This Wednesday, Aug. 5, marks the start of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone's latest season. It's set to be the biggest season yet, introducing a train to Warzone's map, opening up the long-enclosed Stadium, adding in new multiplayer maps, and bringing in a new faction. Compared to the light features added through past seasons, Season 5 is already shaping up to really be the biggest yet.
As someone who plays Warzone almost nightly, it's an exciting prospect. But there's also the big, militant elephant in the room: Call of Duty 2020. Or rather, Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War, which leaked on a Doritos bag recently. We received a new Black Ops entry as recently as 2018, but a new one already seems to be in the cards for this year. I wish it weren't so.
More than any other Call of Duty in recent memory, Modern Warfare has done a terrific job at retaining players. Part of that is due to its battle royale mode, Warzone, introduced back in March. Another big part is due to how it ditched its paid season pass structure, instead opting for an optional paid battle pass and free multiplayer maps introduced at a seasonal cadence. As an avid Call of Duty player, I used to never pay for the expensive season passes. With Modern Warfare though, Activision's managed to rope me into buying a new battle pass every single season. I've even bought a couple cosmetic bundles over the months, which usually net an operator skin, some gun blueprints, and other items.
For any other multiplayer game, Modern Warfare would feel like a very successful Year One. That is, the first year, in a series of many. We've seen it with how Ubisoft sticks with its Tom Clancy games—even if they fumble at launch. We've seen it with other shooters. Modern Warfare, as it creeps toward its one-year anniversary, still feels like it has room to grow. The problem is, Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War is probably just around the corner now, even if it hasn't been officially announced yet.
Call of Duty typically launches in October or November—and with new consoles due this year, it's safer to bet on the latter being its release window. Season 5 won't be Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's last season, but it sure feels like its last hurrah.
Call of Duty games don't completely die after their inaugural year, but the majority of the playerbase usually leaps to whatever the new hotness is. The reports swirling around Cold War—considering Activision hasn't so much as acknowledged its well-known existence publicly yet—note that Warzone will be remaining a mainstay for Call of Duty in the foreseeable future. The battle royale will have Raven Software on its continued development, who are the co-leads on the standalone mode now.
Activision not abandoning Warzone for, perhaps, a Blackout 2.0 is a smarter move. It's also been a big reason why Modern Warfare's managed to remain so beloved. (The pandemic, I reckon, is also another major reason.) One thing in particular worries me: Part of Modern Warfare's big pitch is how, like no other Call of Duty before, it unifies every vertical of the shooter. The guns feel the same in Warzone, just as they do in Spec Ops, or multiplayer. Progression is unified across every portion, too. No longer does the Call of Duty experience feel splintered depending on what your preferred mode is.
It limits the capabilities of whatever the next Call of Duty is. It will be tethered to how Warzone plays, how it feels, how it disperses the leveling up experience. Modern Warfare felt like the start of a "new" kind of Call of Duty. For a new one just to be released later this year despite all the progress the series has made feels antithetical to everything Modern Warfare and Warzone rebuilt. Given Activision's track record with Call of Duty's annualized releases, maybe I was just being naive in hoping for a shake-up.
Regardless, this has been the best ongoing Call of Duty experience in years. Sure, there have been some bumps along Modern Warfare's journey. The maps at launch were not great. Crossplay via easy-to-make Activision accounts enabled cheaters on PC to run wild. When a new Black Ops rolls around, I'll definitely be sad to cast it aside to follow the "fresher" Call of Duty.
Annualized releases, in a way, feel like a bygone way of releasing games. Forza used to be annualized, switching between the traditional Motorsport racing sim and the open-world Horizon series. Now, it's looking unlikely that there will be a new Forza this year, given that the recent trailer for the next Forza Motorsport didn't even tease a release window. (Nor even an "8" attached.) That means it's been over two years since Forza Horizon 4 now. Sports games, meanwhile, only adhere to an annualized release schedule because they have to.
