Call of Duty

Warzone 2’s New Vondel Map Won’t Save the Battle Royale on Its Own

Warzone 2's Vondel can help, but not save, WZ2.

Hovec Sawmill map from MW with Warzone 2.0 logo Activision

In the build up to Warzone 2 Season 4, there have been reports that the game’s Steam playerbase (admittedly not the most popular platform among Call of Duty players) has slumped to another new low. It fits into a wider theme of a nosediving player count, with anticipation for the battle royale sequel gone, instead replaced by frustration and an inescapable feeling that it continues to be one huge missed opportunity. It’s also why I was pleased to hear about Vondel, a new environment dropping with Season 4. It’s a welcome change and one that can inject new life into Warzone 2 – but it can’t do it on its own. 

There were swathes of anticipation surrounding Warzone 2’s launch back in late 2022. It was seen as a guaranteed success for Activision, eradicating the lethargy that had enveloped the first Warzone and replacing it with a fresh battle royale sure to capture the original’s replayability and fresh take on BR. However, it’s not been that simple. Player counts and Twitch viewership have crumbled since fall of last year, as has player faith in the developers’ ability to rectify the situation. Al Mazrah has failed to capture the flow and balance of Verdansk; the time-to-kill (TTK) remains inexplicably fast; and bugs and glitches are still prevalent enough to affect the average player all too frequently. 

Out of those three problems – in my mind the biggest issues plaguing Warzone 2 – Vondel can only really solve the first one. Al Mazrah has been a tiresome experience since it dropped; overly large and stuck between close-quarters POIs and huge open spaces that inspire nothing but comical tumbleweed to emphasize their emptiness. It’s a map in which I regularly spend 10 minutes looting up, readying myself for action – then get eliminated so quickly by an unseen enemy that the whole exercise was pointless. 

Al Mazrah City in Warzone 2
Image Credit: Activision via Twinfinite

Despite promises to listen to player feedback, there’s been no meaningful change to TTK since Warzone 2 dropped. That’s only worsened the pacing problems. A battle royale that’s demonstrated longevity and innovated the genre is Fortnite. It’s a game where, if you’re fired upon by an unseen enemy, you can build instantly to protect yourself and heal up with shields and HP-restoring items. In short, I’ll have a fighting chance. By contrast, Warzone 2 players are left hoping their meager armor plates can withstand enemy bullets long enough to flee to a structure that can offer some form of defense. There are few things as frustrating in a BR as being eliminated and feeling that the only reason you died was that the enemy had the good fortune of seeing you first. Currently, that’s how most of my Warzone 2 eliminations feel. 

Bugs and glitches may be reduced with a new map, but it’s also entirely fair to say they may actually worsen as a huge new environment is thrown into the mix. It’s easy to cast my mind back to Caldera’s implementation in the first Warzone, which brought a series of major issues into the average game that didn’t exist before it was added. 

Changes to Caldera map
Image Credit: Activision via Twinfinite

So why, then, am I so excited for Warzone 2’s Vondel? My naivety and idiocy certainly spring to mind, but I’ll look to solve those problems independently rather than here. It’s a chance for a proper new start for Warzone 2 and I sincerely hope that Season 4, when it drops on June 14, goes beyond adding a new map and hoping it solves the issues. A long list of bug fixes, tweaks to TTK (I’ll accept tweaks) and the standard new content (weapons, operator skins and new modes) seem good places to start. 

Vondel, assuming the leaks are correct, is to be developed by Beenox, a CoD support studio without the glistening résumé of a Treyarch or Infinity Ward. That’s not to discount them though; they have a large amount of experience and, as Raven proved during Warzone 1’s life-cycle, support studios can step up to the plate and hit proverbial home runs. Set in the Netherlands, the map also promises to offer something different to Al Mazrah, if only in setting and aesthetics. My point is that there is undoubtedly the potential for Vondel to get the Warzone 2 train back on the tracks. But it can’t be the high-speed, ultra-efficient and damn enjoyable ride it should be without changes elsewhere too.

About the author

Joe Craven

Joe is a writer and publisher based in England. He loves history, video games and football. As you read this, he's probably reading about an obscure war, playing a video game or moaning about Leeds United.