Warzone 2’s new sandbox extraction mode has a totally different vibe than other extraction shooters I’ve played. DMZ isn’t like Escape From Tarkov, where other players are automatically enemies, or like Hunt: Showdown, where team sizes are equal and everyone competes for one prize. It’s a sort of micro-MMO like GTA Online, played in 30-minute blocks where players (both grouped and solo) roam a large map, traveling mostly in different directions and minding their own business most of the time until someone puts them in the dark. stands away.
That I was someone when I learned an important DMZ rule: If a guy sprints right at you, bare-fisted, with a desperate look in his eye, he’s probably not looking for a team. I should have suspected that the old Burnt_Toast575 had malicious intent when he failed to respond to my kind comments. The words “wanna team up” had barely left my lips before he landed three punches on my stunned face. Burny-T wasn’t looking for friendship. He only had eyes for my shiny gun, and a few blows later he got it.
I can’t really blame him. As with most MMOs playing alone can be a struggle and it’s hard to trust some rando that claims to be “chill”. I’ve tried to embrace the spirit of the mode by making friends before enemies (after all, killing players isn’t the goal of DMZ like in battle royale). I’ve had a few successful uses of a nice new ping feature that allows me to instantly invite nearby players to my team, but I find the DMZ community can be pretty cliquey.
My solo DMZ experience so far has been the part in every ’90s movie where a group of spiky-haired bullies round up an unsuspecting nerd and put him in a locker. That’s not to say the imbalance is unpleasant: It can be thrilling to hide in an empty house until the wandering APC passes outside. In fact, stealth has been an invaluable tactic for surviving a full round of DMZ.
Surprisingly, real players were the least of my problems during solo adventures in Al Mazrah. The real, constant threat of DMZ is the AI soldiers occupying nearly every square block of civilization. These aren’t your standard campaign grunts, nor are they as harmless as the fodder soldiers running around in Modern Warfare 2’s Invasion mode. DMZ soldiers are quick to spot players from afar, and once they’ve got a lock, they’ll chase you mercilessly. Standing in the open with three or four grunts in sight is a death wish. Even in cover, soldiers will flank from different directions. I was pretty much destroyed yesterday by an AI armored guy, who kicked open a door while I was looting a box and blasted me back to the main menu.
Then I started this depressing loop, taking one of my few remaining weapons with me to the next match, dying of AI for having worthless weapons and no armor, and repeating until my contraband inventory was completely empty. Maybe that’s how Burnt_Toast got Rocky to give me an IV with no guns to his name.
The AI is so relentless and deals so much damage that I can’t help but think that DMZ was solely balanced around teamplay. As a solo player with only one default armor slot, it’s easy to die after less than two seconds of damage taken. If you’re on a team, this isn’t a big deal, as even completely dead squad members can be brought back to life once the battle is over. When flying solo, your only lifeline is a self-healing kit, a semi-rare item that every time I raid a medicine cabinet I cross my fingers to find.
At this point, diving solo is the same as choosing hard mode. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – I actually think DMZ can be a little too easy with four or more in a squad – but I’m starting to agree with the fans on Reddit who are calling for some sort of “longer than two minutes” staying alive”. starter pack for solo players. Some have suggested that solos receive a free self-repair kit (opens in new tab) at the start of the round.
To be honest, I was able to stick with teammates from the start. By default, the game matches you with at least one or two other players. This can be cool if you happen to match with nice, cooperative strangers, but playing with randos doesn’t really fit DMZ’s only progression track: faction missions. These are disconnected, chore-like tasks that you sign up for before the match, such as destroying a certain number of vehicles or capturing a stronghold.
It’s possible to sync these missions with friends and you might even get lucky if you ask a random teammate to help out but so many of the missions I’ve done so far are the kind of monotonous, level 2 World of Warcraft searches I’d be embarrassed to recruit others. I spent several hours yesterday searching every house on Al Mazrah, stuffing my backpack with bandages that would only count towards my mission if I managed to get them off the map without dying.
Again, the first weeks of Warzone DMZ remind me of the first weeks of GTA Online. There’s not a lot of structure, or a lot of rewards, but the opportunity space feels huge. If Infinity Ward/Raven Software/whoever actually makes DMZ commits to expanding on this exciting new piece of CoD canon, I can see the future populating Al Mazrah with side missions, boss fights, or even purely social areas.
For now, I’d settle for little things like AI baddies that don’t magically blast me through clouds of smoke.