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Call of Duty Will Launch a Free-to-Play, Cross-Platform Game

The worst-kept secret in the Call of Duty universe is now wide open: a brand-new, free-to-play shooter on both PC and consoles that revolves around, you guessed it, the battle royale genre.

Call of Duty: Warzone, whose existence leaked a month ago, received its first confirmed gameplay reveal early Monday morning via Chaos, a CoD enthusiast channel on YouTube. The 11-minute video appeared before we received any official statements from the series' publisher, Activision.


While many of the game's exact details are missing in the video, its raw gameplay footage confirms some major selling points. First, CoD: Warzone is the series' first free-to-play game on PCs and consoles (Xbox One, PlayStation 4). Chaos' video implies that owners of last year's Modern Warfare reboot will get either earlier access to the mode or exclusive customization content, but we don't have exact details how that will work at this time. The video also didn't include any footage of its real-money store, so we'll have to wait and see whether this free game includes paid options like a "battle pass" system.

The series already has a battle royale mode, attached to 2018's Black Ops 4, but Warzone (developed by Activision subsidiary Infinity Ward) seems determined to reduce BO4's emphasis on equippable gadgets. Instead, players are expected to earn and manage a temporary stockpile of cash while doing the battle royale song and dance (land on an island, then scavenge and survive against opponents while the shared battlefield is slowly shrunk by a poisonous cloud). Complete tasks or find loose cash on the ground, then find "buy stations" to acquire temporary superpowers (similar to prior games' "kill streaks") or to revive fallen teammates. (The last time we saw an emphasis on in-game cash in a battle royale game was 2018's short-lived Radical Heights.)

This debut gameplay video doesn't clearly show exactly how big Warzone's map is, even though it includes a zoomed-out map overview. But at a cursory glance, its full battlefield appears to be one of the biggest in the genre. That's likely by design, as Infinity Ward's first battle royale game supports 150-player battles by default, which exceeds the typical 100-player standard. Warzone also includes trucks, tanks, and other ground transport (not always a given in the battle royale genre).

The other not-so-subtle gimmick in Warzone's favor is a new "gulag" mode, which lets players fight their way out of a prison in order to come back to life. After your first death in a match, you will wake up in a prison hall's balcony, and you'll watch two other players fight to the death. This is a preview of the kind of fight you're about to get into, as you'll be next in line for a 1v1 skirmish. Win and you're back on the battlefield with your team. (The gulag shuts down at a certain point in each match, so you can't expect later-game chances there, and if you die a second time, the gulag's closed.)

While we're not sure when Activision plans to formally pull the curtain on Warzone, the Chaos video implies that the game is "live now," as if a timed embargo was meant to expire side by side with a live download on Windows PCs and compatible consoles. A vague advertisement for the game appeared on Twitch's main feed during the weekend, as well, which seems to imply that fans should expect this game soon enough. We'll keep an eye out for an official reveal or launch, along with updates to how other game elements will look and play.

Updated 3/09/20, 1:30 pm ET: The official Activision blog has now confirmed that Warzone will launch across the world at 3 pm ET on Tuesday, March 10. An announcement post confirms much of the Chaos video's details, and it confirms two particular points:

  • If you own the paid version of 2019's CoD: Modern Warfare, you'll get a four-hour head start to play the new game, starting at 11 am ET. That's currently the only known benefit of owning the prior game.
  • Should you earn or purchase cosmetics in Warzone, you can transfer those to the retail Modern Warfare game's multiplayer modes, should you eventually purchase the latter.

While the press release confirms a few additional gameplay details, particularly vehicle selection, it otherwise leaves us waiting for firmer gameplay impressions. We won't have long to learn those, apparently.

This story originally appeared on Ars Technica.

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