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Call Of Duty Vanguard Review

Call of Duty Vanguard Review – Sticking With What Works

Critiquing each annual entry into the Call of Duty franchise is getting increasingly difficult. A victim of its own success, each release treads treacherous ground; whilst fatigued fans want something new, millions more are content with it staying the same. 

The task, therefore, falls to Sledgehammer to iterate on a near twenty-year-old formula whilst introducing new modes and mechanics that millions of players won’t openly reject. It’s a challenging balance act that I’m sure factored into Vanguard’s strangely turbulent development cycle.

And iterating on what Call of Duty diehards know and love, Vanguard stands up alongside some of the series’ best. Whether it be a bombastic, action-flick inspired campaign, endlessly addictive multiplayer or now-staple zombies mode, the game feels like comfort food. However, I remain doubtful that the game’s new and updated modes will do enough to win over anyone that needed convinced.

Call OF Duty Vanguard

A couple of the game’s new additions come the way of multiplayer. Notably, there are two new modes: Patrol and Champions Hill. 

Patrol riffs on the Hardpoint mode, asking two opposing teams to hold and control a single zone that gradually moves about the map. Rather than jumping from point to point, it’s continually crawling about the map, moving the fight about the place. It’s a solid addition to the lineup and one that’s earned a permanent spot in my preferred list of modes. Using the new match filtering options, I kept Patrol on rotation throughout my first weekend with Vanguard.

The new filters are rather useful. Allowing you to tailor your experience, Vanguard adds the option to set your preferred pacing of the game. For a more traditional, tactical experience, you can specify a preference of 6v6, whilst the ‘Assault’ and ‘Blitz’ options allow for up to 24 and 48 players respectively. Of course, it’s never so clean-cut and depends on maps and modes, but greater preferential control is very much welcome.

Call OF Duty Vanguard

The other new mode is Champions Hill. Somewhere between round-based matches reminiscent of Counter-Strike or Valorant and a battle royale, the mode pitches teams of 2 or 3 against each other. In a short match on a close-quarters, Gunfight-esque map, you’ll fight one opposing team and eat away at a limited pool of lives.

Survive the match with some lives left, you’ll progress to another game against another team, continuing to whittle away at their respawns as they chip away at yours. Collect currency each match to buy extra lives and upgrades at ‘buy rounds’ between matches. Eventually, only two teams remain with the last one standing crowned champion.

It’s a decent mode that results in some tense fights — and is indicative of a tilt towards an esports space dominated by other first-person shooters — but I can’t see it pulling people away from the core multiplayer experience, or Warzone which has taken on a life of its own outside of each annual release.

Call Of Duty Vanguard

Of course, that is largely because the multiplayer experience is as rock-solid as we’ve come to expect from recent releases. With customisation and progression abound — and one of the more impressive lineups of maps I can recall in a Call of Duty game of late — the same addictive gameplay lives on.

With each release, the balance feels more refined too. A wide palette of weaponry seems perfectly viable; no one weapon seems dominant. Drop-shotting is seemingly non-existent, killstreaks don’t rain death from the sky, and spawn points aren’t easily pinned down. Of course, experience may vary, but in my time playing the game as a somewhat average Call of Duty player, the things that usually frustrated me seemed sparse.

Of course, you shouldn’t spend all your time with Vanguard in multiplayer; skipping the campaign would be a shame. Opening with a train heist in the pouring rain on the outskirts of Hamburg, the story starts with a bang. Impossibly detailed, spectacularly lit and running a smooth 120Hz, it feels like next-gen Call of Duty has arrived.

Call Of Duty Vanguard

Following a handpicked bunch of Allied soldiers, the story sets a similar tone to Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds; you play as some of the German’s most feared adversaries out to seek revenge. With unique abilities that alter gameplay, I had a ball getting to know each specialist. It’s a shame these abilities don’t translate in any substantial way to multiplayer.

The Russian sniper, Polina, is among the best of these characters. With an ability to move quicker crouched she move through levels that have clearly received more design work, she stalks enemies through combat arenas.  I’d gladly take a standalone Polina game. With two standout missions before you meet other characters, I reckon it was obvious to the devs too that they were onto a winner. 

As an Aussie outlet, I’d be amiss not to mention the campaign’s rather faithful portrayal of a couple of Aussie larrikins, right down to the quote, “we’re not here to f*** spiders.” Although it’s starting to feel like an unfairly crass representation of Australians, I did take offence at a British superior remarking, “typical Aussie: no loyalty, no honour.”

Shout out to the Melbourne-based arm of Sledgehammer, who I’m sure had a major role in making Lucas Riggs a somewhat likable rogue.

Call Of Duty: vanguard

Ultimately the campaign is short but sweet, taking me roughly three hours to play through, if that. Indeed, it doesn’t overstay its welcome and serves as a neat introduction to everything else the game has to offer now, and into the future as more content is drip-fed to players. You’d be forgiven if the formula is feeling a little tired and uninspired, but the game is enough mindless fun I keep coming back for more.

All that leaves left to mention is the ‘zombies’ mode, which I’ll say is a pleasantly more simple package this time around. Featuring just the one map at launch, you spawn in and explore a hub-world encircled with portals. 

Go through a portal and you’re transported to another location where you must complete a certain task. It might be to survive a period of time, kill zombies and load runes they drop into crystals, or escort a glowing yellow orb to a certain location, with each challenge you complete rewarding hearts you can trade for perks.

Completing challenges allows you to level up your perks and weapons and increase your odds at surviving longer until you eventually exfil, in an almost roguelike, run-based fashion. 

Call Of Duty Vanguard

But that’s about all there is to it at the moment. It does feel like a victim of the games rockier development. In continuing the Dark Aether saga that started in Cold War, I’d have hoped there was more to it at launch, but no doubt more will come over time.

And that’s just it. Vanguard will continue to evolve and expand over the course of the next year, but at the moment it amounts to ‘just another’ solid entry into the Call of Duty franchise. If you still love Call of Duty, you’ll no doubt play and enjoy this game. You’re probably already doing so.

If you’re on the fence, however, I’m not sure if I could convince you to give it another shot. Yes, aspects of the multiplayer that’d infuriate me have been stripped back, and yes, the campaign is a fun next-gen experience, but I cannot, with confidence, tell you Vanguard could win you back.

THE PS5 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW.
Call Of Duty Vanguard Review
Call of Duty Vanguard Review – Sticking With What Works
Conclusion
Iterating on what Call of Duty diehards know and love, Vanguard has the potential to stand up alongside some of the series' best. Whether it be a bombastic, action-flick inspired campaign, endlessly addictive multiplayer or now-staple zombies mode, the game feels like comfort food. However, I remain doubtful that the game's new and updated modes will do enough to win over anyone that wasn't convinced with earlier iterations.
Positives
Short but sweet campaign
Polina is amazing
Addictive as ever
Great maps and progression
Patrol is a welcome addition
Balanced and refined
Negatives
Limited in its iteration
Champion Hill isn't pulling me away
Zombies is a little light at launch
8
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