I’m not sure what it was about 1988 action movie Die Hard that made me think Nakatomi Plaza would be peaceful, especially in the kill or be killed world of Call of Duty: Warzone. But, as a sucker for a bit of tourism, that’s where I tried to land during my first game of Power Grab.
Needless to say, moments after landing on the faithfully recreated skyscraper now parked in the middle of Verdansk, I died. Nearly instantly. In “Power Grab”, Warzone’s newest time-limited mode, everyone gets a free respawn. So, I respawned and landed on the tower again, quickly racking up a second death. Rinse, repeat.
Power Grab, it turns out, is Warzone on speed. Power Grab is video game thrash-metal. Power Grab is a plane full of stone-cold killers jumping out not with the puny handgun of the more traditional game modes, but with machine pistols, engaging in parachute-assisted aerial dogfights before fighting to the death for every last scrap of loot on the ground.
Players can grab dog tags from fallen enemies to get powerful rewards, with each tag giving them a different ability – from a UAV or Cluster Strike – and not only can you respawn upon death if you have a respawn token, you won’t lose your weapons. And you can carry four weapons, too, presumably looking like Arnie in Commando as you run into battle.
The mode cuts the Gulag and removes the game’s loadout drops, eliminating second chances and the opportunity of grabbing your precisely-constructed meta weaponry to dominate the end of the game.
Put all of these things together and it feels like playing a battle royale with the tempo cranked up. And it is exactly what the tired-feeling Warzone needed after an underwhelming Verdansk ‘84 launch. It’s a shot in the arm to remedy the stale gameplay that feels a little tired alongside Fortnite’s constant chop and change and the continual seismic shifts that punctuate Apex Legends.
Fights start much faster in Power Grab due to the reduced map size, and because you’re getting stuck into fights sooner instead of looting up, these brawls feel scrappier and harder fought. Meanwhile, players are discouraged from long-range combat, because while it gives you the benefit of removing a threat, popping an enemy at 200 metres leaves no clear path to claiming their precious dog tag, and the power spike that that bestows. Short- to mid-range combat is back. And I love it.
As a result, enemies surge towards each other, and you are often not just the third party in a fight, but the fourth – or even fifth. No sooner have you hit a jeep with a rocket than the players surging out have been sprayed down by a previously unseen machine gunner on a far away roof.
It’s the polar opposite of Rebirth, a time-honoured Warzone mode that lets your squad respawn on you if you survive till the timer runs down. Rebirth, which pops up again and again and sees the sky filled with returning enemies, encourages defensive play. Power Grab is all offence, getting players to push relentlessly.
This is never more true than in the final circle, which marks an impossibly small zone onto the map — small enough that I said in a very nervous voice “the gas won’t get that small, will it?” – before a flag was dropped on the point with a helicopter waiting above. If you can capture the point, you get the victory. Everyone else still alive at this point is, understandably, not that keen on this outcome, so a huge firefight often kicks off.
I’m famously terrible at Warzone, and mostly keep playing because of the loose acquaintances that have coalesced around a Whatsapp group to play it nearly every night, but Power Grab feels like a necessary rethink to the battle royale formula that makes the game feel intense and exciting. I hope developers Raven Software realise what they have and keep it around long-term.