A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Call of Duty: Warzone is a free-to-play, standalone expansion for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019). Like the base game, action is focused on fast and frenetic first-person military combat with guns, rockets, grenades, and other modern weapons that wound, kill, and cause characters to bleed and grunt. Players work in squads, cooperating with each other to achieve objectives, including eliminating other players and searching for money. Players need not own the base game, and they don't need to spend money on the expansion. But the game frequently encourages players to purchase a Battle Pass in order to progress more quickly and unlock cosmetic upgrades that do not affect a character's strength or abilities. "S--t" can be heard during some matches, and some players can be seen smoking. You can also unlock stickers of scantily clad women.
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What's it about?
CALL OF DUTY: WARZONE is a free-to-play and standalone addition to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), meaning anyone with a PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Windows PC can begin playing without spending a penny. It's a battle royale-style game, meaning the primary mode sees up to 150 players dropped into an enormous map where they work in squads to systematically kill all enemies while gradually being pushed into closer quarters via an approaching poison gas cloud. As with other such games, players begin with little in the way of gear, and must forage for better weapons and armor as they go. But Warzone's take on battle royale adds a few twists, including the ability to take on side contracts that encourage movement and exploration, money stashes that can be used to purchase powerful battlefield abilities normally earned through skilled play, and a one-on-one Gulag match that players enter upon being defeated, with the winner being sent back to the battlefield for one last chance to help his or her squad. A secondary mode called Plunder switches the focus from killing other teams (avatars simply respawn) to quickly collecting and banking cash, with the squad that grabs the most money declared victors. Rookies to battle royale-style games can get their bearings in a mandatory training mode, followed by an optional practice mode that pits humans against bots.
Is it any good?
Players looking for a polished and distinctive alternative to current battle royale heavyweights like Fortnite and Player Unknown's Battlegrounds may find it in this gritty standalone expansion. Call of Duty: Warzone has the advantage of being based on a popular game with which many are already familiar -- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) -- and which has some of the tightest and most refined first-person shooter mechanics around. In many ways, Warzone plays very similarly to the game it expands upon, allowing players to do things like mount weapons for increased stability and create easily accessible gear loadouts. Many players will find it both familiar and empowering. But it also welcomes new players -- not just because it's standalone and free, but also through features such as the ability to purchase killstreak bonuses such as drones and heavy weapon strikes normally earned through skilled play. This keeps Call of Duty rookies from getting unfairly clobbered by more experienced players.
Warzone also has some fun quirks that help keep players in the action, most notably contracts that provide secondary objectives that to keep players on the move and help discourage camping, and the Gulag into which defeated players are dropped. If you're itching for just one more chance to join the battle, you'll get a chance -- assuming you can defeat another player in the same boat as you while others watch. It's a clever way to keep more people involved in a battle royale event for a longer period of time. That said, newbies should be ready to face a steep challenge. Call of Duty has generated legions of extremely skilled players who have mastered strategies such as long-distance sniping and luring enemies into bottlenecks. Plus, playing with voice communication is bound to result in some unpleasant encounters with the franchise's famously intolerant and profane community. But there's no denying Call of Duty: Warzone is a strong contender in the battle royale arena. From its beautifully rendered and detailed map to its proven combat mechanics and practical innovations, it's definitely worth a look for genre fans.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in the media. Is the impact of the violence in Call of Duty: Warzone affected by the realistic focus on modern warfare, including the blood and gore attached to conflicts. Is your view of the military affected while playing games like this? Would the game have the same impact if it wasn't as realistic?
What's the appeal of spending real money on virtual items that change your character's appearance but don't provide an in-game advantage? How do you judge whether it is worth the money?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: Free
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Activision
- Release date: March 11, 2020
- Genre: First-Person Shooter
- ESRB rating: M for Intense Violence, Suggestive Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, Blood and Gore
- Last updated: March 27, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.