After months of foundation laying, the metamorphosis is complete. Call of Duty: Warzone has become a Call of Duty: Black Ops battle royale with season 3, turning the clock back to Verdansk 84 from its original, present day setting in the Modern Warfare timeline. Don't believe me? Just look at the new points-of-interest that Raven Software and Treyarch have brought to Verdansk, several of which are either subtly inspired by, or directly imitating, multiplayer maps from over ten years of Black Ops history.
Better yet, these new areas aren't just there for fan service, but wish-fulfilment, following through on some map features that the Black Ops community have long been clamouring for. It's part of a wider effort on Raven's behalf to create a denser, more diverse Verdansk, one designed to streamline existing POIs, cut out any barren areas between them, and replace them with odes to Black Ops' legacy, alongside a few completely new surprises. In short, you don't need to be a Black Ops fan to appreciate what Verdansk 84 is offering in Warzone season 3, but it certainly helps.
Back in Black Ops
Two new points of interest arriving to Verdansk 84 as part of Warzone season 3 are based on pre-existing maps from the Black Ops series. The first, and perhaps most notable, is Summit; a small, snowy arena that first appeared in the original Black Ops game, and quickly became a fan-favourite. Known as Gora Summit in Verdansk 84, the new POI sits behind a heavily reworked Dam on the north western corner of the map, and has been reimagined for the battle royale's new springtime aesthetic.
"The dam was always a little difficult to get to," explains Raven's associate creative director, Amos Hodge. "The interior was complex, and there wasn't a straight path up to the top. There's now a clear walking path straight up through Dam, and there are now cable cars that go from Summit all the way down to the buildings below, which provides easier access, and more gameplay."
Indeed, ever since Summit first debuted, players have long been infatuated by the cable cars which hung around the edges of the map, tempting those who could find a safe way across to them with the potential of a breezy camping spot. As Hodge elaborates, Warzone now goes one step further, letting fans finally ride the cable cars to and from the area, which provides a safe form of cover… for the most part: "When we playtest, this area sees some of the craziest gameplay, with players going up and down, sniping, parachuting, helicopters all over the place... I think players will be pleasantly surprised by how it plays."
The second new point of interest that Black Ops players will immediately recognise when first touching down in Verdansk 84 is Standoff; a Black Ops 2 map known for its urban lanes and sniper perches. Augmenting the Farmland location that sits north of the Prison, Standoff has also been refreshed to fit Verdansk's new 1980's themed update, but Hodge stresses that Raven has retained its classic setup, which promises "great fun all the way around" the mid-sized environment. On the flip side, those who enjoy picking people off from the heights of Prison may now find it more difficult to do so, with Standoff's multiple interiors offering more cover to those making a southward offensive.
But the Black Ops surprises don't end there. The area which Hodge believes will be the big new hot drop is, in fact, a subtle nod to a lesser known Black Ops map. Grid Array is a giant power grid that Hodge calls a "landmark location", immediately visible from the start of the infil stage in each match. The structure first appeared in Call of Duty Black Ops' Grid map, towering over the entire area with its inescapably industrial presence. Players like myself often wondered how much fun could be had in scaling the grid, reigning down sniper fire from above, but Black Ops kept the building firmly out of bounds. Yet, like that of Summit's cable cars, Raven is finally granting our wishes, letting you explore the entire array from top to bottom.
You might worry that this kind of POI provides yet another sniper perch favourable to those adept at long range; a worrying prospect when Verdansk is already littered with elevated positions that can disadvantage those who prefer fighting on the ground. While that's true to some extent, the grid's framed structure provides little in the way of cover for any nesting sharpshooters. In other words, it'll only take one or two people on the ground to start firing back at them for any Array-stationed sniper to find themselves in the least enviable position of the encounter.
Acceptable in the 80's
It's worth stressing that Raven didn't add these Black Ops-inspired points of interest into Warzone just for the sake of it. Hodge says that each new area was the result of careful consideration over not just "what Black Ops maps fans loved or longed to see, [but] what areas could use some love, or don't play as well as we'd like." You can see this in Summit, where players can now more easily and safely ascend the heights of the Dam via the map's working cable cars, or Standoff, which offers more cover and… well, standoff points to players attempting to make their way over to the Prison.
For a lot of people, Call of Duty: Warzone season 3's nods and homages to Black Ops will pass them by as quickly as the bullets that fly over their heads in the heat of battle. On the other end of the spectrum, I imagine the presence of Standoff and Summit will bring back painful memories for players who never got on with those maps in the first place. But, regardless of how you feel about Black Ops, you have to admire Raven and Treayrch's approach to integrating the series' history and iconography into what started out as a Modern Warfare battle royale. How POIs like the Grid Array feed into the early formations of season 3's new meta is another question entirely, but as a Black Ops fan, I'm just excited to finally see what the view is like from the top.
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