It'd be nice to see more games take the renewed Assassin's Creed approach in giving a couple years of breathing room to allow games to grow. As we've seen with Modern Warfare and Warzone, last year's Call of Duty has even longer legs, but the boots on the ground seem to have new pastures to stomp all over already. That's a shame.
Major Game Releases: August 3 to August 7
Here are the major releases for the week of August 3 to August 7. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
- Fall Guys [August 4 for PS4, PC]: If you've been on Twitch lately, then you've probably seen Fall Guys. The newest game from Mediatonic is a zany battle royale where 60 players compete in an obstacle course. No guns; no circle of death. Just good-natured competitive, last-person-standing fun. Given that it's free on PlayStation Plus, Fall Guys will definitely be one to watch. Could this be the next Rocket League? Guess we'll find out.
- Fast & Furious Crossroads [August 7 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC]: When Fast & Furious Crossroads was delayed ahead of its original release date in May, it wasn't a complete surprise. After all, its tie-in film, Fast 9, was delayed all the way into 2021. Fast & Furious Crossroads isn't a direct adaptation of the movie, but its release was undoubtedly timed around it. And now, the game's standing on its own. Less than a week ahead of its release, we barely know anything about it. We'll see how the Vin Diesel-starring racing-action game pans out later this week.
- Horizon Zero Dawn [August 7 for PC]: Last month, Death Stranding hit PC. It was a big deal, considering it was once just a PlayStation 4 exclusive. Horizon Zero Dawn's PC release is perhaps even more of a surprise considering it's a first-party game. We'll have impressions about Horizon Zero Dawn's PC port later this week—but if Death Stranding's superb port is anything to go by, we're betting it will look stunning.
Five Things You Should Know Heading Into This Week In Gaming
- GDC Summer, a PlayStation State of Play, and a Street Fighter 5: Championship Edition stream are all happening this week. This Wednesday, August 5, Capcom's hosting a livestream for news on "the future" of Street Fighter 5: Championship Edition. Most have seen this Championship Edition run of new fighters as sorta the last hurrah for Street Fighter 5. Capcom has teased new character reveals and esports news to be among this week's announcements. We'll be tuning in and bringing you all the news accordingly. Meanwhile, GDC's digital romp is streaming from Aug. 4 to 6. On Thursday Aug. 6, PlayStation's hosting a new State of Play stream-but don't expect it to have any PS5 news. The publisher shot that down already.
- Halo Infinite's multiplayer will be free-to-play. You read that right. What does that mean for Xbox Live? We don't know yet. Halo Infinite will also run at 120 FPS, as confirmed by 343 Industries.
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's next season hits this week. Starting on Wednesday, August 5, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's Season 5 is launching. It's shaping up to be the most substantial update for both Modern Warfare and Warzone yet, with a potential train plopping onto Warzone's Verdansk, and perhaps the opening up of the long-blocked off Stadium interior. There's even rumors that Warzone will start teasing the worst kept secret in the world: 2020's Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War. We'll be playing. Or at least, I will. It's pretty much maintaining my social life in these times, after all.
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons just got a big new update. All August long, Redd will post up in your town on Sunday evenings. A special raffle will net you fireworks and other festive goodies, all while fireworks launch into the night sky all night long. It's lovely. I wish it wasn't just for one month.
- Did you catch last weekend's Blaseball playoffs? No? Luckily, we have a primer to get you up to speed on the absurd sports spectating sim that we can't stop playing.
Axe of the Blood God for August 3, 2020
Axe of the Blood God is our official RPG podcast releasing every single Monday. You can find subscription info here. We also put out an Axe of the Blood God newsletter every Wednesday, which you can subscribe to here.
With the next generation of consoles nearly upon us, Kat is joined by Reviews Editor Mike Williams and Senior Editor Caty McCarthy to discuss the future of the genre. What surprises do the PS5 and Xbox Series X hold for RPGs? Will it all be Destiny-likes and Witcher 3 clones? Or will we be treated to new settings, A.I. innovations, and other fascinating changes? We discuss!