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Call of Duty Warzone Pacific has massive potential, but it's squandering it at launch

Warzone Pacific
(Image credit: Activision)

We've waited a long time for Warzone Pacific, and it looks like we'll have to wait a bit longer. Don't get it twisted: the new Call of Duty: Warzone Pacific map is currently available for everyone to play after a one-day early access period for Vanguard owners - but just because it's available doesn't mean you should play it. 

I'm currently playing on an Xbox Series S, the same console I use for Halo Infinite and Apex Legends, and the same one I've played Warzone on since last November. Every time I have tried to play, Warzone's Caldera map is full of audio and visual glitches and flat-out crashes that it's just a frustrating experience. I've reached out to friends and to people on social media to see if this is just a Series S issue, but I've found that other players across all platforms are having similar problems with visual fidelity, audio drop outs, and software crashes too . 

This is all incredibly frustrating, not only because we've waited close to two years for a new Call of Duty: Warzone map, but because Caldera has so much potential. In the few moments where I can actually see the landscape in front of me, or wield a weapon without it obscuring my entire field-of-vision, I see glimmers of a reinvigorated Warzone. But at the moment, I'm giving myself a headache squinting to find it. 

The potential 

Warzone Pacific

(Image credit: Activision)

Warzone Pacific has a lot of promise. Caldera is a great map, and the Vanguard-only playlists are a brilliant way to integrate three very different weapon sets from three different points in history. There's a lot to like about all of this new content - and I'm not just saying this because anything would look good after a year and a half of Verdansk. 

Caldera has a fantastic mix of environments that feel so much more unique than any of Verdansk' points of interest. The map offers more verticality that varies your encounters and fewer wide-open spaces begging for sniper fire. It's a better map that feels perfectly suited to the way Warzone players have evolved since March 2020. 

Using Warzone as a conduit through which all new Call of Duty titles are filtered sets up a uniquely difficult situation, and nowhere is that more clear than in weapon integration. When Black Ops Cold War was integrated with Warzone last year, it brought with it the terrible reign of the MAC-10 and the DMR, frustrating players almost to a point of no return. Call of Duty: Vanguard weapons present an even bigger potential problem to Warzone's gun meta in that they're all from the 1940s. How do you ensure weapons that look like the Owen Gun (which has a magazine sitting squarely on top of it) have a fair shake against hyper-modern ARs with custom red-dot sights?

Brilliantly, Raven Software's Vanguard-only playlists limit the weapons in the loot pool and loadouts, and fighter planes that you won't find in the regular battle royale as they'd muck up the meta far too much. This gives seasoned Vanguard players a chance to use their loadouts, and lets Warzone players who have yet to touch Vanguard try out all the new weapons. Although my time with Warzone Pacific has been marred with glitches (more on that in a moment), I thoroughly enjoyed the pace of Vanguard Royale, which felt like it gave me time to test out guns I would never normally pick up in a regular Warzone match. 

There's a helluva lot of promise in Warzone Pacific tucked away in its dense new map and incredibly deep loot pool. It's just really hard to see it right now. And I mean that literally. 

The issues

Warzone Pacific

(Image credit: Activision)

When I first load up Warzone during the Vanguard early access preview, I immediately notice an issue in the menus. My Operator isn't rendering, and when I go into their specific menu to swap out a skin, my crew of fighters appear only as floating heads. Miffed, but determined to play, I load up a Vanguard Royale match. 

As I jump out of the burning plane above Caldera and scan the island, I am immediately taken aback by the muddy colors. Isn't this meant to be a lush tropical paradise? Why is the palette the same drab earth tones as Verdansk? I quickly realize that the visuals are lackluster for an entirely different reason: my game seems to be in a constant state of incomplete rendering. Zipping across the map in a car, trees that could pass for Minecraft assets flicker in and out of existence, as if the engine is desperately trying to turn them from squares on top of rectangles into actual palms. 

I try to ignore the visual issues and focus instead on the bevy of new guns at my disposal, many of which look and feel demonstrably different from most of Warzone's weapons. You can imagine the disappointment I feel after running across ruddy ground with no discernible difference to the rocky outcropping looming over it, picking up an STG44, and encountering the now-infamous Warzone polygon explosion glitch. In my Operator's hands is a weapon that looks like something out of a Control cutscene: a mass of spiky triangular prisms congealing where a gun should be. Swapping to my pistol rectifies the issue, but as soon as I switch back to the STG44, the polygons persist, obscuring almost my entire field of view. I die shortly after, confused and incredibly frustrated. And then my game crashes. 

While working on this story, I texted a few friends who play on PS5 to ask how Warzone Pacific was working for them. "Shit's broken," one responded, before sending me a picture of his TV screen. In it, an Operator stands on what looks like a lump of clay, with other lumps in the distance. Low-detail trees in the distance are fully rendered, but all of the rocks in the foreground are either blurry lumps or bizarrely nonexistent. GamesRadar+ freelancer Joseph Yaden tweeted out a picture of a polygon weapon explosion on his PS5. It's clearly not my Xbox's fault, but widespread enough that Raven is currently investigating.  

The fixes 

Warzone Pacific

(Image credit: Activision)

Despite not impacting every Call of Duty: Warzone player out there, it's good news that Raven is investigating the issues many players are having and seem prepared to tackle these problems one by one, if its Trello board is to be believed. The board includes nods to visual inconsistencies, reported audio bugs, players using the partially rendered space for map exploits, and more. 

The better news is that Warzone Pacific has a ton of good content, and once all of these issues are sorted out, there's a solid new Call of duty experience to be had. We just have to be patient – what's a few days after nearly two years, right?


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Alyssa Mercante

Alyssa Mercante is an editor and features writer at GamesRadar based out of Brooklyn, NY. Prior to entering the industry, she got her Masters's degree in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Newcastle University with a dissertation focusing on contemporary indie games. She spends most of her time playing competitive shooters and in-depth RPGs and was recently on a PAX Panel about the best bars in video games. In her spare time Alyssa rescues cats, practices her Italian, and plays soccer.