A year later than planned, it’s Sledgehammer’s turn for the next Call of Duty title. As expected, Vanguard returns to World War II in an attempt to portray the battlefield as fully and personally as possible. This arouses the necessary interest during the premiere.
The past few years have been turbulent for the Call of Duty franchise. Modern Warfare proved to be the revolution the series needed, dramatically changing the trajectory of the hugely successful Warzone and Call of Duty: Mobile. While a lot went wrong: Treyarch had to interfere with Sledgehammer Games due to production issues and came up with the only cool Black Ops cold war. Additionally, parent company Activision Blizzard was recently sued for structural harassment in the workplace. Sledgehammer Games head of studio Aaron Hallon is visibly nervous ahead of the presentation for Call of Duty: Vanguard and acknowledges after a statement on behalf of the studio that an easy transition to reveal is impossible.
Four years ago, hammer games were hailed with open arms as they took Call of Duty back to World War II. WW2 was a safe game, with some good ideas and some controversial innovations. This class is closed, according to the ever-expanding studio; Vanguard is the first title in Sledgehammer’s “Second Age” and aspires to tell stories on all fronts of war.
This looks like a fusion of the old parts, which took place in Europe, Soviet Russia, North Africa, and Japan. However, this is not the approach of the Vanguard campaign. In any case, Decisive Battles are definitely part of the story and probably make for a great scene again, but the focus of the game is on creating the first special units.
Players follow four different Allied characters – each based on a well-known war hero – to conduct special operations behind enemy lines and ultimately stop the Phoenix Project, the search for a new Fuhrer. The context of the missions is pretty historically accurate, according to Sledgehammer Games, but so far the story also feels a lot like Black Ops-esque plot.
But then in the 1940s, special units still functioned like wrecking balls rather than surgical prowess. During Operation Tonga, a mission set the day before the Normandy landings, we get a glimpse of the excitement this concept can bring. As British paratrooper Arthur Kingsley, you are smashing land somewhere off the coast of France, without any firearms or sign of allies. Through a dark forest full of Nazis and thunderous shells, he sweats his way to safety.
It’s an intense mission, with brutal battles, silence, and especially desperate attempts to escape once the Germans are in Kingsley’s heels. It is also remarkable that Vanguard is another step forward, or at least stands out favorably compared to Black Ops: Cold War. The flashes of light in the dark forest look realistic in the images, and the indoor locations in particular look more dynamic than ever. During a skirmish in a French village house, pieces of wood, glass and porcelain fly around Arthur’s ears before he escapes through an impressive burning windmill.
Operation Tonga is only one task, so it remains to be seen if Vanguard’s campaign will be as memorable as Sledgehammer seems. And while it’s not quite as impressive as, say, Modern Warfare’s Operation Clean House, the versatility of the mission bodes well.
Of course, the single mode is just one part of the overall package that Call of Duty: Vanguard will become. For example, the game is getting a Zombies mode which serves as a prelude to Black Ops Cold War and the multiplayer mode is back of course. The latter should mainly revolve around fast action on smaller maps: at launch, there are twenty pieces available, sixteen for 6v6 battles and four for 2v2 maps. Interestingly, the devastating environments from the campaign are also making their way into multiplayer. , where breakable items such as wood and walls have to create new routes around the map. We were able to see more of that Unpublished during the presentation, but unfortunately we can’t say anything about it yet.
Other innovations are in the little things. Fastening your weapon to objects is back, but this time it is also possible to move along, for example, on a wall instead of staying in one place. It also makes it possible to shoot blindly on cover, gunsmiths come back and players get more choices in ammunition and ballistics for weapons. We can’t say much about the new Champion Hill mode, except that it’s about a “mix of Battle Royale and Gunfight”.
In the shadow of the war zone
Speaking of battle royale, Sledgehammer is aware of Warzone’s popularity and says it’s working closely with Raven Software to release a new map this year. In doing so, Vanguard will be fully integrated into the Warzone ecosystem – weapons will be combined with Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War weapons to create a single “meta”. A new anti-cheat system is also being rolled out at the time, which should address the game’s extensive problem.
The fact that the above is practically the most exciting news from the reveal says something about the state of Call of Duty. There’s nothing wrong with Vanguard: it seems to offer an interesting campaign, make some practical changes to multiplayer, and make more use of the systems introduced in recent years. Maybe that’s enough to stop a successful game, but whether Vanguard stands out is another matter.
Call of Duty: Vanguard is released on November 5 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, S, Xbox One, and PC.
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