Call of Duty: Warzone finally got a new map today. No, not another 1980s remix of an old map or a second Rebirth Island—Caldera is a new, sprawling map that's around the same size as Verdansk (but maybe a bit smaller). Early screenshots of Caldera shared by Activision tempted me back to Warzone after a long break. The island's bright green palm trees and saturated blue sky looked like a major departure from Verdansk '84's drab skyscrapers and pukey green skybox. Activision calls it a “paradise.” Except, after a few hours spent running and flying across Caldera, I'm wondering where the heck all that color went.
Like seriously, am I missing something, or does Caldera look as washed out and bland as Warzone always has? Either Activision played with some attractive post-processing filters when it took these promotional screenshots, or something is very wrong with my settings.
As far as I can tell from watching other people's streams, this is just what Caldera looks like, and that's pretty disappointing. I'm glad Raven Software swung for a map style that's significantly different from what came before, but why does Warzone continue to be so afraid of color?
To be fair, I thought Warzone's washed-out look worked when it launched in 2020 with the first version of Verdansk. Its lack of color actually stood out when compared to Fortnite's saturated barrage. The style also worked very well in Modern Warfare (the game that still serves as Warzone's framework) because that game only ever strived to render concrete and shiny metal, not a tropical island in the Pacific ocean.
Warzone's art style didn't really bother me until the arrival of Verdansk '84 earlier this year, which had some deeper greens and but still looked like a world that all the vibrancy had been sucked out of.
Lots of players didn't like Verdansk's visual update either, going as far as to utilize Nvidia's built-in color filters to increase the saturation and brighten up dark corners for an advantage in firefights. The filters are popular enough that some of the biggest Call of Duty influencers promote their official filter settings. The settings that I've tried still end up looking pretty ugly (especially if you're mainly in it to overexpose dark corners).
Unfortunately, it seems like we're in a similar boat with Caldera that we were with Verdansk '84. The 'lush' island paradise is a bit bland, and that's unlikely to change.
Maybe the Modern Warfare engine is already showing its age a bit—it was built with last-gen hardware in mind, after all. It also doesn't help that I've been playing a lot of Battlefield 2042. That's a very pretty game with its own map problems, but color isn't one of them. I can't run Battlefield nearly as well as Warzone, but I do appreciate how cool it feels to get sucked up in a dry desert tornado and spat back out on a patch of deep green grass.
I did manage to saturate Warzone's colors a bit by cranking the brightness way lower than advised. Caldera looked better than ever as I hopped out of the plane! Then I stepped into a building and saw… well, nothing.
I still consider Caldera a step up from Verdansk. Its points of interest are far more distinct and, so far, fun to look at. There's also a big volcano in the middle that can be seen from anywhere on the map, which is always a nice touch.
I've had a great time flying the new fighter planes, but it's a shame those will only be available in the Vanguard Royale mode that locks you to WW2 guns. I've also encountered some annoying bugs, worst of all being choppy audio that cuts out whenever something loud happens (so all the time). We've identified the biggest Warzone Pacific bugs at launch and noted a few possible solutions if you're running into similar trouble.