If you‘re a gaming fan, you‘ve likely heard about Call of Duty – it‘s one of the most popular first-person shooter franchises ever with over 400 million total players. With each new annual release comes the inevitable question: can I play Call of Duty games for free?
The short answer is yes – the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone battle royale game is fully available without paying on Steam. But the longer answer depends on exactly which Call of Duty game you want to play, how you want to play it (single player vs. multiplayer), and what platform you‘re gaming on.
In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll cover everything you need to know about getting your Call of Duty fix for free or as cheaply as possible.
Free-to-Play Warzone – The Best Free Call of Duty Option
First, let‘s start with the uncomplicated good news – Call of Duty: Warzone is entirely free on all platforms, including Steam for PC.
Warzone initially launched in March 2020 as Activision‘s take on the explosively popular battle royale gaming genre dominated by titles like Fortnite and Apex Legends. It takes place in the same universe as 2019‘s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and brings together up to 150 players in a large map with randomized loot and ever-shrinking safe zones.
In November 2022, Warzone 2.0 launched as a sequel that evolves the Warzone experience with an all-new map, updated mechanics, and improved gameplay flow.
Importantly, both the original Warzone and the newly released Warzone 2.0 are completely free-to-play. You can download and start playing instantly without having to purchase anything.
This makes Warzone an appealing entry point for newcomers to the series who want to experience Call of Duty‘s polished FPS gameplay without a big upfront investment. It‘s also earned praise for successfully replicating the core Call of Duty "feel" within the battle royale format.
To quantify its popularity – as of April 2022, Warzone had seen over 125 million total players hop into matches, with an average of over 100,000 concurrent users at any given time. These are massive numbers that rival leading free-to-play titles like Fortnite.
Clearly, launching a fully free Call of Duty mode has paid off in spades for Activision by exposing new players to the franchise and cross-promoting paid content updates. Gaming industry analysts have highlighted Warzone as a case study in how to successfully execute free-to-play and battle royale models.
So in summary, if you want to sample Call of Duty gameplay at absolutely zero cost, Warzone and Warzone 2.0 are your best options currently available.
Accessing Warzone for Free on PC
If you‘re a PC gamer looking to play Warzone, the good news is that it‘s fully available on Steam in addition to Activision‘s Battle.net platform.
Here are the quick steps to get going:
Install Steam and create a free account if you don‘t already have one
Search for "Call of Duty: Warzone" on the Steam store page
Click install – the file size comes in at a very manageable 22.6 GB
Once installed, launch Warzone from your Steam library and enjoy! No purchase required.
The minimum PC specs needed to run Warzone are also quite reasonable and will work on most modern gaming PCs:
Minimum PC Specs for Warzone:
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 670 or AMD Radeon HD 7950
- CPU: Intel Core i3-4340 or AMD FX-6300
- RAM: 8 GB
- Storage: 22.6 GB
Provided your machine meets these baseline standards, you can jump into Warzone on Steam absolutely free right now!
What About Paid Call of Duty Games?
Now, the above covers Call of Duty‘s free-to-play Warzone mode – but what about the series‘ traditional paid entries like Modern Warfare, Black Ops, and Vanguard?
The truth is the vast majority of major Call of Duty releases remain paid games that require an upfront purchase, typically $59.99 at launch. This includes the most recent Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (2022).
So unfortunately, there is no way currently to play the full Modern Warfare II package for free. You‘ll need to buy the game first to access the story campaign and standard online multiplayer modes.
However, Activision has offered limited-time free access periods for some recent paid Call of Duty games as a way to promote new releases and let players preview content.
For example, free multiplayer weekends or weeks have been made available in the past for entries like Vanguard and Modern Warfare II. But these have always been temporary trials, not permanent free versions.
There‘s hope more extensive free demo periods could be offered in the future, but nothing concrete yet. For now, expect to have to pay if you want unhindered access to the latest entry.
Online Multiplayer Requires PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live
One extra complication if you do buy a paid Call of Duty game is that playing online multiplayer requires an added subscription on consoles.
