The first time I entered Call of Duty: Warzone’s Gulag, I thought the mode had started immediately — yes, I just ignored all indications that I had to wait my turn. I saw a guy running next to me and chased after him. He wasn’t necessarily running away from me, or toward me. Just around me. I was excited that I had such an incompetent enemy to fight for my first trip to the Gulag, where I have to battle to get back into the Warzone match. I pummeled him, repeatedly, with my fists and just … didn’t stop. Until the screen went back and I actually entered the Gulag, the pit in the middle of the small Warzone map, and the real battle began.
Warzone is a new, free way to play Call of Duty, and, in a lot of ways, it’s like any other battle royale that’s playable right now — say, Fortnite, Apex Legends, or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. One hundred and fifty players are dropped into a large map with a shrinking playable area. There are a few ways to get yourself back into the game if you’re eliminated, like buying a teammate back or reviving them. But Warzone’s got something extra: the Gulag, where players linger with others until it’s their chance to face off against another foe in a one-on-one showdown. And it rules.
It’s absolutely the most interesting way to earn your entrance back into a battle royale game — and there’s some real strategy to it. If you end up at the Gulag with a fellow teammate, there’s a chance you’ll be able to influence their one-on-one: In the Gulag, you don’t just watch as others fight. You can throw rocks, too. Rocks sort of briefly stun people and do a tiny amount of damage — apparently enough to kill a low-enough-HP enemy. But that’ll help your teammate in a pinch, distracting them while you call out positioning. Any advantage, however small, is still an advantage.
Getting those advantages can also feel pretty goofy — because you’re throwing rocks or painting your enemies.
One Reddit user, CJLito, posted a clip of an expertly thrown rock. When the Gulag battler tossed out an explosive Claymore, CJLito started tossing rocks. One of those rocks hit, and CJLito exploded the other player. Apparently, the trick works for C4, too.
There’s another strategy players on Reddit have discovered: Forget punching, tag your enemies! Reddit user PublicWest1 posted a clip where they’re tagging others spectating with brightly colored sprays to make the enemy more visible in battle. It’s not a huge change, but any advantage is an advantage — if a yellow star on someone makes them a little easier to spot in a dark one-on-one Gulag battle, no reason not to use it.
The only problem is that if there are lots of folks queued up to battle in the Gulag, you’ll have to do a lot of spraying to ensure you get the player you’ll be up against. But, hey, it’s something to do!
All of the details of the Gulag — the small, strategic ways I can play inside it — make it one of the best improvements on the battle royale structure. Even with the gritty, realistic feel of Warzone — a stark contrast from Fornite’s colorful world — it has a silly sort of fight-club vibe that breaks up the intensity of the rest of the match. That’s at least until you get into your own one-on-one.
My initial reaction was that proximity voice chat should be added, so players could playfully taunt each other, but I quickly pulled back on that thought: The internet is the internet, and it’s terrible. Rock throwing — and now, tagging — really is the perfect compromise. Even if it’s not doing anything productive for you, it’s a way to up the pressure for others inside the Gulag. It just works.