DMZ is not Escape from Tarkov and that's okay

I never believed that DMZ could be Call of Duty's answer to Escape from Tarkov, nor that basing your game loop on "shoot-take-loot-exfiltrate" would make a game a copy of Escape from Tarkov. Actually, first time I tried DMZ I felt like I was playing a quieter version of Warzone, less focused on PvP and nothing more. A game in which to explore the map, occasionally engaging small groups of enemies, or following a mission just to see where it would take me; all this without worrying too much about losing who knows what hard-won progress.

It's strange to say for a loot-based game, but I didn't feel much pressure to lose what I won. It may seem like a flaw, after all the goal of the game should be to make me fight tooth and nail to bring home the loot, but it takes very little to throw yourself back into the fray and start again in total lightness that one game leads to another. The time to regain access to custom equipment flies between some faction missions, conquering a SAM site or reaching the desired level for your weapon. All of this describes just the opposite of how Escape from Tarkov makes me feel and how I approach it. And that's okay.

The commitment required by Escape from Tarkov, however, is a lot and extends above all over time. It takes dedication to master all while playing systems Sometimes you just want to have a casual evening with friends. In this regard, DMZ is a valid alternative, much more compelling than the Hazard Zone mode of Battlefield 2042 to mention another game that has tried to set up a game loop based on object recovery and final extraction. As I mentioned before, I really appreciate the whole management and preparation phase of Escape from Tarkov, in DMZ, on the other hand, I don't even need to think too much about which equipment to bring with me. I take what I would normally use for a multiplayer game, or nothing, and catapult myself into Al Mazrah.

There are so many on the map many missions and points of interest that each team is committed to following its path and often you don't even meet other players on their path. Sometimes the clashes are more like road accidents than real manhunts. I opened a door to exit a building and was faced with a team of players who had just stepped out of a helicopter. That's when I knew it was over before even firing a shot. Patience I said to myself, let's start another one.

In the DMZ you can choose to be more careful, use the ping system to mark areas to bypass, but you can even afford the luxury of messing around a bit as you storm a stronghold without necessarily being penalized. You can choose what kind of player you want to be and what to do in any order you like, without really letting the game care about a pace or style of play. I think this aspect, along with the ease with which you can play and jump back into the action, is among the elements that convinced my friends, and other players like them, to give DMZ a chance.

DMZ is just getting started

The game is certainly not perfectindeed, at present the variety of activities to do is quickly exhausted because the types of missions on the map tend to repeat themselves, moreover the faction missions are what in an RPG or MMO we would define as fetch quests. Rarely are these challenging missions that go beyond collecting a set number of items. If there were more dynamic events triggered by player actions it would really feel like a more alive world, something beyond the arrival of reinforcements in response to suspicious activity in the area.

Without sacrificing how easy it is to play DMZ, there is one Escape from Tarkov system that CoD could take inspiration from: the day/night cycle. It doesn't have to be as realistic as possible and tied to the user's system time, but alternating between day and night may affect visibility on the map or presence of troops to give that extra touch of liveliness. There are already co-op and campaign missions set at night, as was already experienced in multiplayer with playlists on night maps.

In this microcosm of activity there would be some NPCs, perhaps related to the different factions. This could help improve the narrative aspect of the DMZ as well. The NPCs would allow the narrative line to progress from time to time, or more simply they could be destined for trade, new missions or the unlocking of new areas. We know that the team is hard at work finding new ways to leverage the money and items collected during a game and based on my experience with the game, what I suffer most from is precisely the absence of broader load management after an exfiltration.

One of the most satisfying aspects of this type of game is also seeing your stash grow, it's also a way to measure your progress. Given that Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 introduced a large number of accessories that can also be shared between castles, I found it a bit limiting not having also included accessories as part of the loot. There are so many objects that are almost useless at present and they are only used to get money or fulfill some mission. NPCs, for example, could be integrated outside of Al Mazrah as if they were normal vendors, accessible when in the pre-game setup hub and with whom to trade resources.

This feature list is more like a wish list that will probably never be made a reality, but DMZ has potential. There are tons of possibilities that developers could consider and seize for make DMZ a game mode that evolves over time, which gradually introduces some new system without upsetting too much a direct game structure, easy to understand and to master.

There are games that are born with the intention of putting us in front of intense challenges, if not almost extreme, and pushing your limits is part of the experience. Others like Hunt: Showdown, to name another survival-based game, push you to work as a team for a common goal, in a hostile environment and with all the difficulties of a shooting system designed to make you think before shooting.

Each has its own rules, its audience, its own characteristic charm and rightly so. No need for DMZ to look more like Tarkov, but only that it continues to be Call of Duty, perhaps opening up to new possibilities. One of the priorities before expanding, is to absolutely fix the stability and netcode issues. When I reviewed Modern Warfare II on PS5 I didn't encounter any major obstacles (apart from the crashes and glitches highlighted in the review) nor did I encounter any problems after the launch of Season 1 (just on the first day the servers opened but that was to be expected).

Turning to PC gaming recently I have to say that the experience has been truly frustrating. I've completed very few games of DMZ because I've been experiencing constant crashes. Sometimes the game crashes even before entering the game, during the loading phases, but without the possibility of reuniting with my companions I have to abandon them to their fate. Sometimes the crashes happen mid-game and are the most annoying because I have to say goodbye to a good game. Finally, out of exhaustion, I decided to uninstall the game after yet another random restart of the pc. I will return to play on PS5 and hope that over the seasons DMZ can grow and become an even more engaging game.

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