There’s something uniquely satisfying about winning a game of Warzone in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Boasting generally engaging gameplay (except when people just refuse to leave the top of skyscrapers), there’s a solid balance of skill and excitement that keeps the battle royale mode from feeling stale. Yet the potential to claim the number one spot is not what makes me want to become a better player. It’s the three seconds after I kill another player that drives me to improve my accuracy, game sense, and skill.
When someone dies in Warzone you get to hear that opponent for a brief moment before they’re abruptly cut off. This is a feature in other, similar games, but there’s something so exquisite about its implementation in Call of Duty. Due to the brief nature of proximity chat, it often cuts out right after you get just the general idea of their reaction. There’s no way to hear an opponent in a game of Warzone outside of killing them, which makes every victory feel, in some manner, uniquely personal.
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It also helps that only the person who actually delivers the final shot gets to hear their foe yell in disbelief. That’s typically followed by an elongated “Brooooooooooooooo!” for dramatic effect. No one else in your squad gets to hear the death knell. You need to work for your snippet of laughable gamer shouting. Dropping someone in The Gulag with a well-placed shot, or picking them off with a sniper rifle from 300 meters — only to hear a loud scream of anger — is so goddamn satisfying. Sure, this a textbook example of schadenfreude, but after being beaten by people hiding on top of buildings hundreds of times, I deserve a little enjoyment out of their consequence-free misery.
Unsurprisingly, stitching together clips of Warzone proximity chat has become a cottage industry. Reddit and YouTube are filled with montages of it. One user who goes by “The Serpent” hosts multiple highlight reels of these nuggets of rage that bring in hundreds of thousands of views a pop. It’s not an elegant or particularly innovative type of comedy, but it’s one that most people who play competitive online games know all too well. We’ve all been there, yelling in frustration because we were outplayed or made a stupid mistake. Even if you will do everything in your power to not admit it.
Proximity chat can also be a surprisingly effective tool, too. It often lets you know if the other person is relaying your position. Death is abrupt and swift, but sometimes you’ll catch enemies discussing their positions or calling out a target. It’s a great way to gain an advantage in a fight! That’s especially true if you manage to surprise someone. This feature has saved my digital bacon, or allowed me to secure additional kills because a foe relayed critical information — directly to me. This is a little rarer, though. Mostly people just yell a string of expletives before vanishing into the ether.
Personally, I could care less about actually coming in first in Warzone. I just want to win more individual firefights with opponents. That small interjection of comedy into a game that’s often incredibly tense keeps me coming back to Warzone. Their very, very loud virtual dog tags highlight my growth as a player that no one else can take from me. Well… until someone kills me and hears my shouting through their headset.