Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's DMZ mode is amazingly good for free

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s DMZ mode is amazingly good for free

I spent most of my holiday break playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2especially the DMZ version of the hugely popular free-to-play Battle Royale mode Warzone 2.0. It’s very much in beta – the enemies look like they’ve had a brain transplant every four or five days or so, and the heavy thing crashes hard every few days, taking all my hard-earned loot with it. But, at least for me, the DMZ routinely delivers thrills. After a long day at the word mill here at the good ship Polygon, I can count on Season 1’s Al Mazrah map and the many heavily armed factions that populate it for a good time – a great time, actually. And it didn’t cost me a penny.

DMZ is a session-based multiplayer survival game. If this sounds like a niche within a niche, that’s because it is. The only other game even remotely similar to this is Escape from Tarkova highly technical tactical shooter that puts Weapon 3 too shame The developers told me it was designed with the help of former Russian special forces operators. They never proved these bonafides to me, but if that sounds like a tough sell in the year 2023 of our lord, you’re not alone. I just can’t bring myself to turn it on anymore because… gestures broadly in the direction of the world outside his window.

A session-based multiplayer survival game is an AI-player-versus-player-versus-enemy-AI playground with a fixed set of truly obscure objectives: Visit this realistic landscape full of enemy soldiers, look for the highly skilled players who I lurk in the shadows. , open this strange door to advance your own personal questlines and make your way to the exit as discreetly as possible.

Into the Tarkov, advancing in those quest lines opens up new vendors and new opportunities to – you guessed it – do it all over again, but make your mind up harder. Into the DMZ, success means unlocking weapons and attachments in the usual style of a Call of Duty progression tree. The trick with both Tarkov and The DMZ, however, is that anything you bring with you into a session is at risk if you drop it… or if the game crashes. Lose that nice weapon and you’re empty-handed for the next challenging run through the gauntlet.

But there is a big difference in complexity. E.g, Tarkov models ricochet and penetrate in a realistic way that would make Raytheon blush. His arsenal includes an unusual array of NATO and Warsaw Pact small arms and related wares, such as thermal optics, high-powered armor-piercing rounds and grips, and other things. Drops a large amount of Tetris inventory while under fire and a full location based medical system. It’s not for everyone.

But the DMZ removes those barriers for anyone unconcerned with the firing speed of non-NATO frangible rounds. You have access to more or less the full assortment of weapons in the game’s full-fat, full-price multiplayer modes. Modern Warfare 2 via what is called an insured slot. If you die and lose that really nice light machine gun you fell in love with, you can get it back in two hours, thank you very much. While you wait, you can jump back into another session with a piece of “contraband” – a weapon class you earn by completing missions or find in-game and bring home after a successful session . Run out of contraband? You get a random loadout – usually a shotgun and a pistol.

Boats are a great way to beat traffic in the DMZ. There is always at least one helicopter on the map, and certain missions will require it.
Image: Infinity Ward/Activision

The other innovation that DMZ throws in is a sort of push-your-luck ethos with health and armor. The armor system allows you to take a single bullet to the chest or back before your health starts to drop. Some loot crates will include two and three plate ballistic armor wearers. These allow you to take two and three rounds, respectively, before your health takes a hit. But when you die, your plate carrier reverts to one. The only way to get a new carrier is to grind through the game, under fire, risking death and finding another one.

All of this adds up to a virtuous cycle of rapidly increasing tension. Instead of trekking several hours north to an airfield à la D-dayor fighting for a contested airdrop as in PUBG, you can just run a few sessions with your friends to prepare for the big push two or (in my circles) three sessions later. After an hour, the adrenaline really kicks in. Better yet, the loot persists every time you start the game. I can prepare myself for lunch and then have a high-intensity session with my three-panel vest, my favorite secured weapon and a self-resuscitation kit for dinner the next day.

A map showing player missions on the left, the in-game environment in the center, and a legend on the right.

The in-game map includes a lot of information. Clockwise from the top left corner you have one of three blue exfil locations – where a helicopter will land to take you out of the session. Along the river you can see a rubber boat, and east of that boat a hostage rescue mission – which will spawn another exfil location. Player (1) is just northeast of a landmark – the police station – which is full of money and potentially self-revival kits. In the lower right, the long line of white marks is the train that circles the map. And finally, at the bottom of the image is a shopping cart-shaped buy station where you can pick up a dual-plate carrier, high-end contraband, and more. Personal quests are stacked on the left side of the screen, always there to remind you of your larger goals. For a guide that covers the basics, try this tutorial on YouTube.
Image: Infinity Ward/Activision via Polygon

This solves a major problem of the modern batch of live-action first-person shooters: the time commitment. I don’t need to do a four hour raid Destiny 2, or engage in an open Battle Royale session that could last an entire hour. I can be in and out in 20 minutes, have a blast, and build on that experience the next time I play – just the thing for a sad dad like me trying to get back into good sleep habits in the new year.

But developer Infinity Ward is also doing some sophisticated things with the map. Players can see the extraction points as soon as they land. This allows solo, duo, or three-person teams to enter a session, make a plan to exit to a specific location, and then travel to that site, ticking the boxes for their various personal quests accordingly what are you doing

There are also missions on the map and they appeal to different play styles. Do you want a crushing battle against another team of three armored players? There is a mission for that. Just want to kill a handful of bad guys and GTFO? Go on a hostage rescue and they’ll fly in a fourth helicopter just to get you and the friendly AI character out of the session. It’s the only way to go, if you ask me.

The rules are designed to respect your time, but also reward playing together in small groups. Progress towards personal quests is split between all party members, meaning if your friend takes home five flash grenades and you bring three more to the helicopter, you both get credit for looting eight. So more players means more ability to move things around in the metagame.

DMZ it’s so dense and focused and allows players to move at their own pace. If DMZ was a pizza, then each slice would consist of a series of perfect bites. And the crust is good, too, by which I mean the overall feature set that underpins the whole experience.

Look no further than built-in proximity chat that incorporates voice and text. It’s nowhere near as nuanced as the Teamspeak plugins used by dedicated military simulation groups like Shack Tactical (a group I’m a member of, for what it’s worth). The Camelpoop420 sounds just as loud and shrill when it’s across the road as it does when it’s right next to you, and the directional sound in these situations is a little off. But it does the job. You can taunt, taunt, make people panic as you chase them through the smoke… or you can make friends.

I’ll never forget when, the day before Christmas Eve, my own team of sad dads gathered with another team of sad dads at a poorly defended LZ yelling—praying, rather—at each other not to shoot. “Friends! Friendly!” I was panting, not unlike the first few days around D-dayhis Chernogorsk, circa 2014. Then all six of us got into the helicopter, had a good laugh, and literally said goodbye to the next team of three waiting their turn. You can even team up with strangers to complete missions, combining exhausted squads and solo or duo squads into one big happy gun family.

The bottom line is that DMZ is the most experimental thing the Call of Duty franchise has done over the years, and I’m here for it. It successfully blends the tension of a great roguelike with the kind of open world exploration that makes games like Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain and Hitman 3 so captivating. It leaves room for players to express their creativity and flex their problem-solving muscles, while seamlessly integrating all the bells and whistles that make the modern Call of Duty game a AAA-level experience. And he does it in a way that shows a confidence in the player while respecting his time.

Did I mention it’s literally free?

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