Call of Duty: Warzone couldn't have arrived at a better time, and it doesn't show any signs of slowing down, with millions of players over the world finding themselves with more time on their hands at home than before. And what better way to while away the days than with a new free-to-play battle royale game, tied to an already dominant franchise?
The good news is, the game is also a cracker, and that's continued into the launch of Season 4 and the recent mid-season update. It's enjoying an already-enviable playerbase, long since having cracked the 60 million mark.
We've plunged into the massive Verdansk map along with those millions, practising and squadding up to figure out some useful strategies and tips that you can take into your own sessions. Say it quietly, we're even winning a few games.
So here are our top tips to becoming a better COD Warzone player.
1. Pop and cut your chute to drop more quickly
Pretty much the minute Warzone went live, players figured out a cheeky way to get a bit of a headstart in a match. As you drop from the cargo plane over the map, you can pop your parachute whenever you like to glide down more slowly. What people realised, though, is that you can actually cut your cord to dive again and re-pop your parachute as many times you like. Now people are using that to their advantage.
Firstly, as you fall, popping your chute then cutting the cords seems to give you a short speed boost, and throws you forward more aggressively, letting you cover ground more quickly to get to your chosen landing zone.
Secondly, after you cut your parachute away you get a few seconds where your starting pistol is drawn, potentially letting you get some shots away at other people falling, to get that first little advantage.
2. Check the map before you drop
Of course, that choice of landing zone is a key variable in the start of a match. The minute you see the cutscene of the cargo plane starting up, you can bring up the map screen for your battle royale match, and see where the shrinking gas circle will start. That can help you to gain a sense for where people are more likely to land, and for where you'll have to aim for as it approaches.
It's important that, as your confidence grows, you tailor your tactics on this front. If you don't fancy yourself in chaotic gunfights, maybe go more remote in order to get some solid equipment. Alternatively, go for the "trial by fire" approach and train yourself in fighting by seeking out crowded areas. It's up to you, but make sure you do pick a spot.
3. Don't hoard your cash
Warzone has a cash economy at its heart even in its main battle royale mode. You'll collect money as you run around and some will be rewarded for completing contracts (more on those later). Some matches you'll hardly find any, while in others you'll be swimming in the stuff soon enough. Either way, be sure not to sit on your cash too long.
In the battle royale mode there's no bonus for collecting cash, so it's really only there for you to use at the Buy Stations marked on your map. These let you buy a selection of killstreaks like UAVs and Cluster Strikes, as well as more armour plating and loadout drops. Our advice would be to be proactive on buying these rewards - you can't take the money with you, after all, and a well-timed UAV could win you a gunfight really easily.
That said, if your teammates are dying a lot, you might want to keep hold of $4,500 to buy them back in, should they fail to win their redemptive Gulag fight.
4. Loadout drops are the way to go
Cash is important, then, but when you hit up a Buy Station it might be worth knowing what your priority should be. As we said, a UAV can be a huge help, but the top priority in your squad should be for someone to buy a Loadout Drop as soon as possible. These airdrops let your whole squad pick one of their standard multiplayer loadouts to swap into, getting their customised guns and equipment.
That's like slipping on a glove in this context, letting you get in the groove with a loadout you're comfortable with, and most of the best players are now using it as a way to dominate the late-game of each match. Follow suit, if you can!
Once you do, pick your loadout as quickly as possible to avoid sitting-duck danger. While you can obviously feel free to experiment with perks, too, we'd highly recommend running with Cold-blooded and Ghost by default, as these will make you invisible to standard UAVs and heartbeat monitors, while also making you infinitely less obvious through a thermal sight. The perks are basically standard picks in the game's meta, now.
5. Pick up contracts whenever you can
If you're daunted by the $10,000 price tag of a loadout drop, though, there are some good ways to earn cash and loot while you move around the map - contracts. These are marked out for you, and fall into five types: Bounties, Scavenger, Recon, Most Wanted and Supply Run.
Bounties mark out one player on the map for you, in general terms, giving you a set amount of time to locate and kill him or her, and rewarding you if they die. Brilliantly, if you take out a bounty and someone else kills that player, you'll still get rewarded. There's no downside to picking one of these up - it'll tell you where a player is and you get XP just for starting it.
Scavenger contracts mark out a succession of three loot boxes for you to find and open, with solid loot in them and a cash reward when you finish the set. A recent update also means that you'll get a guaranteed drop of an Armour Satchel when you finish it, too, letting one player hold up to 8 plates. Again, these are no brainers.
Recons, meanwhile, point you towards a capture point for you to lock down, and can feel a bit riskier. They require you to stay still for a little while, sometimes out in the open. They'll tell you where the circle will next close, though, as a huge tactical benefit.
