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Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile Review

Successfully bringing well-known console video games to phones and tablets requires hitting a very specific balance. You want the mobile version to feel like the same game people already like, while acknowledging that using a touchscreen device usually means playing for a short period of time on something that's not designed for games. Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile is a pretty ideal demonstration of hitting that balance — it maintains all the most important elements of the PC and console Warzone 2.0 experience, while tightening everything about it to be quicker and more concentrated.

This is, essentially, a sped-up version of the Warzone fans already know and enjoy. Mobile Royale, the main mode of six available at launch, looks and feels almost exactly like its PC and console counterpart but on a slightly smaller scale. Matches are only 10 minutes long, squads are locked at three players, and a lot of the loot you find is generally of a higher quality so you can get effective guns quickly. The map is also smaller, confining you to a specific zone of Verdansk – the original Warzone map that launched in 2020. The result is a mode that lets you whip through fun and intense battle royale matches at a brisk clip, getting all the same highs with a lot less downtime.

If you're familiar with Call of Duty’s take on the mode that PUBG spawned and Fortnite picked up and ran with, then you already know everything you need to about how Warzone Mobile works, apart from some slight, smart variations meant to speed things along. Still, the Warzone formula continues to be a fun one thanks to its specific elements. You'll drop into matches with 36, 60, or 120 players, and search for weapons to fight other people you run into, either alone or in squads of varying sizes. Scattered around the map are contracts, which you can pick up to earn money, and buy stations, where you can spend that money on upgrades such as killstreaks or the ability to respawn your defeated teammates, which keeps you busy by giving you specific goals and provides a clear way to upgrade your gear, even if you're not constantly facing off against other players. Dying (in the main modes) sends you to the Gulag, where you have a chance to face off against your fellow early casualties in single combat, with the winner returning to the match — still an excellent respawn mechanic that adds a lot of intense and exciting battles to matches. Everything functions just as you know it from the usual Warzone, making it possible for veterans to pop into a Warzone Mobile match and have fun immediately with very little learning curve.

A controller is recommended if you care about your kill:death ratio.

What does take some getting used to is the controls. While the touch controls work well enough, they always feel cumbersome, specifically in fast-paced competitive play. You can instantly tell when you're facing someone using a console controller via Bluetooth or a Backbone-style attachment because they're capable of jumping and sliding in ways that are difficult to manage with touch controls. It’s not impossible, but the difficulty of pulling them off, much less while under pressure, undercuts the overall Call of Duty feel. In short, a controller is recommended if you care about your kill:death ratio.

At the same time, it’s totally understandable if you tough out the touch controls because Warzone Mobile streamlines a lot of aspects to make them work better as something you take out of your pocket to play for a few minutes at a time, and they're all smart adjustments that boil the genre down to its best parts. The viable portion of the map starts out smaller and the constrictions that push you into tighter and tighter areas happen more often. While you'll find weapons, killstreaks, field upgrades like deployable cover or ammo boxes, and armor plates, there's no real inventory management to speak of; if you're carrying a gun or a killstreak, picking up another one just swaps them. Loot is kept simple but it's generally of a higher tier than what you'd find in a traditional Warzone match, especially early on, so your choices become about finding the sorts of weapons you prefer. Loadout drops are also plentiful, which often makes it easy to get geared up exactly the way you prefer. It all comes together to put Warzone Mobile's focus on getting you to the action-packed moments quickly, making just about every match harrowing and exciting, with less time spent on logistics or running around a huge map.

The speedier matches add a pressure-cooker aspect.

In addition to a solo and squad version of Mobile Royale, there's also a more traditional four-player squad mode with 20-minute matches if you want something a bit meatier but still quick, and Rebirth Resurgence, a Warzone mode which takes place on its Rebirth Island map and does away with the Gulag, instead respawning players periodically as long as their teammates stay alive. Warzone Mobile's tweaks to the formula work to make Rebirth Resurgence a fun and chaotic change of pace. The speedier matches add a pressure-cooker aspect, since any opponents you fail to kill can be quickly reinforced by the teammates you thought you did in, and staying alive yourself is crucial to keeping your team going. The mode takes the action of Mobile Royale and can stretch it out into heart-pounding hide-and-seek battles, and its specific idiosyncrasies can change your priorities slightly as you hunt down opponents.

You can also play some back-to-basics six-on-six Call of Duty multiplayer with the Mosh Pit and Shoot the Ship modes. Mosh Pit cycles through several objective game types on some well-known Call of Duty maps, while Shoot the Ship does the same thing, but on only two Modern Warfare maps: Shoot House and Shipment. While half the available modes are just variations on the Mobile Royale theme with differently sized squads, the variety is a nice way to shake things up and keep Warzone Mobile feeling compelling, even if you're not in the mood for battle royale. Thanks to the selection of modes, Warzone Mobile feels more like a scaled-down take on traditional Call of Duty than it does a compromised mobile version. Activision also has announced it'll be adding more multiplayer maps and game modes with Call of Duty's upcoming new season.

