Review: Call of Duty: Vanguard

Call of Duty number 18 is called Vanguard and is set in World War II. This time in the hands of Sledgehammer Games, the same studio as the previous Call of Duty game with a World War II theme: WWII.

Unlike last year's Black Ops Cold War, Vanguard does use the revamped Call of Duty Engine that was used with the Modern Warfare 2019 reboot. This means that some features from that game are also present in Vanguard. Tactical Sprint is back and you can mount your weapon, but Vanguard introduces a number of new features that are new to the Call of Duty formula.

Welcome to the Bloody First

The story in Call of Duty Vanguard is set in World War II, but it is not a sequel to the previous title from Sledgehammer Games. The story revolves around a group of elite soldiers who are on a mission together. You play this mission together at the very beginning of the game and at the end of the game. After the first mission you look back to the past in a time when the group is not yet together. You then play as the individuals where you get an idea where they come from, their personality, expertise and role in the war. The cast is quite diverse, so you play in many different locations during this shooter. For example, the game takes place in the streets of Stalingrad, the beach of Normandy, but also the deserts of El Alamein and even in the jungle of the Solomon Islands on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

With each character you play a number of missions that differ greatly not only in terms of location, but also in play style. As usual, this Call of Duty also has a number of missions that throw some other ingredients into the mix. For example, you fly in a fighter plane between a gigantic fleet to bomb aircraft carriers, but there are also missions in which you have to get to the other side silently. Often it is even an option and you can also choose to go into battle with guns blazing.

During the story, Vanguard introduces a new feature for the Call of Duty franchise. Namely destroying certain wooden surfaces. With this you create openings to shoot through, or new paths to walk. It's not a huge game changer, but actually a natural continuation of the bullet penetration we've come to expect from the franchise for years. From now on you can also shoot or smash parts of walls, windows and floors to make for a slightly more dynamic playing field.

Shallow waters

Despite the many variation in the campaign in terms of cast, areas and gameplay, Vanguard doesn't get enough screen time to offer any depth. Each unique area shows itself for half an hour to an hour before you go to the next mission with a different character. The story stretches for about 4 to 5 hours during which you don't really feel any connection with one or more characters.

Sledgehammer did this a little better in their previous campaign, giving it a really neat 'Brothers-in-Arms' feel and sort of putting him in place of Daniels, Zussman and Pierson . The characters in Vanguard are not memorable. The only name I can remember is Polina, the Russian sniper goddess played by Laura Bailey (she's really bad-ass), and I can somewhat recall the Australian version of Tom Cruise. It's such a shame because the campaign plays well and puts down nice set pieces to roam around as a player.

With Call of Duty as your source material for World War II, you may be getting a distorted view of reality. The Nazis are the bad guys (duh), but this campaign doesn't address the horrors of WWII either. WWII briefly touched on the sensitive side of the war with a destroyed labor camp in the very last mission, but Vanguard doesn't show why after so many years we are still very careful about raising topics related to World War II. Partly the reason why the infamous Nazi symbol is shown as little as possible.

Activision has a kind of alternative version of the situation in which we lean more towards the fanciful side of the story. For example, the 'Dark Aether' concept is briefly held up to the light and the relationship is made with the Zombies mode.

multiplayer

What it's all about in Call of Duty is ultimately just the multiplayer mode. With 20 maps at launch, this is one of the most varied titles in years. The multiplayer mode is also quite nice. It's actually what you can expect from a Call of Duty title. It does play a lot faster than, for example, the previous title: Black Ops Cold War . The TTK (Time-To-Kill) is instinctively a lot lower in Vanguard. In my opinion, the weapons don't feel varied enough to make a strategic choice. The time to kill someone is so damn low that it's a matter of who shoots first and no longer a matter of who is better and who has a faster reflex. Because there is simply no time to react if you are being shot at. A Call of Duty with a fast pace. This seems to be the favorite of many loyal Call of Duy fans. Personally, I'm more of a fan of the gameplay in Black Ops Cold War, but to each his own of course.

what's new?

