MW2 DMZ Review: "Not The Tarkov You're Looking For"

MW2 DMZ Review: "Not The Tarkov You're Looking For"
Images via Infinity Ward

Written by 

Harry Boulton

Posted 

23rd Nov 2022 17:22

Emerging among the rising interest in the Extraction Shooter genre is MW2 DMZ - Call of Duty's attempt at the genre following the overwhelming success of Warzone. Popularised by Escape From Tarkov, the Extraction Shooter genre is not too dissimilar to battle royales, only the end goal is to escape as opposed to victory. While it is undeniable that DMZ will give the genre its biggest stage yet, how successfully does it actually pull it off, and is it worth playing as an alternative to, or even replacement of its contemporaries? Find out down below.

The Tarkov Question

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To address the elephant in the room, it is technically unfair to compare DMZ to a game like Escape From Tarkov, as Infinity Ward themselves have made it clear that they do not want any comparisons to Battlestate Games' smash hit. However, many players are viewing DMZ as at least an alternative to Tarkov, and it is not exactly hard to see why.

Many of the tell-tale signs of an Extraction Shooter exist within DMZ - pre-determined spawns, AI opponents with tougher boss-like foes, loot, equipment lost upon death, and of course, the extractions themselves. The main argument against the comparison is through viewing DMZ as an extension of Warzone, considering it shares the same map, and a few of the same mechanics, but the similarities realistically end there.

As an avid Tarkov player though, it is undeniable that DMZ is attempting to replicate the Extraction Shooter mould, only perhaps within a more casual frame. One of the biggest barriers to enjoying a game like Escape From Tarkov is how hardcore and obtuse it is, so having an alternative within DMZ that allows players to jump straight in is hypothetically perfect for both new players wanting to try out the genre, and experienced players needing a break or something lighter. However, DMZ fails to capture so much of what makes the Extraction Shooter genre so unique, with it often failing to distinguish exactly which direction it wants to head down.

Searching For Tension

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Generally, the critical feature missing from every aspect of DMZ is tension, which manifests itself in many different forms, but largely revolves around the ever-impending fear of death. The tension that exists within Warzone for example is the pressure to survive - especially within the closing moments of a game - but without an explicit win condition in DMZ, you do have to search for the tension elsewhere.

The loot system is one of the areas I found the most trouble with, and the lack of importance and permanence to everything that you find unfortunately leaves DMZ devoid of intrigue. Any and all loot you find has a direct monetary value attached to it which - while helpful for cutting out the middle man - reduces everything that you find to its cash equivalent. And that would be fine to a certain extent, if the only use for cash was within each individual raid. Any unused money or loot is either (rightfully) lost upon death, or is morphed into XP at the point of extraction, leaving you with no real way to use it outside of the match that you found it in. 

This left looting to be a rather fruitless endeavour, a means to an end that left me with no sense of intrigue as to what I might find in the next crate, cache, or locker. Very few things gave me a higher heart rate in Escape From Tarkov than finding a rare quest item or high-value loot, and stressing wondering how to safely take it out of the raid with me. 

The one item type that somewhat has that feeling is the various keys that unlock containers or doors across the map. These are kept in your inventory between raids and lost upon death, and have the chance to give you high-value items. The trouble with the current loot system is that the 'desirable' items behind these doors are simply often just loot with a higher cash value.

Say Goodbye To Gear Fear

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Falling broadly under the same bracket as the loot is the equipment, but it tells a tale of a trickier balancing act. When building your DMZ loadout, you can choose between two different weapon types - Contraband, and Insured. Any weapon that you pick up in-raid is classified as a Contraband gun, which is non-customisable and lost upon death. Alternatively, you can build a weapon blueprint within the Insured section based on the various guns and attachments that you have unlocked, and that is only put on a two-hour cooldown if you die while wielding it.

This system is balanced between two rather conflicting frameworks, which both revolve around the feeling that losing your weapon upon death begets. On one hand, it removes the stress of losing your best weapons (otherwise known as gear fear), and ensures that you're more often than not going into a raid with a strong kit. It also removes any of the fiddly middle-management that turns a lot of people off of games like Escape From Tarkov, where your gun is just simply there and ready to go when you need it.

