Warzone has tried a number of crossovers, with the Godzilla x King Kong event arriving as Activision’s latest attempt to merge pop culture with Call of Duty’s FPS thrills. Even with a few steps in the right direction, it’s time for Warzone to step aside in the wake of Fortnite’s astounding success.
When Warzone dropped in March 2020 it was more than just a standard release, offering up a hub for players no matter where they are in the world. While this concept isn’t anything new, Warzone masterfully crafted an experience where the feeling of community was at the forefront. Having the signature gameplay excellence of Call of Duty underscoring the entire thing was a bonus.
Naturally, games evolve and change, for better or worse. In the case of Warzone, it’s seen an unfortunate descent into uncertainty between the transition of Black Ops Cold War/Modern Warfare to Vanguard. To ease that movement into a new era, Activision unleashed a wave of crossovers that sought to capitalize on Battle Pass content and also use Warzone as a canvas for vibrant events.
From the mixed results of the 80s action heroes to the aggressively average Vanguard “train” event, these crossovers never fully utilize Warzone’s mechanics or environment. It’s fun to roam across the battlefield as John McClane or John Rambo, but when their inclusion only extends to middling side quests and a half-baked attempt at recreating Nakatomi Plaza, it all feels a bit aimless.
It isn’t just your average Warzone players that are unhappy with these crossovers either. Veteran streamers such as Dr Disrespect and TimTheTatMan have shown their displeasure with Activision’s approach to high-scale events. Operation Monarch is the latest crossover event to take place within Warzone, bringing the roaring might of Legendary’s ‘Monsterverse’ onto the bullet-riddled shores of Caldera.
Kaiju icons Godzilla and King Kong are now causing havoc across Caldera, as players seek to harness their unrivaled powers and hopefully secure a massive dub in the process. There is certainly a Kaiju-sized amount of money behind this crossover, but has Activision finally planted its feet in the right direction?
Operation Monarch is a start, but will Activision learn from it?
When you bring two towering titans like Godzilla and King Kong into a game, Warzone or not, the rulebook for realism is instantly thrown out of the window. Thankfully, this is where Operation Monarch manages to succeed the most. With the tropical setting of Caldera ripe for these characters, the developers step back and let the game do the talking here. Gone is the exceedingly boring focus on goals like stopping a train or avoiding a zombie invasion. The aim is simple: shoot each titan enough to gain Monarch-themed XP and unlock an ultimate weapon to use their powers on other players. It’s far less convoluted than previous events and proves that sometimes less really is more.
Operation Monarch is all about reveling in the potent cinematic legacy of its two main characters. Both titans stomp across land and sea, devastating anything and everything in their path. Their distinct sounds translate into the game well, as Godzilla’s chilling roar permeates the air with atomic fear. King Kong stares down the environment with a merciless gaze, smashing his chest as a beckoning call to all who dare challenge him.
It’s impressive just how faithful these epic Kaiju are presented to the player, as their scale is exceptionally imposing. The thrill of riding a helicopter through their collective chaos reduced my squad to fits of adrenaline-filled laughter. Dr Disrespect may think the appeal here is for “9-year-old” children, but there is no harm in embracing the childlike wonder that Operation Monarch has underneath its surface.
Operation Monarch is a far more enjoyable experience than previous crossovers, especially as it functions within the parameters of the game’s traditional battle royale mode.
But despite Activision’s attempts to course correct here, there is still a feeling that they missed the bigger picture. Aside from the promotion of a film that is a year old at this point, it’s a shame that Operation Monarch doesn’t allow players to fully break the realms of realism by controlling the titans themselves.
Using their abilities has its moments, but the concept of controlling them fully for a limited time could enhance the experience tenfold. Activision has shelled out the cash to bring them here, so it would only make sense to use these characters to their full potential. Now that is the Operation Monarch I’d be eager to explore.
It’s missteps like this that allow Epic Games to remain the experts when it comes to blending existing IP into their rival title, Fortnite.
Fortnite remains the real titan of crossovers
It’s easy for players more enthralled in Warzone’s gritty aesthetic to dismiss Fortnite’s cartoonish appeal. I used to be of that mindset too, seeing Fortnite as a sweat simulator where opponents build skyscrapers, only to humiliate you with a headshot seconds later. But Fortnite’s magic formula has been concocted thanks to Epic Games’ precise finger on the pop culture pulse.
When the universe of Star Wars appeared back as far back as Chapter 2: Season 1, it signaled a change in the guard for the typical idea of a battle royale. It wasn’t just a case of making fan-favorite characters available for purchase – it showed that a gigantic franchise can be seamlessly integrated into the game at large.
The genius in Fortnite’s approach to crossovers is the ability to weave recognizable franchises into the lore itself. Fortnite’s island has seen a plethora of heroes and villains fight to rule with light and dark, with each battle featuring as part of Fortnite’s expansive story.
It’s even better that you don’t necessarily have to follow the story, either. Somehow, Donald Mustard and the gang at Epic Games have made crossovers with Ariana Grande, Spider-Man, and Dwayne Johnson feel organic, without alienating players in the process. X-Men villain Galactus eating the entire Fortnite map too? Incredible.
But what about the brilliant social experience that Warzone cultivated in March 2020? Fortnite has that in spades and then some. Micro-transactions are always going to be frowned upon in gaming, but the way I see it, Fortnite is essentially a digital toybox. While I’m swapping out John Wick for Black Widow, my friends are getting in on the fun with their own choices of skin. Warzone doesn’t have the same liberties when it comes to bending the rules of its lore and maybe it shouldn’t either.
Bringing zombies into the Warzone canon of Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War feels out of place, but if Activision is willing to establish a separate universe from its mainline entries, then that’s where things could get interesting. With this kind of freedom, there is the opportunity for Warzone to truly get creative, rather than serving up a fraction of its potential. That’s why Fortnite’s events are exactly that: events.
Epic Games are in the midst of their own Avengers: Endgame-style path currently, as heroes like Doctor Strange fend off ominous forces from demolishing the island once and for all. The forces in question are looming above the map at this moment in-game, as the sight of a Star Destroyer waits to strike. It sounds like pure nonsense to the uninitiated, but it’s Epic Games’ wholehearted embodiment of this bizarre charm that allows Fortnite to succeed where Warzone falters, at least in regards to crossovers.
Warzone’s evolution isn’t doomed just yet
The road ahead for Warzone isn’t coming to a dead-end anytime soon. Modern Warfare 2 is set to bring the release of Warzone 2 alongside it, which is poised to benefit from next-gen consoles more than ever.
The release of Warzone 2 isn’t just a technological leap for the franchise, but it marks a crossroads for Activision too. Will they choose to incorporate blockbuster-sized events regularly or will they be more of a novelty? For Warzone, it’d be a wiser choice to focus all efforts on improving the core CoD experience that players have appreciated over the last decade.
Modern Warfare 2 (2009) was a landmark not just for the franchise, but the FPS genre too. To this day, the glory days of late multiplayer sessions and 1v1 matches on Rust still ring true. With a bit of luck, lightning might just strike twice later this year. For now, Warzone should leave the crossovers to Fortnite.