Warzone Pacific Season 3 review in progress: Operation Monarch is a colossal dud
With Warzone Pacific Season 3, Caldera is in its most playable state yet thanks to a number of crucial changes to the map’s layout, gameplay systems, and overall balance. Yet while the CoD Battle Royale set the stage for perhaps its biggest crossover thus far, a lackluster Operation Monarch event has left the season on a sour note.
- Season 3 runs April 27 – June 22, 2022
- Season 3 Reloaded expected on May 25.
- Caldera changes, Godzilla & Kong event headline latest update.
Although the spotlight for Season 3 is on the ‘monsterverse’ crossover with Godzilla and Kong, the latest major patch still arrived with an abundance of new content and exciting changes on day one.
Beyond the typical cosmetics crammed into the Battle Pass and outside of the expected balance adjustments, Warzone Season 3 introduced a number of welcome improvements to the core BR experience.
But while these gameplay adjustments are certainly a step in the right direction, Activision’s latest crossover falls flat in more ways than one, hindering the season as a whole.
Warzone Pacific Season 3 – Key details
- Developer: Raven Software
- Dates: April 27 – June 22, 2022
- Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, PS4, PS5
Warzone Pacific Season 3 launch trailer
Caldera has never been better though it’s still far from perfect
After a season that primarily focused on Rebirth, Warzone’s main map came back into focus for the third major patch of the Pacific era. Immediately upon dropping into Caldera this season, two significant changes become apparent.
First, foliage has been either drastically reduced or outright removed across much of the island. Second, the map’s entire color palette seems to have changed back closer to that of what we saw on Verdansk.
Gone is the incredibly vibrant theme and overbearing sun as a murkier, greenish tinge is now layered over Caldera. These two seemingly minor tweaks may have arrived mostly unannounced but provide what’s perhaps the biggest breath of fresh air Warzone has experienced in months.
Visibility is greatly improved across the board as a result, making not only engagements less of a hassle, but general traversal too. It’s much easier spotting targets in the distance without bushes obscuring your view, sourcing vehicles or balloons to rotate has never been simpler, and in general, playing through Caldera isn’t quite the headache it once was.
That’s not to say the map itself is perfect now, however, far from it. Pacing issues still exist and select POIs aren’t quite up to snuff, but the replacement for Verdansk is currently in the healthiest spot it’s been since arriving five months ago.
Dig Site joins Caldera as an entirely new POI in Season 3. Fitting with the upcoming crossover, this spot on the map is littered with larger-than-life skeletons of creatures that seem to have once inhabited the island.
While it’s not quite the hottest drop spot in these opening weeks, as many new POIs tend to be upon arrival, Dig Site does feel like a well-balanced location from the jump. Rather than arriving jam-packed full of high-tier loot like a Nakatomi Plaza, for instance, this new area simply offers another option upon dropping in.
With a decent blend of terrain, plenty of loot scattered throughout, and multiple paths to navigate, it’s a worthy addition to the BR map. One that joins Caldera without any glaring issues which in and of itself, is something to note these days.
Meanwhile, various existing POIs were shown some love in the Season 3 patch, though not everything has gone down as well as the new arrival.
It’s no secret Peak has long been one of the biggest issues with Caldera’s structure. Given its position in the center of the map, along with its sheer enormity, dropping at Peak has always been a no-brainer for the hottest start possible. Though even with frequent complaints over the past few months, and the devs recognizing it as an issue, Season 3 actually improved the POI.
Rather than reducing loot in the area, lowering its elevation, or outright deleting it as many have requested, Peak got an upgrade in the latest patch. There are now more Supply Boxes than before and it’s easier to traverse with bonus ascenders dotted around the highest point of the map. Naturally, Peak still dominates the season. So if you were looking for more of a drastic shakeup here, you’ll need to wait and hope Season 4 packs more of a punch in this regard.
On a smaller note, Season 3 also brought with it another unique Gulag layout. Having always been in favor of a seasonal rotation for the Gulag, it’s great to see the trend continue here. But this particular layout is arguably the weakest we’ve seen over the past five months.
Small designs for the Gulag have often been fan favorites but even with that in mind, no one has really taken a fond liking to the latest offering. If anything, it’s a little too small for a vast majority of weapons on rotation in the 1v1.
With barely any room to maneuver, fights often boil down to who shot first, rather than who had the better tactic going in.
As a positive for the season, Warzone’s latest meta is a welcome change of pace. With snipers taking a backseat after weeks of dominating the conversation, new loadouts have been able to shine.
SMGs in particular have soared to the top though not one specific gun has led the charge. Rather, a diverse mix of fully automatic weapons have become viable as the likes of the Owen Gun, Armaguerra 43, and even a Cold War newcomer in the UGR have all seen success of late.
