'Kindly nerf that trash into oblivion': Call of Duty's latest 'pay-to-win' skin turns you into a Groot-like tree monster that blends into the background

 Call of duty groot skin.
Call of duty groot skin.

At least once a year, a new Call of Duty skins rolls into town looking to cause trouble. Arriving at the tail end of Modern Warfare 2's run and bleeding into last week's release of Modern Warfare 3 is Gaia, a premium skin on the Season 6 battle pass that transforms your operator into a humanoid plant monster. You get Groot-ified, essentially, and players are arguing it's an unfair advantage.

I'm inclined to agree. Groots are popping up in darn near every MW3 match I play, and I doubt coolness is the only reason it's so popular. Depending on the map, the Gaia's see-through gaps, dark brown color and orange accents create the perfect camouflage.

The effect is the most noticeable on maps like Wasteland and Estate, which feature lots of grass and fall leaves, but the advantage extends to indoor arenas with dark corners.

Interestingly, Activision has already addressed the "Groot curse" once during Season 6. Back in mid-October, the skin was patched in MW2 and Warzone to "improve visibility compensation" and "add VFX to base skin that reflects the same level of visibility as BlackCell skin." Maybe the patch helped, but to my eye the current skin is still very close to how it was presented at launch. Tweaks certainly haven't gone far enough for the community.

"The Groot curse has officially passed to MWIII and it's hasn't been even a day," wrote Reddit user marwenbhj on MW3 launch day.

The proliferation of Groots as the new "pay-to-win" operator has been one of the most common and upvoted topics on both the Warzone and Modern Warfare 3 subreddits. I've seen a few top-voted posts that challenge readers to spot the Groot in the attached screenshot (tip: they're always in hiding in the plant) and many, many more general cries for a nerf. The whole Groot-roversy will feel familiar to CoD fans who lived through the dominant days of the all-black Roze skin in the original Warzone and Modern Warfare 2019. Activision did eventually improve the visibility of that skin, too, but not before it lived a full life as the default loadout among the sweatiest CoD players.

In fact, the "premium skin as effective camouflage" has become a somewhat regular thing in CoD. Last year, it was a Call of Duty League skin with an all-black outfit. Long before that, it was a variant of an existing operator wearing a full ghillie suit. It's an interesting problem that keeps cropping up for Activision's CoD division: the studios understandably want to create a huge variety of cosmetics that add value to its premium store and battle passes just like any other live service shooter, but they keep grinding against Call of Duty's realistic art style.

It's not a problem that Fortnite shares thanks to its cartoony style, nor is it for shooters that paint enemy models with unmissable outlines, like Overwatch 2 and Halo Infinite.

Call of Duty's stewards for 2024, Sledgehammer Games, may deem it necessary to update the Gaia skin again, though I doubt that'll happen before the end of Season 6 in early December—in other words, when the popular skin goes off sale.