Vanguard's multiplayer also brings some changes to the Call of Duty formula. For example, we see two new game types appearing, one of which tends more towards the competitive Esport side. Then I'm talking about the Champion-Hill mode. In this mode a number of teams play against each other with 2 or 3 players. Each team has a certain number of lives and each time you compete against another team in a medium sized arena in quick rounds of (from my head) 2 or 3 minutes. Money plays a part in this fashion. Money is used to upgrade or buy weapon, to buy Perks, utilities or UAV. You always play against a different team and each team continues to play until they have no more lives.

The mode itself plays nicely, but is really meant for team play with friends. While playing with random people 9 times out of 10 I got saddled alone against a premade team and you are bound to lose that. Champion Hill plays a lot slower than your traditional Call of Duty multiplayer matches. A nice fashion to change the tempo with.

A new fashion that I am actually much more a fan of is the Patrol mode. This is also a new mode and it is actually a kind of moving Hardpoint. A plane moves through the map at its own will and the team that covers it gets the points. This mode ensures that every map is played in every nook and cranny. The high-traffic areas are defined by the moving control point and it's just such an awesome chaos in this mode.

Pace, pace!

Just like in the campaign, the multiplayer maps in Vanguard also have destructible walls, windows and floors. Mm to provide a little more dynamics while playing. Another thing that brings a new dynamic is the introduction of Combat Pacing . This feature actually determines how many players can be in a round. There are three different options: Tactical , Asault and Blitz . In Tactical, you play in traditional 6v6 formations. Assault is somewhere in between with rounds of up to 12v12, but in Blitz, up to 48 players can play in one map.

Because of this, there are also a number of larger maps in Vanguard that are actually the best of the entire multiplayer mode. Even with small groups of players. It gives you a lot more freedom in your actions and gives me a lot of Modern Warfare 2 and even Old School Medal of Honor vibes. Much more freedom than the traditional three-lane map design where every round feels exactly the same. There's a lot more vertical gameplay, something Sledgehammer's previous Call of Duty sorely missed. In this respect, this multiplayer mode is a huge improvement for Sledgehammer.

Nazi Zombies

Last and definitely least, the Zombies mode. Unlike the campaign and multiplayer mode, this time the zombies mode is from Treyarch. The same studio that developed Black Ops Cold War. And this time has its pros and cons. The Zombies mode from WWII was anything but noteworthy. But if you're expecting a delightful Zombies mode at the launch of Vanguard, I've got some bad news. There is only one zombies mode in Vanguard at the moment and that is Der Anfang . This mode moves players to a multiplayer map with portals to segments of other multiplayer maps. Here players always perform the same 3 tasks. There is no Easter Egg and there is a Story Mode for Zombies at the launch of Call of Duty: Vanguard.

Somewhat logical since Treyarch has still developed content for Cold War until the release of Vanguard. So for now you have to make do with a diluted version of the Outbreak mode like it is in Cold War. Unlike the one in Cold War, this variant is extremely boring and repetitive in Vanguard. In December this mode will be completed with new tasks and weapons, but at the moment it is not the Zombies experience you expect. If you're waiting for a Story Mode for the Zombies mode, you'll have to wait a few more months. This one is only planned for the first quarter of 2022. So are you a fan of Treyarch zombies? Stick to Black Ops Cold War for now.

Verdict

Call of Duty Vanguard is not a bad game, but it is certainly not the best the series has seen. The campaign mode is very short, lacks depth and is quickly forgotten. I know this mode has been played the least, but I still look forward to a Call of Duty Campaign every time, especially after the gruesome campaign of Black ops Cold War . The Zombies mode is really laughable at the moment and not even worth mentioning. Check back in a few months if you're interested. What it's all about in the end: The multiplayer. Fair is fair: This one plays well, is fluent, is fast, but also frustrating at times. Like every Call of Duty launch, Vanguard also struggles with spawn locations and there are still some technical defects here and there.

Still, Vanguard brings some refreshments to the formula with some new game modes and the introduction of Combat Pacing and much better maps than we've seen in Sledgehammer's previous works. Because of this I still hang around for a few games of Call of Duty Vanguard here and there.

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