Most Wanted is a double-edged sword. You're marked as a target for everyone on the map, for three minutes, but if you survive that time limit not only do you get a cash reward, any dead teammates instantly drop back into the game, whether they're in the gulag or spectating.
Finally, Supply Run is the newest addition and gives you limited time to make it to a specifically-marked Buy Station. Get there in time and you'll enjoy personal discounts to give you an advantage moving forward.
The final word, though, is that these contracts aren't just good for loot and money - they also give you a short-term objective to aim for, and are a great way of making a match feel more structured and less like guesswork. Frankly, blazing out in a game where you ticked off a couple of contracts is more fun than hiding in one place for 20 minutes and then dying.
6. Share your resources
We keep mentioning squads, and while you can play Warzone in Solos mode, the aim is clearly still for most players to join a squad in the main battle royale mode. We'd encourage you to think tactically as a squad, therefore. If you're sat with full armour and five spare plates, while your squadmates are down to nothing, drop some plates for them to pick up.
The same goes for cash and ammo - it's often the case that only by pooling your cash can a loadout marker be bought, for example. This will encourage more selfless play in the long run.
7. Ping everything
Just like every other battle royale game since Apex Legends came out, Warzone has a ping system to let you communicate with your squaddies. It's on the D-pad's up button by default, and lets you show them what you're looking at or where you're aiming for. This is an easy tip, but use it all the time, whenever you can. The more information you share, the further your squad will go.
8. Get creative with equipment
There's also a range of field equipment that you can find around the map as you go, which can help you out in a pinch. Whether it's field cover to block an enemy's sightline, the Dead Silence field upgrade to make you quiet for a spell, or more, there are a lot of ways these can help.
One fun tactic that's been discovered involves the field drone you can find. If you use the drone, and a teammate has C4 equipped, they can actually drop the C4 on the drone to turn it into a miniaturised, mobile bomb. Try it out for yourself, and let's hope Infinity Ward doesn't patch it out.
Another top strategy, given how huge RPGs and C4 have become in the meta-game, is to pop a Trophy System onto your vehicle before driving anywhere - it'll protect you from a few rockets or grenades and could see you to your destination more safely.
9. Exploit the Gulag
One of the most refreshing parts of Warzone is that death doesn't have to be the end at all. Firstly, unless you die right near the end of the game, you'll be sent to the Gulag, a jail where you'll await a one-on-one gunfight to earn re-entry to the battlefield. Even if you lose, your squad can still buy you back if they have the money.
If two of you go to the Gulag at once, though, you could be able to help each other out. More than once, our teammate has been able to give us callouts while they watched our gunfight, helping us to win then getting back into the game. Take every advantage you can get!
10. Play Plunder for a change of pace
Of course, Warzone isn't just pure battle royale - there's also Plunder, a new mode that sees you buzzing around the map looking for cash and cash alone, before sending it away at designated points. It's much more chaotic and frenetic than battle royale, especially because respawns are enabled and there's no gas circle to worry about.
If you want a change from the nail-biting tension of battle royale rounds, it's a great option to switch it up with, and you might even find that you prefer it. That said, you can expect to spend a little longer in server queues, as fewer people are playing the mode.
11. Don't snub the RPG
This one might upset anyone who's ever been destroyed repeatedly by the weapon on a small map like Shipment or Rust, but the RPG is a heck of weapon in Warzone. It's a superb counter to vehicles but can also clear bunched-together enemies brutally quickly.
If you've got a loadout with an RPG as its secondary, you're unlikely to regret it, especially if you used the Amped perk to make switching and reloading it quicker. Plus, if you then get enough money for a Munitions Box together, you'll be sitting on 7 high-powered rocket shots, enough to make you a force to be reckoned with.
On the other hand, maybe we shouldn't be encouraging what can sometimes feel like a plague on servers full of explosive-happy players. Hey ho.
12. Vary your squad size
Since launch there have been plenty of changes to playlists in Warzone already - we've got a Solos mode, if you fancy taking on the map on your lonesome, and the launch of Season 3 has seen the addition of Quads, raising your squad size to four. That's perfect if you were always excluding a mate to get down to a three-man squad.
Still, though, if you don't have four people and don't want a random in your team, you could always change your Squad Fill settings to make sure that it's just your friends, and take your chances with a smaller squad. It's a disadvantage, for sure, but it can be fun to see how your tactics have to change under duress.
13. You can stack your UAVs
Even though the late-game will see many players rocking loadouts that make them invisible to the scanners, UAVs are still a hugely powerful tool in Warzone, helping you to stay aware of where enemy squads are around you.