Warzone Mobile feels more like a scaled-down take on traditional CoD than it does a compromised mobile version.

Even so, you’re best off playing both this and the console/PC version because Warzone Mobile includes cross-progression. It's a phenomenal addition that instantly makes this more enjoyable if you're already a Warzone fan. Not everything transfers, but a lot of the most meaningful stuff is available in both games: your battle pass progress, your purchased character skins, and most crucially, your unlocked weapons and saved loadouts. If you've got guns you love and loadouts you're practiced with, signing into your Activision account means they're already waiting for you in Warzone Mobile, and rewards you earn or changes you make in Warzone Mobile transfer back, too. The integration means you can pick up Warzone Mobile and immediately get an experience you're already happy with, even if playing on mobile has its differences from playing on PC or console. Wherever it can, Warzone Mobile makes it as easy as possible to play and enjoy it.

What We Said About Call of Duty: Mobile

Call of Duty: Mobile represents the best the juggernaut franchise has ever been on a handheld platform. The leveling path is rewarding, even without spending money, and there are lots of modes to jump around between, including an impressive battle royale mode. Unfortunately, it is still a shooter controlled by a touch-screen with no bluetooth controller support – even though I was impressed, the accuracy and usability will still never be as good as its console and PC counterparts. – Kyle Hilliard, October 8, 2019

Score: 7.7 (Note: IGN now scores on a 1-10 scale.)

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That paper-thin barrier of entry into Warzone Mobile, especially for established CoD players, is the best thing about it. Warzone Mobile feels like a new slate of options for playing Warzone, accommodating you when you're not at home, or when you've got friends who favor phones over consoles, without losing much of what makes it such a popular game.

You don't need to be a Warzone die-hard to enjoy Warzone Mobile.

On the other side of that coin, you don't need to be a Warzone die-hard with countless hours already banked to enjoy Warzone Mobile. The phone version also brings over all the meta-game logistical elements, like custom loadouts and the Gunsmith, which is a menu that lets you customize your weapons. You can do just about everything in Warzone Mobile that you can in Warzone, making the smaller game just as viable as your mainstay battle royale. It's not doing anything new, but the "if it ain't broke" mentality at work in Warzone Mobile gets along just fine. This is a mobile game that, in a lot of ways, is on par with a more traditional multiplayer experience, simply because it uses all the smart design elements of Warzone.

One final caveat is that, as is to be expected for a game made for a variety of mobile devices, your visual quality is going to depend heavily on your device. On my older Google Pixel 6a, textures don't always stream in correctly and will often pop in as you're playing, and everything can sometimes just be a bit muddy. I also experienced some issues with frame rate and lag at times, although so early after launch, it's possible those problems can be chalked up to early growing pains and a large influx of players thanks to Warzone Mobile's novelty. In all cases, these annoyances are fairly minor, but with this portable version trying to give the sense you're playing something close to traditional Warzone, they also remind you that this is still a mobile game with the attendant drawbacks.

Microtransaction Reaction

Warzone Mobile is a free-to-play game, with its approach to monetization mirroring what you see in Warzone on PC/console — in fact, it uses a nearly identical store, with a lot of the same items available at the same prices. As noted, most of the items you can buy in Warzone become available in Warzone Mobile, and vice versa. You can buy additional characters and weapon skins, as well as "blueprints" that let you add guns with specific attachments already equipped to your loadouts. As with traditional Warzone, there aren't any real pay-to-win aspects here, other than the ability to unlock a decked-out gun ahead of when you might otherwise earn it or its attachments through playing. Those weapons provide more of a playstyle difference than a clear advantage, though. Pricing is the same as you'd expect in the main Warzone store (and the prices on crossover items are identical in both games), with items ranging from about $5 to about $24, which is pretty much in keeping with the digital offerings of other battle royale games, like Fortnite. The ability to use skins and blueprints in Warzone, Warzone Mobile, and Modern Warfare 3 might be considered an added value, though.

The thing that's important to know about Warzone Mobile's store, however, is that it can be confusing. While the two games' stores are almost one and the same, and Warzone Mobile's also runs on CoD Points, the Call of Duty ecosystem's premium currency, points you buy or unlock in Warzone Mobile do not cross over to the other games — so if you buy them on your phone, they stay on your phone, and vice versa. The upside is that you can buy cosmetic skins or blueprints that do work in other games from the Warzone Mobile shop, although there don't seem to be many offered at the moment. This can create its own brand of confusion, though. Some items are unique to Warzone Mobile, while others cross over between Warzone Mobile and Warzone proper, and some are specific to the console/PC games. These are all denoted by icons that appear on the items when you browse them in the shop, but it's still a lot to keep track of and can get confusing. It seems fully possible to think you're buying a skin that'll cross between the games, only to realize you purchased it for the version you're not even playing, so it's important to keep your head on a swivel when buying things.

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