As a person with no friends – or at least, no friends who have time to game together – I was stuck in a rut trying to play Call of Duty: Warzone on my own in solo lobbies. These play out much like the regular Battle Royale matches, except that you’re on your own. It’s you against 149 others in a winner-takes-all fight to the death.
Over the course of the 200 or so matches of Warzone I’ve played in the last 12 months, I have managed to win exactly one game. That means I survived the culling of 149 people, taking out a few on my own along the way, and emerging victorious against the closing threat of the shrinking ring. It’s a victory which felt earned and, above all else, incredibly fulfilling.
Warzone is a game that rewards patience. Since you only have a limited number of lives, it’s crucial to pick your fights wisely. Sure, you can sneak around the prison and pick off the one who’s sniping at the top of the tower, but why bother alerting them when they’re going to be moving soon due to the incoming gas anyway?
The same occurs with the player driving around the stadium, blaring a loud horn and notifying every player in the area where they are. Do you really want to expose yourself to try and kill them when there’s a chance another player will take that opportunity?
Likewise, you’re trudging through an underground tunnel and hear two enemies popping shots at each other from behind cover. You wait for one to eliminate the other and catch them unawares while they’re looting the corpse, bagging you an easy kill and lots of supplies. For most situations in Warzone, a key aspect of surviving until the last few survivors is to play these mind games. Think like the enemy and they fall in line for you.
It was this line of thinking that made me think about Michael Myers. He’s the main antagonist in John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) and the films which followed it. Horror movie villains like Myers employ many of the same tactics when stalking their prey. He watches his victims from a distance, anticipates their next move and goes for the kill in the last place they would expect him to be. For slasher villains, it’s all about getting that next grisly murder, stopping at nothing to ensure that’s what they get.
Call of Duty: Warzone is the perfect game that lets me feel like a horror movie villain. It’s the most un-COD-like game in the series, with very few respawns and limited supplies meaning I’m rewarded for playing carefully and being smart in how I approach every combat scenario. It’s not about boosting my K/D ratio or pulling off the perfect quickscopes, and sometimes I don’t even care about winning.
For me, the thrill comes with messing with other players. Using my gadgets to catch them off guard and tricking them into acting in such a way that exposes them to my iron sights. These situations are perfect for when I want to feel like Michael Myers, fooling my target into doing something that will get them killed.
There are so many ways you can do this. The decoy grenade, for example, emulates gunfire in the area you throw it. You pop that bad boy into a room and then hide in the closet opposite the door and wait for them to investigate.
Similarly, there are claymores and trip mines too. You set them up near a vantage point, posed in such a way that an enemy player might follow the trail and find you at the top of the stairs with a sniper rifle at the ready. Instead, you’re camping in another building, your eyes fixed on the only entrance to the decoy building awaiting someone to take the bait.
Keeping in with the horror films metaphor, there are also moments in Call of Duty: Warzone which flip this around and can make you feel like one of the teenagers hunted by the slasher killer. It might be that you’re scavenging for a new weapon out in the open when a sudden stray bullet comes your way, popping you in the leg. Now you’ve got to find a way to escape without drawing the sniper’s attention, the fear and adrenaline kicking in as a game of Cat and Mouse ensues.
Or maybe you decide to flip the tables on them and flank them to get a surprise attack in. The thing I’ve noticed with many solo Warzone players is they don’t seem keen to stay put in one location for too long, but every movement they make opens them up for a counterattack.
It’s wild to me that Call of Duty: Warzone isn’t marketed as a horror game at all, because the mind tricks you play on others coupled with the eerie loneliness of Verdansk feels like it should absolutely qualify for that position. I love feeling like a horror movie antagonist, and it gives me a high that very few other first-person shooters have achieved yet.