The Call of Duty franchise has now established a strong foundation based on a new game engine and a multiplayer design based on Warzone. Call of Duty: Vanguard expands on the three fundamental aspects of the franchise: campaign, multiplayer, and zombies. All of them are included in the new Call of Duty: Vanguard, which seems like a superior version of the Black Ops Cold War in many respects.
Sledgehammer Games has assumed the leading role of headlining the next Call of Duty, which has been a source of contention between Treyarch and Infinity Ward. While the game engine, IW 8.0, was initially introduced to the franchise with the Modern Warfare reboot in 2019, it has continued to improve over the last two years, making this year’s Call of Duty one of the most visually striking games in motion.
The main campaign of Call of Duty: Vanguard takes place during World War II. It focuses on a special forces unit entrusted with locating the enigmatic Project Phoenix, which might be their trump card against the Nazis in the ongoing world war. The plot follows the events of six members of the special forces at various moments in time. While the creators chose to emphasize flash over substance by creating several memorable set pieces, they failed to provide captivating writing, thus the overall effect of the plot feels weak towards the end.
The campaign has a linear mission design, so you won’t be spending time focusing on an open region. The majority of the story missions are short and to the point, but their linearity might be a disadvantage because there aren’t many alternatives for replay value. Whatever you do, the story’s ending will be the same. The campaign is also packed with cinematics, ranging from pre-rendered motion films that play throughout critical events to cutscenes that seamlessly transition from gameplay to provide some jaw-dropping set-pieces. The disadvantage of this strategy is that the narrative ends before you realize it, as it is fairly brief.
If you go right into this year’s Call of Duty without a break, you might not notice much of a difference. The game has more maps this time around compared to the Black Ops Cold War release last year, but the changes to the gameplay and progressions are limited, making it feel like an iterative mid-part rather than a whole new one. I believe the incorporation of COD Warzone has had a role in this since the developers have based their design on Warzone to continue to offer in-game activities centered on it.
To be fair to the creators, the multiplayer levels in Vanguard are densely packed and need some critical thinking rather than luck. I’ve always disliked large maps in multiplayer games since it’s difficult to spot a player, and the battle royale genre exists for folks who enjoy dashing into wide-open regions and mowing down their opponents. Vanguard multiplayer maps provide the ideal balance of fun and ingenuity. Your approach to each encounter will be determined by how you personalize your load-outs and how you determine the strategic relevance of each map.
Sledgehammer Games attempted to include the majority of the requested modes in the game. There are the standard Team Deathmatch and Domination modes, but there is also Champion Hill, a returning mode from past Call of Duty games with a new moniker this time around. This is an iteration of the gunfight mode in which you may engage in 1v1, 2v2, or 3v3 battles. If you enjoy fast-paced action, this is the mode for you, albeit quick reactions and high skill levels are required to win rounds.
The new combat pacing option allows you to experiment with various multiplayer lobbies. There are three predefined filters to choose from Tactical, Assault, and Blitz. If you want to make the experience as simple as possible, you may remove them and replace them with an All filter. Tactical places you in a 6v6 lobby, Assault in a 10v10 or 12v12 lobby, and Blitz in a 24v24 lobby. Because you won’t lose anything by selecting any of these options, they are an excellent alternative if you prefer to get some fast time in multiplayer mode out of the way. Based on my testing, this option works great and allows you to play through all 16 multiplayer maps without restriction.
While the campaign is enjoyable but finishes far too fast, the multiplayer should keep the game going for quite some time. However, the last element, Zombies mode, is a step back from prior games. While this mode serves as a prequel to Black Ops Cold War, the plot feels nonexistent. You have the main hub, which allows you to go to other locales, earn in-game currency to increase your stats or unlock and upgrade new weapons, and take control of new skills. Because you’re only shooting zombies, the lack of a cohesive storyline makes this mode feel monotonous.
Overall, I believe this year’s Call of Duty is a nice entry for the brand, offering nothing spectacular but keeping things reasonably safe for the franchise. I’m hoping that the forthcoming games will shake up the franchise in the same way that Modern Warfare did in 2019. Infinity Ward tried it once before with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and although they provided a fantastic campaign, they failed miserably in multiplayer.