After working on Call of Duty WWII, it’s no surprise that Sledgehammer Games has opted not only to remain in a space they’re clearly passionate about, but to expand and grow it into a truly global and diverse experience. In the lead-up to its official reveal, the team ran us through an hour-long presentation for Call of Duty: Vanguard.
In it, we got to see a vertical slice of the game’s campaign, we also learned about the game’s leading men and women, a new mode for the multiplayer suite, and how Vanguard is set to reshape Warzone while offering a new Zombies developed by Treyarch.
Whatever your feelings on Call of Duty, it’s clear that Sledgehammer is hoping to offer as much bang people’s hard-earned as possible.
WHEN’S IT COMING OUT?
Call of Duty: Vanguard is set to release for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC on November 5. You can pre-order at the below links:
Call of Duty: Vanguard feels like a natural evolution for the studio that worked on Call of Duty WWII. It’s a massive upscale in scope, proving that there’s so much we still haven’t seen of this war and that it was, in fact, a world at war.
Of course, WWII’s campaign was confined to the European theatre, no front is left wanting in Vanguard’s campaign.
Expect all of the tide-turning battles of North Africa, the Western Front, the Eastern Front, and the Pacific. Seemingly done away with are well-worn battles like Normandy, Vanguard feels like an impossibly fresh take on gaming’s most trot-out war.
BIRTH OF THE SPECIAL FORCES
Our team’s leader is Arthur “King” Kingsley, a British paratrooper, who has leadership thrust upon him after Operation Tonga doesn’t go to plan and he’s left scrambling through France on the night prior to D Day.
He’s joined by Wade Jackson, Lucas Riggs, and Polina Petrova who were all selected for this inaugural special forces outfit for their heroics on each of their respective fronts. It all amounts to a rather diverse cast of heroes.
While fictional, each of these characters has a real-life analogue that, during development, helped flesh out their story. Petrova, for example, bears strong similarities to “Lady Death” Lyudmila Pavlichenko who, to this day, remains history’s most prolific female sniper. It might lack the ‘star power’ of a Josh Duhamel type, who led the cast of WWII, but it speaks to the game’s theme of the war forcing extraordinary effort from ordinary people.
THERE’S A SENSE OF DREAD AND PANIC
During the presentation, we got to see a snippet of the game’s campaign, which introduced us to one of the game’s four leads surviving in the French countryside on the night prior to D Day, after his operation goes sideways. While a hero, Arthur “King” Kinglsey isn’t a superhero capable of gunning down hordes of people and, because of this, Vanguard presents itself as a desperate scramble.
I’m sure it’ll open up and lean more into blockbuster territory once the team assembles, but I adore this tone early on. When you’re defenseless and ammo reserves are scarce, it feels like a survival game, and there’s a sense of dread and panic which really speaks to the idea that these men and women we’re experiencing these tide-turning battles through are just regular people.
THERE’S A REAL ANZAC PRESENCE
It’s hard to know whether Sledgehammer’s Melbourne studio specifically had a hand in this, but it’s tremendous to see that, inside this very global campaign, there’s a bit of an Australian presence.
With Riggs serving in North Africa, one famous story that is paid special attention to is the ‘Rats of Tobruk’.
This Australian-led garrison doesn’t perhaps get the recognition it should in broader media so for it to get the limelight here is especially culturally significant.
OUR BIG BAD IS THE GESTAPO’S DIRECTOR
After jockeying for position in the eleventh hour of World War II, Heinrich Freisinger fills the power vacuum and launches his campaign to further spread the Nazi ideology.
Despite being an unknown quantity, his Operation Phoenix protocol that our special forces heroes are brought together to halt cannot be good.
If you had any doubt that he was a bad dude, he’s also the Gestapo’s esteemed director.
BEAR MCCREARY’S PROMISES “EMOTIONAL AMBIGUITY” FROM HIS SCORE
Though his works permeate all forms of media, Bear is best known in the industry for his BAFTA-winning score for 2018’s God of War.
While it’s expected to maintain the bombast and filmic quality of past scores, Bear has described Vanguard’s main theme as “emotionally ambiguous”. Without detracting from the heroism of the serving, his focus was to drive home the panic and the stakes of the moment-to-moment conflict and I think he achieves that from what I heard.
THE GAME IS A VISUAL POWERHOUSE
Although I feel like it’s said every year, Vanguard really looks like the best-looking game in the series.
There’s so much technical sorcery going on under the hood, but the game is simply gorgeous. From the recreated dwellings of Stalingrad, frozen in time from a conflict that would breach their living rooms, to the sweeping, vast desert of North Africa, the design team has done a tremendous job.
The most evident improvement I can see, based on the campaign demo, is in the game’s lighting. It’s an area Modern Warfare excelled in, and given this is a spruced-up iteration on that same engine, it’s no surprise it looks as good as it does.
The game unsurprisingly runs supremely well, too, and looks as though it’s optimised up to its teeth.
THERE’S A LOT OF MAPS AT LAUNCH
There was a wave of disappointment that followed the multiplayer reveal of Black Ops Cold War, and it was directed at the fact the game would launch with only eight multiplayer maps.
Sledgehammer has confirmed that Vanguard will launch with twenty maps. Sixteen of these are tailored for the 6v6 modes, while the remaining four are expected to suit the smaller-scale, more intimate 2v2 modes.
CHAMPION HILL IS A BRAND NEW MODE
Champion Hill is an exciting new mode from Sledgehammer which sounds like a marriage between your more standard battle royale and Gunfight.
We don’t know a lot about it, but we sure like the sound of that.
TAKE A MORE TACTICAL APPROACH
Vanguard sees the return of Gunsmith, bringing with it custom ballistics and varied ammo types.
For a more immersive and dynamic sense of movement and gun feel, you’re now able to rest and slide your weapon across surfaces and blind fire from cover. It sounds a little inspired by a particular tactical shooter of the Siege variety.
TREYARCH IS CHIPPING IN FOR A BLACK OPS COLD WAR ZOMBIES PREQUEL
For the handful of you out there who live and die by the Call of Duty: Zombies continuity, you’ll be pleased to know Treyarch is helping out to develop a Zombies mode for Vanguard.
More excitingly though, it serves as a prequel for the story told in Black Ops Cold War’s tale of undead decimation.
VANGUARD IS HEADED TO WARZONE
For those entrenched in the Call of Duty: Warzone way of life, the good news is that there’s a brand new Vanguard map headed to the battle royale juggernaut this year.
Raven Software is lending a hand to produce the map, though it’s being built using the same tech that Sledgehammer is using for Vanguard meaning there’ll be seamless weapon integration and play balance.
Vanguard, together with Warzone, will also serve up a calendar’s worth of free post-launch content. It’s also worth noting that they’re introducing a multi-faceted, anti-cheat system to Warzone which should go a long way to leveling the playing field.
In the interest of transparency, it isn’t lost on us what has been transpiring within the walls of Activision-Blizzard. That said, Call of Duty: Vanguard is a videogame developed by real people with a real passion and drive. Make no mistake, they’re people who share in the hurt and disappointment that is felt industry-wide.
While we’re choosing to continue covering games out of Activision-Blizzard, read that as us not wanting to disservice the hard-working developers and everyone else involved who have been let down by the top line. With that said, we’re also standing in support of the walkout and of the demands. In the spirit of solidarity, here are a number of organisations offered up by walkout organisers.