovate from it. The lessons learned are valuable and could improve the overall Call of Duty: Warzone experience. Still, there is a pending risk involved that the game and its community are simply not ready for a zombie invasion. Depending solely upon the Raven Software, Treyarch and Activision’s end goal zombies will either succeed or fade into the backdrop like other temporary Warzone events. There is honestly no way to tell the end result, but hopefully, the lessons of the past will engrain themselves in the design of the game’s future.
Call of Duty: Warzone is available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.