It’s been over two and a half years since we first parachuted into Verdansk but Warzone’s first map still sits fondly in the hearts of fans. After an exciting saga which sprawled across two Call of Duty games, played host to a zombie outbreak, and culminated in a cataclysmic event that wiped the map clean off the face of the Warzone, it looked unlikely that we’d ever see it in all its glory again. Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile has different ideas however, and by dropping us back into a 120-player lobby version of Verdansk, it sets its sights on the ambitious task of bringing one of the most popular battle royales to mobile devices.
As Warzone 2.0 pushes ahead in a different direction, Warzone Mobile instead chooses to focus on refining a familiar experience for a new platform. We’re heading right back to the dawn of Verdansk and it feels good to be home – dropping hot into old haunts like Downtown and Hospital is almost comforting after a long time away, even if there are some compromises to be found.
To maintain the fast pace and snappy duels, Warzone Mobile implements a bunch of toggleable automations to remove some of the clunkiness that comes with playing a shooter on a touchscreen. Auto firing, vaulting over obstacles, and sprint lock are just a handful of the new options available, along with other buttons that pop up on screen to perform unwieldy interactions like climbing long flights of stairs. While there are a fair number of prompts on screen, the UI feels intuitive and easy to grasp. As someone who plays Warzone with a keyboard and mouse, I was surprised at how comfortable it feels to play on a touchscreen. Adjusting to these controls requires some practice, but it feels good enough for a quick session on the go. That said, Activision is working on implementing controller support, so there’s no need to force yourself to make this adjustment if your preference is a pad.
Warzone Mobile still feels unmistakably like its older sibling, and it’s encouraging to see that the experience has been simplified and optimised for phones without losing the game’s identity. Players have the option to hop into traditional-length matches, but there’s also a shorter 10-minute mode which feels perfectly suited for those who want to dip in and out. Much like Warzone’s existing rotational playlists, Warzone Mobile also supports solos, duos, trios, and quads, which will be cycled in and out to keep queue times low. Staple features like the gulag and cash system return untouched, but new features introduced in Warzone 2.0, such as the ability to pause mid-reload and slide-to-prone also make their way across. Really the only one compromise is the addition of AI bots to combat long queue times. This is quite common for online mobile games though, and with the size of Warzone’s fanbase I can’t see this being too much of a problem in the long run.
This pocked-sized version of Warzone has been designed to sit alongside Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2.0, featuring cross progression for weapons and the battle pass. This is a huge move to unify the trio of games and great news for players considering how long it can take to unlock and level-up weapons in MW2’s multiplayer modes. Rather than crafting a separate set of loadouts in Warzone Mobile, players can draw from their Modern Warfare 2 guns and attachments and continue earning XP. This works in both directions, so newly unlocked items in the mobile version can then be used in MW2. For those who want to grind through the season’s battle pass, Warzone Mobile also lets you rack up more XP as it offers its own set of daily challenges. In addition, exclusive content will be up for grabs, kicking off with a new operator, which gives hardcore fans an incentive to dip in every now and then to expand their cosmetics collection.
Alongside the battle royale mode, Warzone Mobile launches with two classic multiplayer modes – Domination and Team Deathmatch. These 6v6 matches unfold in locations lifted from Verdansk, condensing Warzone’s sweaty firefights into small arenas. As a huge fan of Call of Duty multiplayer, I found these tight levels and intense encounters emulates the frantic feel of those modes pretty well. Unlike battle royale, due to its fast-paced nature, multiplayer is considerably more challenging on a touchscreen, as it’s much harder to snap to enemies and turn quickly to react to those on my flank. I soon found myself ease into the rhythm of these rounds, however. Using the touchscreen to deploy killstreaks and throwables can feel a little slow but I can see how using a controller would make this experience feel much closer to what we’ve come to expect on PC and consoles from Call of Duty. The inclusion of these traditional multiplayer modes is welcome as it gives players a chance to adjust to some of Warzone Mobile’s quirks and quality of life tweaks in a casual match before venturing into the unforgiving conditions of battle royale.
Overall, I’m impressed by what I’ve seen of Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile. It unifies the current Call of Duty roster while offering a map that fans are desperate to revisit. I expect it to serve as a means of topping up my XP when I want to play Warzone, but can’t dedicate to a full session on PC. That’s not to say it isn’t a full experience in its own right, though. This is still a faithful version of Warzone, and I could see mobile players hopping in with a controller to make the most of it, and at a pinch, I’m confident others will adjust to the touchscreen and still have a good time when playing casually.
Squeezing Warzone onto mobile devices is no easy task but Activision has managed to introduce it to the platform without much compromise to the game’s DNA. It still looks and feels very much like Warzone, with each new tweak ensuring that the experience translates to mobile as smoothly as possible. In a world where Warzone Caldera and Warzone 2.0 exist, I wasn’t convinced that we needed yet another iteration of the game. But Warzone Mobile is shaping up to be a worthy companion for Call of Duty’s current heavy hitters, opening up its iconic battle royale map to an entirely new platform of players in the process and providing a healthy dose of nostalgia for others.
Emma Matthews is IGN’s Junior Syndication Editor.