Similarly, ground loot has also been touched up in Season 3 and is now the most rewarding it’s ever been in Caldera. With the addition of Perks in the loot pool, it’s a genuinely good use of time to go out of your way for almost every supply crate now. Where before it was easy to gloss over once you had a loadout in hand, looting is once again an essential part of Warzone’s rhythm this season.
Despite all the aforementioned changes and fresh content, however, it’s still incredibly difficult to truly enjoy Warzone. At least, as a console player, unattended performance issues restrict just about every aspect of the Battle Royale experience.
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Frame rate, FOV, visual bugs, and network latency are just a few of the many factors in play. These are nothing new but have only grown more frustrating in recent weeks with the latter especially, becoming a more pronounced issue in this new season. With the player base split among a wider set of playlists than usual, finding a full lobby on manageable servers is more of a rarity than ever before.
It’s tough to recommend Warzone as a result, and it’s growing more difficult to feel enthusiastic booting up the dated Modern Warfare app on PlayStation all this time later.
So while we’ve taken one step forward with Caldera as a whole this season, a handful of questionable design choices and glaring performance issues continue to hold Warzone back.
Operation Monarch is a colossal waste of effort
With Season 3 now nearing the halfway point, we’re drawing to the conclusion of Operation Monarch. Months after rumors began to surface and initial leaks outlined a crossover unlike anything prior in Warzone, we finally got our hands on the event early in Season 3.
Operation Monarch introduced both Godzilla and King Kong to Caldera in a big way. While wacky cosmetics were sure to appease those who still care about their Operator’s looks, it was the limited-time mode that garnered the most attention.
While the arrival of these monsters would have triggered much of the community just a few short months ago, devs quickly learned from their past mistakes. Unlike the infamous Krampus disaster from December, Godzilla and Kong thankfully didn’t impact regular playlists.
Instead, Operation Monarch functioned through a separate mode while core playlists remained intact. Thus, it didn’t matter how they devastated Caldera nor how new gameplay systems disrupted the flow of the BR. All of these features were tied exclusively to a standalone experience.
Fortunately, those who just want to continue on with the regular Warzone modes have been able to do so. Pro players and streamers alike haven’t had to spend a few weeks ripping their hair out in frustration as Godzilla’s atomic breath instantly wipes their teams in high-stakes events.
This in and of itself, is worthy of praise given Warzone’s track record. Unfortunately, the fact Operation Monarch sets itself apart in a different playlist is just about the only thing worthy of praise.
In the new LTM, Godzilla and Kong tower over Caldera as players look to survive, collect intel, and occasionally gain ‘control’ of the monsters. This intel is gathered by simply playing the game as you normally would. Looting the map, wiping out enemies, it’s all a much of a muchness.
The main draw for the mode comes in the form of a new S.C.R.E.A.M. Device killstreak once enough intel has been acquired. This feature gives you the power to command one of the monsters for a few seconds, casting out singular attacks to nearby squads.
On paper, the novelty sounds intriguing. It’s not something we typically see in Warzone, and for a separate playlist not impacting the main experience, there’s no harm done experimenting with something new. But in practice, the effect can be quite dull, leading to a mode that quickly grows stale and fails to excite beyond the standard BR loop.
For what’s been hyped up as one of the biggest events in Warzone history, there’s really not a great deal to it. After just a few minutes in the first round of Operation Monarch, the spectacle wears off as the iconic monsters amount to nothing more than enormous bullet sponges.
Perhaps if Godzilla and Kong were the core targets as massive teams worked together to take them down, or even if the monsters fought each other on the map as was more or less advertised, that could have been more alluring. Instead, they come across as side attractions in a hollow mode that serves little purpose beyond offering new cosmetics.
Obviously, technical limitations are worth being mindful of. We all know the struggles of Warzone’s less-than-ideal engine. But for an event of this caliber, it may have been more enticing with a limited-time experience akin to that of the Nuke Event in last year’s Season 3 update.
A brief cinematic ‘event,’ similar to those in Fortnite, bringing the community together for an epic clash of titans, leaving Caldera permanently changed in the aftermath. Not only would this have drawn groups back to Warzone to be there in the moment, but it would’ve deepened the live-service offerings for Season 3, giving players more of a reason to stick around and continue playing night after night.
Ultimately, the new mode falls short of making any real impact, leaving the start of the latest season on somewhat of a sour note.
Although it’s early days yet, we’ve already heard quite a bit about potential Season 3 Reloaded additions. If reports are accurate, Caldera could be improved further, audio fixes may finally hit the live servers, and even more content might arrive to keep things fresh.
All in all, as a live service, Warzone Season 3 is off to a decent start. But in terms of the raw, moment-to-moment gameplay, along with the lackluster Operation Monarch, there’s still a lot left to be desired.