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Why Warzone’s Iron Trials mode could be a really big deal

For those who love competitive Warzone, Iron Trials could indicate that good times are ahead

An operator in black sunglasses and a white suit shouts and fires an assault rifle. A house explodes on the background

Streamers and tournament organisers are experimenting more and more with formats for Warzone competitions to keep things fresh in an otherwise stale competitive landscape – and it appears that Activision is catching on.

Last week, it partnered with streamer and Warzone tournament regular Zack ‘ZLaner’ Lane for an ambitious $50,000 tournament that looks to ban anti-competitive weapons and field upgrades.  Just a few days later, and Activision has revealed details of a brand new Warzone mode in the Season 5 Reloaded roadmap that could spell good things for competitive Warzone.

As part of Season 5 Reloaded, a new mode called Iron Trials will drop. This mode is billed as a gauntlet for only the most skilled players, with a bespoke reward – a unique calling card – issued only after you win an Iron Trials game. As is eloquently put in Activision’s blog post: “There’s no participation trophy for this mode, soldier.”

While the sentiment of catering to the highest-skilled players itself is encouraging, the way the mode works is even more so. Iron Trials looks to completely shakeup Warzone gameplay by changing loadout drops, buy station prices, health and health regeneration, and even upping the skill-level required to win a Gulag (something I have long wished for in Warzone).

While the exact set of customised rules probably wouldn’t mirror a competitive player’s vision for an ideal ruleset, it does show that, behind the scenes, Activision and developer Raven Software appear to have more tools to change the competitive focus of the game. Plus, there is an increased willingness to shift away from the standard tropes of Warzone.

So what does that mean for the competitive community? At the very least, it means we could be seeing more of these high-skill modes enter the Warzone playlist, which could provide lots of opportunities for content and freshen up the standard stream of third-party tournaments. An Iron Trials tournament sounds a lot more intriguing to me right now than your bread and butter formats that take place in the standard modes.

It also suggests that one of the competitive community’s most hotly requested features is on the way: custom lobby settings.

ZLaner’s exciting-sounding tournament looks to do away with overpowered or low-skill weapons such as shotguns and anti-competitive aspects like Dead Silence – but this has to be manually enforced. There is no way to simply turn off the ability to use Dead Silence – you just have to trust that competitors will remember to not pick it up when they see it, which is harder than it sounds when you’re used to using it often.

It’s a bit like a tennis match with no net, but asking both players if they wouldn’t mind ensuring their shots stay above three foot high as if it were there.

Both ZLaner and the likes of Thomas ‘Tommey’ Trewren have called for custom lobby settings to be added to Warzone in recent days. With Iron Trials showing that aspects such as health, loot pools, loadout drops, and more can be altered, this hopefully means that at some point in the near future this ability will be passed on to the players for use in custom lobbies as well.

Even putting competitive desires to one side, this might be a crucial feature to add in terms of retaining casual players and content creators too, considering the seemingly endless possibilities Battlefield 2042’s Portal mode will offer. Warzone needs custom lobby settings, alongside easier methods of finding and joining those lobbies, to try and rival the freedom Portal boasts. Considering this, Iron Trials could be something of a test run to see how changing the parameters of Warzone plays out.

Whether Iron Trials turns out to be a great individual mode or not, the precedent being set has me optimistic that the tools to create lobbies that will strengthen competitive gameplay are on the way. Even if they aren’t, hopefully Iron Trials will be a popular experiment that leads to the shake up of the now stale Warzone format in seasons to come.