Specifically, you‘ll need:
- PlayStation Plus on PlayStation consoles
- Xbox Live on Xbox consoles
This is because Sony and Microsoft charge recurring fees for accessing online multiplayer in paid games via their platform subscription services.
Thankfully, on PC you can play online for free even in paid Call of Duty titles through Battle.net, provided you own the base game. No added subscription needed there.
But on Xbox and PlayStation, be prepared for multiplayer in paid Call of Duty titles to come with an extra ongoing cost.
Recent Call of Duty Game Prices
If you decide to take the plunge and buy a recent entry in the series to get full access, here is a quick reference on current pricing:
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) – $59.99
- Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (2020) – $59.99
- Call of Duty: Vanguard (2021) – $39.99
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (2022) – $69.99
These prices tend to hold steady outside of periodic sales and discounts that may chop 10-30% off temporarily.
Given each game represents a full production cycle‘s worth of content, the pricing is on par with other major FPS franchises like Battlefield and Halo. Free-to-play Warzone provides a nice alternative for those unable or unwilling to pay a premium.
Gameplay Differences – Warzone vs. Paid Titles
Let‘s explore how the gameplay experience actually differs between free Warzone and paid, premium Call of Duty releases.
- Massive 150 player battle royale
- Single huge map with random loot
- Emphasis on survival
- Free access to weapons, gear, skins, etc.
- New seasonal content available for free
Paid Titles (e.g. Modern Warfare II, Black Ops Cold War)
- Traditional online 6v6 multiplayer
- Wide selection of maps & modes
- In-depth progression system
- Full story campaign
- Spec Ops cooperative missions
- Access to all gear/weapons/skins
- New maps and expansions paid DLC
There‘s certainly a wider array of content available in the paid games, including things like traditional team deathmatch, objective modes, a full story campaign, and Special Ops co-op not found in the Warzone games.
However, Warzone matches nicely mimic the core realism-focused Call of Duty multiplayer feel at their best – just on a larger scale with some added battle royale elements. The free model also means new maps, play modes, weapons, and in-game events are added regularly to keep things fresh.
So while paid Call of Duty entries offer greater depth and variety, Warzone provides a very solid standalone experience that captures much of that signature Call of Duty essence for free.
Warzone 2.0 – The Next Evolution of Free Call of Duty
As mentioned up top, Warzone recently got a major sequel in Warzone 2.0 that evolves the formula in some key ways:
- Brand new large map called Al Mazrah with fresh environments
- Overhauled inventory/loadout system
- New Gulag 1v1 redemption mode
- Improved vehicle handling and physics
- Enhanced movement, swimming, and traversal options
- Range of other gameplay refinements and quality of life changes
Early impressions from players and critics have been very positive, with many considering Warzone 2.0 a meaningful upgrade over its predecessor. It maintains everything that worked well while also feeling like a fresh restart.
Best of all, Warzone 2.0 carries forward the free-to-play model – you can download and dive in at no cost right now. Along with continued long-term support, it cements Warzone as the premier destination for free Call of Duty play for the foreseeable future.
The Bottom Line – Warzone Is the Best Free Call of Duty Option
At the end of the day, Call of Duty: Warzone and Warzone 2.0 offer the clearest and most accessible path for playing Call of Duty without paying anything. Given the level of quality and polish provided for free, it‘s an unbeatable value proposition.
Will you miss out on some content and modes found in premium titles? Sure. But there‘s still tremendous depth and fun to be had in Warzone, especially now with the extensive improvements in 2.0.
For a casual player just looking to sample the signature Call of Duty gunplay or a budget-conscious gamer unable to afford a $60-70 title, Warzone is the definitive free-to-play choice.
The same goes for anyone worried about getting stuck in a financial rut with paid DLC expansions or online subscription fees on consoles. Warzone lets you experience Call of Duty online completely free on any platform.
While the premium Call of Duty games provide even greater scope and variety for hardcore fans, Warzone removes all barriers to entry and delivers an outstanding FPS experience without nickel and diming you. Ultimately, it represents the series‘ future and most consumer-friendly option for enjoying Call of Duty in a free and accessible way.