We're two weeks into Call of Duty: Warzone Season 5, and there's not much to show for it. Aside from a smattering of new free content, a huge volume of paywalled customization items, and a few mobile broadcast stations scattered across Verdansk, Warzone Season 5 feels a helluva lot like the end of Warzone Season 4.
And as an avid Rebirth Island player, I can't help but notice that the map hasn't changed since Warzone Season 3: Reloaded. Aside from some ground loot updates and two new perks, Rebirth Island has remained a bit too constant – especially when many players prefer the playlist to the larger battle royale.
Perhaps Raven Software is gearing up for a much bigger mid-season update, as the Season 5 patch notes promise Season 5 Reloaded will connect the mysterious Red Doors to the mobile broadcast stations. Until then, it just feels like we're playing an extended Warzone Season 4, with two new weapons, two new perks, and not much else to show for it. Maybe there are big changes on the horizon that will usher in the era of Call of Duty: Vanguard, but for now, it seems like Warzone is stuck in limbo.
Same ol' Verdansk
Call of Duty: Warzone blew up Verdansk at the end of Season 2, but aside from an '80s-themed addition in the form of Die Hard's Nakatomi Plaza, there have been minimal map changes since. And the Season 2 Map changes that ushered in Verdansk '84 certainly weren't as large-scale as map changes in other battle royales like Apex Legends and Fortnite, where the existing map is replaced entirely. Instead. Raven Software laid an '80s filter over Verdansk and swapped out a few key locations. The changes are nothing to scoff at, but with a game that's over a year old, the similar layout is bound to get stale – especially when compared to multi-map games like the ones just mentioned.
Until now, Warzone has managed to stay somewhat fresh by adding new POIs, like the Warzone Red Doors that mysteriously appeared in Season 4 that gave players a chance to travel to another area filled with precious loot. The Red Doors don't spawn in the same spot every match, so players dropping into Verdansk will end up on a bit of a wild goose chase, which added some much-needed variety to the start-of-game drops.
The Red Doors were a great addition and now that they're an established part of the map, it's clear that Raven wants to fold them into the larger meta-narrative that will likely draw us into a Call of Duty: Vanguard-inspired refresh later this year. That's why, at the start of Season 5, the Red Doors became "unstable" and started sending players places other than the main loot room. This is a neat little trick, but with the payoff not due to come until the mid-season update, it might not be enough to keep the masses entertained.
The only new POI that came with Season 5 is the mobile broadcast stations, which arrived rather unceremoniously. The Warzone patch notes promised the mobile broadcast stations would offer up loot, but many players dropping in discovered that they couldn't be interacted with, and instead lay dormant, the promise of loot little more than a pipe dream.
While Raven Software is dedicated to perma-banning cheaters, Warzone is still rife with people looking to hack their way to a dub. That's why many prefer Rebirth Island, as its smaller setting seems to be less enticing to cheaters and therefore a better experience overall. If you couple that with the lack of a gulag, offering players a better chance to stay in the game longer to test out non-meta weapons and new ground loot, it's no surprise the playlist remains popular.
But as much as Rebirth Island has remained popular, it's also remained stagnant. The map hasn't changed in any discernible way since the start of Season 3, when the construction area was replaced by the Control Center and Decon Zone was extended further out into the water surrounding the island. A lighting overhaul came in May, which certainly makes the map look better, but it's now just an old, nicely lit map.
The odd thing is, Raven isn't against making changes to Rebirth Island – it's just that the changes only come in the form of frustrating playlist updates. Players have been asking for a consistent Rebirth Island Solos for quite some time, with one Reddit user arguing "Verdansk gets old quickly and Solos on Verdansk is currently infested with cheaters...Rebirth Island would be perfect for Solos given its size but the map is normally limited to either Trios or Quads." A week or so after the new map joined Warzone, there was a brief Solos playlist, but it's been absent ever since. Instead, Raven has rotated between Trio and Quad Rebirth Island playlists, forcing players to queue up with randoms if they want a chance at a tight, 10-minute Warzone experience.
Rebirth Island needs map changes as much as it needs playlist consistency, and until Warzone figures out the best way to utilize its diamond in the royale rough, the map will suffer.
Call of Duty: Warzone has the difficult task of acting as a conduit for all existing and forthcoming Call of Duty titles. While there were some signs of stress during the merger of Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War, a steady stream of content seemed ready to allay any fears of stagnation. Now, however, as we near the November release of Call of Duty: Vanguard, it seems like Warzone is in a holding pattern as the teams work on what will inevitably be a major reveal. It's not easy finding a balanced content pipeline for a live service game, and Warzone Season 5 is proof of just how difficult that must be.
Going forward, we can only hope that Raven Software will continue to listen to players about playlist rotations, free content, and tangible map updates without putting any undue pressure on their dev team. Balance is key here, and we're not just talking about the gun meta.
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