As far as I’m concerned, Call of Duty’s new DMZ mode isn’t just CoD’s best game type, it’s one of the best shooter game modes I’ve played in years. It’s the familiar rush of a good shooter with great, roaming tactics that demand smart and reactive planning. But recent adjustments to the AI in this hybrid PvPvE game mode are quickly souring the experience for those of us trying to play with friends or, god help you, solo.
DMZ, which premiered along with Warzone 2.0, is an open world game mode that uses the Al Mazrah battle royale map as a large space to gather loot, complete objectives, and get into skirmishes with AI and other players. It shares much in common with games like Escape from Tarkov or even The Division’s Dark Zone area. At its best, the unpredictable combination of 66 players trying to complete their own objectives, and hostile AI scattered throughout the map, leads to unpredictable, emergent moments of gameplay that afford you a ton of freedom in terms of how you wish to survive, fight, loot, and exfiltrate. The whole point of the mode is to survive with better loot than you came in with so you can use your fun new toys in future matches. Die, and you lose all of that progress you had on you. The premise of the mode itself is difficult, but the hostile AI, however, is making the mode simply fucking miserable and humiliating.
“I had 3 armor agent bots stand over my body while I was self revivin to just empty a clip on me,” reads one reply to a top tweet of a meme calling out the high difficulty of the AI after a recent update. “I was waiting for them to post me on the gram with how they did me.”
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Without a doubt, the aggressiveness of the bots in this mode is simply off the charts, making them far more intimidating than other players. “Why are the AI better than the players in DMZ??” streamer Jazzberry tweets out. But it’s not just due to a sharp aim and an ability to spot you from a distance that is more absurd than classic stealth games where AI couldn’t see three feet in front of them. The AI exhibits behavior that destroys any level of immersion and, honestly, fun. Check this shit out:
Whether you’re on the train that orbits the map or not, the AI exhibits a level of awareness of where you are and the capacity to shoot through walls that makes it almost impossible to respond. You can literally hide in a fully covered train car with no lines of sight, and bullets will start flying through the walls. I’ve stopped trying to loot the train entirely because of this. Combined with their ability to respawn so fast as to make clearing out a base feel completely worthless and the constant recurrence of AI floating in the air, it feels like playing against someone who’s running aimbots and other hacks.
When you consider the fact that dying in this game mode means you’ve lost all your gear, these kinds of crushing, unexplainable moments of near instadeath make it profoundly frustrating.
Sometimes it’s like you need to be able to shoot, reload, and replate all at once in order to even stand a chance, and this doesn’t just happen in the map’s most dangerous areas. Looting a seemingly irrelevant building will sometimes trigger waves of fully plated AI, with backup descending from unstoppable helicopters, that outpace and outnumber you to absurd degrees. It’s even worse now that armor-piercing ammo doesn’t, um, pierce armor anymore.
But the conversation deserves nuance because, for those who are enjoying the mode, a straight nerf across the board risks throwing off the genuine challenge that many, myself included, come to the game for. Right now, that balance is too heavily tipped in favor of the AI, who are difficult to a broken degree.
When you lose two-thirds of your armor the second you’re spotted, and you’ve unloaded countless amounts of ammo that break any claim of difficulty due to “realism,” it’s hard to rise to that challenge when you’re playing against forces who can infinitely out think and outmaneuver our soft, analog human brains.