However, on the other hand, you're removing a big reason why there's so much tension surrounding death in games like Escape From Tarkov. You suddenly stop worrying about the consequences of death when you don't have a kit worth several hundreds of thousands strapped to your back. While people rightfully never want to lose their best gear, a big part of why surviving each raid is so satisfying in other extraction games is because of the financial weight of each kit.

There are no more stories of narrowly escaping with a fully kitted gun, or dropping someone with a cheap shotgun only to find that they have a meta kit worth more than your entire stash put together. It works well for people who might only have a few games to play each week, but will likely grow old quickly for anyone wanting to fully commit to the game, especially if they have migrated from other extraction shooters.

  • Get familiar with Al-Mazrah by having a read of our MW2 DMZ POIs guide.

Al Mazrah Adventures

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Moving on to the actual action within Al Mazrah, it is once again a bit of a mixed bag. To go with the good first, the extraction system is genuinely well executed, and perhaps the main source of tension within the new mode. In order to escape, players must head to one of the designated extraction zones on the map, and then patiently wait for a helicopter to arrive and ensure their survival.

The great thing about the extraction mechanic is that it is not limited to the player that calls it in, and almost invites other squads to hijack the proceedings. Not only can you intercept any players attempting to escape, as their intentions are made explicit through a flare, but you can also sneakily hop onto the wings or top of another player's helicopter, and fly away with them without making your presence known.

Unfortunately, most of your time in DMZ will be spent fighting the various hordes of AI enemies scattered across the map, whose behaviour ranges rapidly between completely inert and esports professional. It is almost laughable how you interact with the AI, where you can often walk right up to their faces while ADS and they won't even flinch, yet if you fire one bullet an entire army descends upon you. It is chiefly this that makes playing DMZ solo frankly pointless, as even skilled players can become so easily overwhelmed by the sheer amount of enemy forces that descend upon you.

Part of the reason why the AI often becomes so frustrating to deal with is due to the lack of encounters I had with other players. While this could be down to the fact that DMZ launched at the same time as Warzone 2, and it is understandable that the majority of the player base flocked over to that, but it also comes down to the size and direction of the map too.

DMZ unfortunately currently only has the one map that is shared with Warzone 2, and it is very clear that it has been made with a battle royale in mind. It is far too big to feel like you're actually using it properly in this mode, and while the radiation zone that expands gradually from the centre does help to shorten the space, it works to push the players out to the edges instead of to the centre like a battle royale would. Admittedly, PvP fights aren't the main focus of an extraction shooter, but you once again are left without the fear that there is someone around each corner, waiting to drop you and steal all of your gear. 

On the plus side, the gunplay is still the exact same from Modern Warfare 2, so it continues to feel, look, and sound fantastic. It also feels like the change of setting allows a wider variety of weapons and attachments compared to multiplayer, as you aren't restricted to the comparatively smaller maps that favour faster guns.

Performance Woes

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While I thankfully did not experience anything major myself, many players are reporting running into various bugs and also crashes on the more severe end too. From my own anecdotal perspective, I had no performance issues on PC, and didn't encounter a single crash, however, it is certainly something to consider, as the last thing you want is to be booted to your desktop just as the extraction helicopter is flying away. It is something that Infinity Ward will hopefully address in the near future though, especially considering the game is officially in beta and has only just come out.

Overall though, MW2 DMZ is a positively disappointing experience that finds itself in an identity crisis, not knowing whether it wants to be Escape From Tarkov or Warzone, and thus failing to do either. Hardcore Extraction Shooter players will be quickly bored by the shallow and inconsequential systems, whereas Warzone enthusiasts will miss the action and stakes of the battle royale format. If you're really looking to get into an extraction game, and have previously struggled to make a dent in any of the existing titles then DMZ might serve as a good stop-gap to get you familiar with the mechanics and style of play, but in its current state, it is missing far too much of what drives players to continue playing the other preexisting extraction-style titles.

5/10

Reviewed on PC.

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