Moreover, you might not have realised that they can actually stack - if three players on your squad call in a UAV at the same time, you'll be blown away by the detail you receive. You'll get an advanced look at every enemy on the map, not only showing you where they are but also which direction they're pointing in, in real time. It won't last long, but if you've completed a few contracts and have cash to burn it could give you some lasting insights into positions and tactics.
14. Watch for flares
You might not have realised it, but there are two situations in Warzone that send up a signal flare into the sky for nearby players to see. One is starting to capture a Recon contract point, which sends up a white flare, while the other is buying back a squadmate, which sends up a red flare.
Keep an eye out for these signals as you move around the map, and you could get the drop on a team camping a capture point or waiting for an unlooted squadmate to return to the fray.
15. Vary where you drop
It's tempting and easy to find a couple of spots on the map where you love to drop, whether because they're generally isolated or loot-laden, but fight the urge to return to them too often. You'll improve more quickly, and learn the map much faster, if you switch up your drop points and occasionally go for locations you know will be busier. It'll also change the rhythm of your play-session, which we think is a good thing.
16. Beware the gas mask
As you enter the endgame of a match, a popular and powerful tactic is to hug the gas ring's outer edge as it closes, picking off fleeing targets and staying just ahead of it yourself. This basically requires you to have a gas mask, so that you're less at risk yourself, but be aware that the mask's on-off animations are hugely disruptive.
The first time it happens to you, it'll ruin your day, but your character pulling the mask on and off can interrupt you firing and reduce you to useless hip fire for a couple of seconds at key moments, so be sure to plan for it. It's not necessarily something you'll ever be able to reliably control, but if you learn to expect the disruption you'll at least stop being quite so annoyed by it.
17. Don't engage akimbos in close quarters
They might have been balanced a bit recently, but there's still an absolute plague of players using two specific akimbo pistol setups on their loadouts in Warzone right now.
Dual Snakeshot .357s let you use two revolvers as close range shotguns, and were so egregiously powerful that they've been tweaked to lessen their impact, while others are still having joy using akimbo Renettis on burst fire mode to deal insane damage close up - in fact, so much so that Renettis have just been nerfed as well. In most cases, players will also put a green laser sight on the guns to give them better accuracy since you can't aim-down-sights with double pistols.
That's the core of our hint - if you see two parallel laser sights like that in the late game, and if engaging that player would mean a close-range fight, be extremely careful or even just run away. Trust us, you'll get minced if you don't have the drop on them or akimbos of your own, and either way your armour stores will take a hit.
18. Keep an eye out for keycards
A recent Warzone patch brought with it a change that players have been waiting for since the game launched - the mysterious bunkers are finally opening. Players can now find red keycards as rare loot, and if you do so you should make a beeline for the nearest bunker you know the location of.
The keycard will open up the bunker and inside you'll find a smorgasbord of loot boxes to open up, kitting you out and offering up plenty of cash. It's a huge boost, as rare as it is, and you can also loot the keycards from dead players if they haven't managed to use them yet.
Intriguingly, inside the bunkers there's another locked internal door, so it's clear that we'll be penetrating deeper under Verdansk slowly over time.
19. Watch out for in-match events
Season 4 has launched to groans about file sizes worldwide, and so far hasn't shaken up the gameplay too wildly, but it's major initial addition comes in the form of in-match events. These can happen randomly during any match, and there are three types:
- Jailbreak: Everyone who's eliminated respawns by airdrop - whether they've lost in the Gulag or are waiting for a fight.
- Fire Sale: Buy stations suddenly get heavy discounts on many items, and buying back fallen squadmates becomes free for the 60-second duration.
- Supply Chopper: An armoured helicopter will patrol the map. Destroying it will drop rare loot, including three UAVS, two armour boxes and munitions boxes, a gas mask, a grenade launcher, plus some money, as a minimum.
These events can be game-changing, so if they occur in a match, be sure to adjust your tactics accordingly, and watch the skies!
20. Don't lose hope
It might sound a bit trite, but we really mean it. Whether you've never won a game or haven't for weeks, keep playing sensibly and making tactical decisions and the wins will come at some point. We'd know - we hadn't won a game for a week or two, but our most recent win was farcical. We died early, got through the Gulag without any opponent after an anxious two-minute wait, dropped near the final circle with no gun and hid for five minutes before sneaking in, picking up a single SMG and firing three shots to finish off the last man standing, who never even saw us.
One kill, a lot of tension, and a huge slice of luck, and we're back in win-town. Warzone is a game of skill laced with a lot of luck and situational awareness, so don't be disheartened if you're on a bad run, basically.