Call of Duty: Warzone Season 4 Reloaded puts gun meta before anything else and it's paying off

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(Image credit: Activision)

Call of Duty: Warzone has flashy Operator skins, dirt bikes, and mysterious Red Doors, but Warzone Season 4 is a reminder that this game is chiefly about guns. Small guns, big guns, guns that take down helicopters, guns that shoot nails – guns dramatically affect every Warzone season, for better or for worse. With Warzone and Black Ops Cold War merging last year, there's now a staggering amount of guns at your disposal, and Raven Software is laser-focused on balancing them all.

While Season 3 brought a major map change in the Destruction of Verdansk and Season 3 Reloaded gave us fun game types and a riotous '80s theme, Season 4 and Season 4 Reloaded are all about that ever-controversial Warzone gun meta. Call of Duty: Warzone Season 4 Reloaded introduced the biggest balance update in the history of Warzone, with Raven Software hoping to increase the average Time-to-Kill (TTK) across the board. Season 2 was ruled with an iron first by the DMR and AUG and Season 3 gave us the MAC-10 vs MP5 argument, but Season 4 Reloaded seeks to abolish the notion of a "best gun."

The massive rebalancing changes ultimately make Warzone much more accessible, offering newer or lower-skilled players a chance to get comfortable with multiple weapons. And with higher quality Black Ops Cold War ground loot scattered across Verdansk and Rebirth Island, you have a better chance of picking up a loadout-worthy gun from the jump. Better balanced gunplay and better ground loot make for a much more approachable Warzone – and that's how it should be.

 Micromanaging meta 

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Prior to Warzone Season 4 Reloaded, there were very clear favorites when it came to primary weapons. The overpowered AUG tactical rifle and FFAR1 assault rifle dominated most players' loadouts and death screens – just hearing the sound of either weapon firing was enough to make you give up before you were even killed. Players took to social media to air their grievances, with one Redditor pointing out that the brief period of "no meta" had been replaced by the AUG meta. "Since the latest buff to the AUG though, it's been AUGzone," writes u/longidstamce (opens in new tab).

So, no one was surprised when news broke that Season 4 Reloaded would come with Warzone's biggest balance changes yet. Raven Software penned a lengthy note within its Season 4 Reloaded patch notes, detailing the ideology behind the changes, rooted in "increasing the average Time-to-Kill within Warzone." One of the main ways to achieve that is by decreasing the torso damage multiplier, but keeping the headshot damage multiplayer rather high, in order to promote accuracy.  Basically, you need to earn those kills, not just pick up an OP weapon that can mow down enemies like the Smart Gun in Aliens.

Raven also made targetted nerfs and buffs to Warzone's entire suite of weapons – as you can imagine, the list of changes is extensive. Several of Warzone's most popular ARs got nerfed, from the AK-47's headshot multiplier to the C58's recoil increase. The FFAR, Groza, RAM-7, XM4, and FARA 83 all got maximum damage decreases, while the Krig, M13, and QBZ-83 got minimum damage increases. Light machine guns became a viable option, with several guns getting damage increases and headshot multiplier increases, while the more popular SMGs were largely nerfed. Tac Rifles took a hit, as well, and Black Ops Cold War snipers finally got optic glint. 

There's a lot of adjustments to pick through, but ultimately the sum of all of the parts equals a much more level shooting field. In the patch notes, Raven expressly states that "there will always be a best weapon" but that it wants to ensure that a weapon "never overstays its welcome and has an effectiveness that scales with the skill of the handler." Despite Warzone players being notoriously tough to please, the gun meta changes have largely been met with positivity. 

Variety is the spice of Verdansk 

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As someone who's guilty of locking into a favorite loadout and refusing to budge off of it, I find the Season 4 Reloaded adjustments give me much more space to test out a few new things. And considering I'm not the best Warzone player by a country mile, I drift towards weapons with a more forgiving recoil pattern, so at the onset of Season 4 Reloaded,  I created a Krig/MP5 loadout that I lean on often. However, I'm now so much more comfortable flexing into my other loadouts, which include a C58/MAC-10 build and a sniper loadout affectionately called 'Headass.' For the first time ever, I'm not relying on just one loadout, and I can see my game improving because of it.

There's also far less loadout homogeneity across the board. Now, running over to check out a dead enemy's gear doesn't mean you're stumbling upon endless FFARs and AUGs, but instead have a nice buffet of weapons to choose from if you haven't managed to get your loadout yet. But considering Season 4 Reloaded's rather generous ground loot, you may not have to scavenge dead bodies or get an early loadout to have a chance at avoiding the gulag.

Since the beginning of Season 4, Raven Software has focused on adding better weapons to the ground loot, often with some top-tier attachments like suppressors that make it easy to get the drop on enemies. Right now there's a god-tier C58 with incredibly low recoil and a 4x sight, and a MAC-10 that's not far off from my current loadout build. While this means that it's easy to get killed by an enemy who beat you to the loot crate draw, the higher-powered ground loot makes the game much more accessible to new players. Now, you can open up a crate and grab a loadout-worthy AR as opposed to a cumbersome sniper rifle, and actually get some kills while getting used to Warzone's controls and game mechanics. 

Ultimately, a more approachable Warzone is a better Warzone. That's especially true for players like myself, who avoid playing Verdansk because they hate spending hours waiting to get bought back after losing in the gulag – the quick thrills offered by Rebirth Island have been the remedy to this for some time now. Warzone Season 4 Reloaded gives players a chance to find better weapons on the ground and explore new loadout weapons thanks to a more balanced gun meta. Since the update, Warzone has been more fun and balanced than ever before – I've even strayed from my "Merc Special" loadout after several months of doggedly refusing to try anything else (it's an M16 and MAC-10 if you're curious). Better balance makes for better Warzone, period.

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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.