The newest entry into the Call of Duty franchise is here and we are going back in time to WW2. Again. Call of Duty Vanguard, Sledgehammer’s most recent Call of Duty game, takes us back to the past once again and the experience for me is very mixed.
I haven’t been into a Call of Duty game for a long while, due to a repetitive gameplay cycle and other games taking my interest. I am not saying the games are bad, and there have been many points over the years that I have enjoyed. With an improvement to campaigns and stories, and the Zombies mode remaining to be an entertaining game mode.
And I am going to say right now that Call of Duty Vanguard doesn’t do much to change my mind. The gameplay loop still feels rather familiar and follows the same pattern set by Call of Duty games over the year, while also using a game setting that is now feeling quite overused. I will get onto this into a bit more detail further on, but first let’s start with the good stuff.
A Diverse Campaign
Call of Duty Vanguard’s campaign follows four soldiers from across the world nearing the end of WW2, coming together as a task force to end the Nazi regime once and for all. I am going to give Sledgehammer some credit here for focusing the story on some diverse characters.
You play as four different characters, the first being Arthur Kingsley, a black British Sergeant fighting in France. The second is Lucas Riggs, an Australian soldier fighting in the Middle East. Heading over to Russia, you will play as Polina Petrova, a female Russian sniper fighting for the Soviet Union. And finally Wade Jackson, a fighter pilot fighting over the skies in Midway.
It is great to see a focus into some really diverse characters rather than sticking to the normal routine in Call of Duty games. And that deserves a round of applause.
But now onto the story itself, the story is lacklustre with the main complaint around the story being its short duration. Though I praise the diverse characters, there is essentially no character build up for them throughout the whole campaign. This in part due to the short duration, but also because the whole game is pretty much told through flashbacks where it essentially just shows us that the characters are good at killing people, and that's about it.
But my biggest complaint comes on the gameplay side though, the campaign is extremely linear and the game suffers from a very repetitive gameplay loop.
The vast majority of the campaign is made up of going from one objective to another while killing enemies in between. And it rarely goes away from this. This really brings it down as although the story is quite good, the gameplay lets it down quite a bit.
The campaign as a whole is very lacklustre. It has a short and uninteresting story to tell and is massively let down by its lack of variety in terms of gameplay.
We move onto the main part of the game, the reason why most players buy Call of Duty each year. The multiplayer. If you liked the Call of Duty multiplayer over the last few years then you will have fun with this. But if you are looking for something new then you aren’t going to find it here.
As I said at the beginning the game and multiplayer follows the same gameplay loop that has been used for years in the Call of Duty franchise. The new game modes and mechanics are average at best. Sledgehammer focused greatly on its new mode up to launch, Champion Hill. Imagine it as sort of a cross between team deathmatch and battle royale. You will group up as a team of two or three and will face off against seven other teams. And the last team standing wins. This game mode is fine as a whole and I don’t have many complaints about it other than sometimes it can be feel a bit slow. But this does vary between different maps.
All of your classic game modes are also here like team deathmatch, free for all and so on, and they are all exactly what you would expect with pretty much no changes to them. But the main focus here is the gunplay. In the beta I didn’t think the gunplay was all that great, but now in the full release it does feel quite better. The weapons feel good and are quite fun to use, though I imagine some people won't like the gun sounds. This isn’t something I was particularly bothered about, but you can tell that the gun sounds are a bit underwhelming and flat.
But the big change to the weaponry here comes to customisation. Before you would only be able to add a couple of customisation options on your weapons, like weapon scopes or magazines. Now you have a lot more options. On different weapons you can have up to 10 attachments and this is again something I am very mixed about. It is really nice to have this level of variety when choosing your weapon attachments, but I can see it causing some issues in terms of weapon balancing.
The last point I am going to bring up for multiplayer is the maps. Obviously, you have your wide mix of new maps and returning maps. For example, you have returning maps like shipment (this is returning on the 17th). I am ok with these maps returning as they are quite enjoyable and do feel somewhat balanced in terms of spawns. And I feel the same for some of the newer maps, like Eagle’s Nest. From my first impressions of the game, they feel fine but I imagine some of the smaller maps will suffer from regular issues like bad spawns. But this is something I will need to get a better feel for.
Overall, for the multiplayer, I have no major issues. Of course, there are a few performance issues here and there, and some of the weapons do feel a bit weak. But this is something you would expect with a Call of Duty game off launch. The multiplayer feels quite good and if you love your Call of Duty games, then you will have fun with this. But for me, it doesn’t feel all that new. The gameplay loop here feels the same and the multiplayer feels very similar compared to previous entries.
Zombies has consistently been one of the most entertaining parts of the Call of Duty franchise over the years in my opinion, and with Treyarch making the Zombies mode again this year I believed that it would continue to be very strong. And it doesn’t thrill me to say this, but they’ve really missed the mark with this first map. Of course, there will be more coming out over time, but Der Anfang feels shockingly underwhelming and extremely basic.
Rather than following the formula that has worked for them for years, they have decided to try something new and absolutely butcher it. Taking place in an alternate universe of Stalingrad where the Nazis have unleashed a horde of Zombies into the ruins of Stalingrad.
The first thing that I have a bit of an issue with is the lack of a story/quest in this mode off the start. With most Treyarch Zombies maps in the past there were always these massive easter egg hunts to go for that would help to build and create an overarching story. And in this new map, we are going to have to wait for another month for the main quest. And though people most play for its round-based combat, having this little quest to beat the map was always quite fun to do and having to wait is something none of us like.
This really takes away the aspect of building up to get the gear you want and replacing it with a luck-based system that doesn’t even feel that good. And another part they have introduced is objectives and quite frankly, these are boring and reused. For instance, they have an objective where you have to defend and escort a floating skull or survive a higher number of zombies in a set time limit. And these objectives are just dull and feel extremely basic. And after just a couple of hours of gameplay this mode will no longer feel that exciting or surprising. It takes away a lot that players love about Zombies.
Overall, for Zombies, this is a mess. It is nice to see that they have tried to make something new, but they’ve completely botched it in execution. They’ve taken away a lot of what players love about Zombies, introduced an extremely basic form of the mode that feels targeted towards new players and it fails to bring the element of surprise.
Call of Duty Vanguard overall fails to impress me personally. The campaign delivered an overall decent story with some really diverse and cool characters, but ultimately suffers from a lack of variety in terms of gameplay and a very linear structure. The multiplayer I think is absolutely fine and is quite fun in that department, though it does feel very similar to previous entries. And with Zombies, I am just disappointed to see this change and has really missed the mark.
Overall, I am going to give this a 5/10. And there are a few reasons to this, although the story lacks variety in terms of gameplay, it is something you’re only going to play once. A bit of credit is due in introducing such diverse characters, but in terms of the whole game I don’t think the campaign plays a big role. Although I think the Zombies map has missed the mark completely, Treyarch still have time to rectify their mistakes, bring in new and improved maps and there is still a main quest and story to come with it. But the main reason I have given this score is because I think the multiplayer they have delivered is somewhat good. Though I am not a big fan of the similar gameplay loop, it is something I can see a lot of entertainment in.