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While changes to Verdansk and the new Outbreak mode may be the headline additions in Black Ops Cold War & Warzone Season Two, the update brought radical changes to Rebirth. Out of all of the modes released for Call of Duty in the last year, Rebirth is my firm favourite and the new Extreme mode has ruined it.
Rebirth is like a mini battle royale. It takes place on a much smaller island than Warzone's Verdansk map, which means games are quicker and it's much easier to learn the ins and outs of the whole island. It also has a more forgiving death mechanic: so long as one of your squadmates is alive, when you die you will automatically respawn back into the game after 30 seconds. Like in Warzone, you win by being the last team alive, but there's more of a focus on wiping out enemy squads to thin out the number of players respawning into the game.
Rebirth Extreme, on paper, takes all that and simply dials up the action. The player cap has been increased and the respawn counter has been turned down. More players means more action which means more fun, right?
Rebirth's original respawn mechanic gave the mode an excellent tactical pressure on pushing and falling back. So long as one of your squadmates was alive, you'd respawn after 30 seconds. That timer could be reduced if your team got kills while you were waiting on a respawn. This meant that there was often a decisive moment in combat where some of your teammates were dead and you had to either commit to the attack and try to wipe out the enemy squad or run from the encounter to survive long enough for your friends to spawn back in.
In Rebirth Extreme, that tension is gone entirely. There are so many players and the respawn timer is so short, that there's rarely a need to decide. For one, the map is now thick with combat - there's no direction to run where you won't just stumble into another fight. So running away is likely not to pay off. There's also less need for it because your teammates will be back in the fight in seconds.
It also takes the reward of pushing on a combat encounter away. It's much, much harder to get a team wipe. You need to take out all three players on the enemy team within seconds of each other to make sure none of them respawn back in - because if just one of them is parachuting back to the map, they'll have enough time on their descent to respawn their whole squad.
This leads to a strange and unsatisfying loop where I'd be fighting over the same building, against the same squad, over and over. They wouldn't wipe all of us out, we wouldn't wipe all of them out, and we were determined to keep going back to try and get revenge. There was no definitive end to that particular fight.
Team wipes aren't just satisfying, they're necessary for the lifecycle of a round. The more teams that are active in Rebirth, the less equipment and ammo there is to spare. A problem that was rare in the original mode is now really common: running out of ammo. Frequently I'd find myself with less than a full clip in either of my guns. This means that coming across an enemy squad is often a death sentence because, even if you can down two of the other players, there just isn't enough ammo to down all three - especially if they're armoured up. The one saving grace is that most players are in the same boat, so by the mid-game there's a whole host of players just punching each other to death.
It's particularly frustrating because Rebirth inhabited a sweet spot between traditional Call of Duty multiplayer and Warzone. Call of Duty's multiplayer is hectic and mobile. Death is cheap, but you'll respawn back in so quickly it's only a momentary frustration, and the maps are small enough that it's good to always be on the move. In contrast, Warzone makes death pricey. You have a free shot at respawning by fighting in The Gulag, but if you die there then you're stuck watching your teammates try and get the money together to spawn you back in. Sometimes you can spend 10 minutes watching another player's screen as they quietly sneak between buildings to find cash, only for them to get killed as soon as they head to a buy station. That pain encourages you to play slowly, cautiously, and decisively - only pushing on an enemy squad when you can win.
Rebirth was like a perfect training ground for Warzone players to get a taste for traditional multiplayer and vice versa. It took the best bits of both modes - the faster action, the large open map, the focus on small team cooperation, and the more decisive tactical play - and made something unique. Extreme unbalances all of that, and I can only hope that it's a temporary mode - otherwise Season Two may have killed off the best thing added to Warzone since it launched last year.
Featured Image Credit: Activision
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