Activision has officially announced that 2021's mainline Call of Duty title is being developed by Sledgehammer Games, the studio which brought us Call of Duty: WWII. We also have official confirmation that Warzone integration will survive into this next cycle of the series, meaning whatever sort of game the project codenamed "Vanguard" will be, it will leave its mark on the battle royale.
While we don't know what the setting of the upcoming title will be, pretty much every rumor and leak is suggesting that we'll be returning to World War 2, which lines up with Sledgehammer's previous work in the franchise. WW2 remains one of the most popular historical settings in media, with is huge set piece battles and morally unambiguous villains.
If Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is anything to go by, Warzone integration will mean shared weapon and progression ecosystems, shared operators, and most importantly a redesign of Verdansk and a new map pulled directly from the new game.
Following the recent in-game nuclear strike, Verdansk was retooled to fit the 80's setting of Cold War. While in-universe, the fictional country of Kastovia sits a bit too far south to realistically have been part of the Eastern Front during World War 2, the sort of light historical skewing we've seen in the series before can make it work. For this reason, we're also skipping the Eastern Front in this lineup.
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Much more interesting, however, is the prospect of an entirely new map based on a famous theatre of war during WW2. Since we saw the introduction of Rebirth Island during the Black Ops Cold War cycle, it stands to reason that Warzone would get a new World War 2 map whenever "Vanguard" is released.
Here are our top picks for World War 2 Warzone map locations.
Let's get the obvious one out of the way. While this wouldn't be a particularly inspired or unique take, it would definitely work. Since most media depictions only show snippets of the whole invasion, usually from the point of view of one soldier, it's hard to visualize just how huge the entire geographical area covered by the initial landings was.
For a single map to work within realistic proportions, the developers would have to pick one of the named beaches from the operation and stick to it. Our first choice would be Utah for a number of reasons - the region that Allied forces landing on Utah were set to capture immediately after the attack go the furthest in-land; the port-city of Carentan is nearby thus providing an urban area for the map; the 82 Airborne Division also dropped here making the whole "where we dropping boys?" style of typical battle royale deployment make sense, and Utah Beach was physically cut off from the others by a small bay, making it clearly stand apart.
Sword and Gold could also work, with the proximity of Caen and Bayeux, respectively. The 6th Airborne Division also dropped inland from Sword Beach.
That said, with both Verdansk and Rebirth Island being fictional locations, the developers could go with a completely made-up "extra" beach too. Freed from the restraints of having to be realistic and accurate, this approach would allow them to tailor the map completely to fit the needs of gameplay flow.
Geographical factors aside, the Normandy invasion is arguably one of the most iconic motions of the war. It comes as no surprise that it keeps being revisited by films and games over and over and over again, and would be an instant hit as a Warzone map.
This approach would give the developers a great deal more freedom, as coming up with a fictional island or archipelago somewhere in the huge Pacific theatre seems a lot less... egregious than coming up with a new fictional portion of the Normandy landings.
A tropical island map would provide natural borders and a welcome aesthetic shift compared to the two current maps. Though Rebirth Island is, as the name suggests, an island, it is urbanized and temperate, looking visually a great deal like... well, almost everything else in the game.
The greens and blues and tans of a tropical island would help Call of Duty break out of the "brown-grey" stereotype it ostensibly helped create, and into which most modern military shooters fall into. Having multiple islands comprise the battle royale map would also add new interesting strategies and gameplay mechanics, like naval battles and water vehicles.
Terrain variance would be facilitated by sandy beaches and riverbanks, dense jungles, deforested plains and some naval base areas which would act as combat hot spots, featuring the best loot and plenty of close combat opportunities. Some extra environmental hazards could be added, as the war in the Pacific was infamous for all the makeshift traps laid by Japanese forces as they were slowly pushed back by the Allies. The map could even include a hard to reach warship wreck - it would hold great rewards, but players venturing there would risk being stuck outside the collapsing circle.
"Map evolution" would also work well here. The same way how new interior areas periodically opened up in Verdansk, new regions of an archipelago map could be made accessible, like a series of bunkers, the interiors of naval bases, tunnel systems dug between points of interest, forested areas being cleared in favor of fortifications and more.
This theatre of the war is also very well known, and features prominently in American media about World War 2 due to their primary involvement in this region, which led to one of the most severe events - the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Media in general, but Call of Duty in particular (hell, one was just dropped on Verdansk) has a fascination with nuclear warfare, which makes sense. No other weapon that was used in wars before or since command such an air of fear and awe, to the point of being mystified as this world ending tool.
The Pacific and European theatres of war during WW2 have mostly overshadowed all others in popular culture, to the point where it might be easy for some players to forget that the war also touched Africa and the Middle East. Several important battles were fought throughout Egypt and further south, as Allied forced tried to prevent Axis invasions deeper into the continent.
Egypt would once again offer a fresh, new visual direction compared to what we have with Rebirth Island and Verdansk - both as it is now and how it would look like during WW2. Sandswept dunes, large empty desert areas favoring long range combat, ruins tucked between hills, oases, the Nile river bank and some urban areas would make this a highly varied and interesting map, with some unique point of interest opportunities. Maybe the best loot is hidden in an ancient tomb, accidentally made accessible by a poorly aimed artillery shot?
This location choice also gives us our "circle collapse" mechanic for free - sandstorms. Here too, the developers can come up with a fictional region somewhere along the lower Nile and add made-up towns, ruins and landmarks to the map in order to populate it without having to worry about any kind of strict historical accuracy, spreading out loot areas and combat hotspots evenly.
The desert location could also add another layer to combat with certain vehicles struggling with the sandy terrain, and since Call of Duty does tend to place quite a bit of focus on visuals and graphical fidelity, this would be a great chance to show off some particle effects and physics. Since giving Verdansk a reskin doesn't carry the same underlying technical opportunities of showing off, a brand new map is a much better vehicle for graphical boasting.
Quicksand - that is, the unrealistically fast-acting 'Hollywood' quicksand, not the relatively benign real deal - would offer some environmental hazards when out in the desert, whereas violent wildlife like hippos and crocodiles could be used to add some NPC opponents to the areas along the Nile river - because let's be honest, no Warzone map set in Egypt would skip the Nile.
While the fact that the north African theatre of WW2 is lesser known is a blessing in so far as being able to offer players a relatively fresh and new gameplay experience, it could also be a curse - maybe Activision's execs will find it hard to market.