Somehow through everything that has happened this year, Activision managed to get yet another Call of Duty out to the world. Forget the ongoing sexual harassment case and global pandemic, Activision could not let a year go by without its annual shooter and for the most part, Call of Duty Vanguard is good. My praise for the game mainly comes from the stellar campaign that had me sitting in awe at some of the best set pieces I have seen in the series to date. Not to mention the game looks incredible on the PS5 played at the highest possible volume on the best HDR 4K TV. The production value throughout the campaign speaks for itself here.
Unfortunately, everything else in Call of Duty Vanguard is rather mediocre making this an overpriced, short-lived campaign. The zombie mode is the same copy-and-paste experience we have seen for years now and the multiplayer is well, another generic PvP shooter that you can probably find anywhere else. You’re probably thinking of a handful of PvP games you already have installed that you play on a daily basis. Do yourself a favour and stick to those.
Call of Duty Campaign Vanguard Review
The Call of Duty Vanguard campaign jumps through various years and focuses on a handful of iconic World War II veterans and their escapades through the era. While the campaign only lasts a few hours, the moment-to-moment gameplay explored some exciting mechanics and locations that made every mission feel new and authentic.
I loved how every chapter focused on a new character while also exploring the darker themes of World War II. Of course, some of the missions in the Call of Duty: Vanguard campaign are better than others but the slow-paced chapters gave me room to breathe after seeing my friend’s head being blown off in front of me.
Given how the story focuses on a range of characters, each of them also has their own unique playstyle and the missions sort of mould into these mechanics. For example, Polina Petrova can quickly sneak into small spaces and creep around the area as she takes down all the Nazi scum one by one from the shadows. This is delivered brilliantly through larger-scaled areas with room for exploration and the opportunity to be more sneaky.
Wade Jackson, a famous WWII pilot has his mission revolve around epic dogfights, crashes and airborne gameplay. While the general flying mechanics felt a bit clumsy, the sheer scale of the battles and gorgeous locations made up for the clunky gameplay.
The Call of Duty Vanguard campaign might not have the lasting impact it aimed for when the credits rolled but the gameplay is definitely a scene-stealer here. Every location and set-piece has been carefully crafted to make the biggest impact on the player and it works. Gunplay feels fantastic, the true-to-life ammo count makes the threat of death feel even more real and the great use of World War II weapons and vehicles help create an explosive story.
Call of Duty Vanguard Multiplayer Review
We then have the Call of Duty Vanguard multiplayer which is yet another staple in the series. This is, of course, Activision’s money-maker and the publisher already launched its COD Point system right from the get-go this year. The Call of Duty Vanguard multiplayer mode came with 16 maps at launch and the overall structure and mechanics for its class system remain intact.
Unfortunately, Call of Duty Vanguard suffers from the issue all players dreaded and that is broken matchmaking. This is mainly due to the game relying on its new Combat Pacing system. Whereas previous games didn’t let you decide how you wanted to experience the multiplayer, Vanguard does. You can choose from a range of settings that are meant to determine the playlists and modes. If you feel like playing the Classic 6V6 modes, then the Vanguard setting is for you.
In a way, this setting is great. Players who want specific modes can make it happen. However, I had issues with this. Most of the time, these settings failed to put me into games I wanted. This forced me to play through maps and modes I didn’t feel like playing. When the system worked, it was a nice change of pace.
As for the modes, there’s nothing majorly new here that you haven’t seen or experienced in past Call of Duty games. Of course, everyone will still flock to TDM which most likely means other modes might die out sooner than later.
There are also a few changes to the game which feel like a welcome addition. One of which is the new destruction that slowly transforms each map as the matches go on. As players blow things up and shoot through walls, visible breakage is seen on certain portions of the map. While this feature doesn’t meet the likes of Battlefield, it does add that tiny bit of “new” that players have been craving.
Players will also find a lot to enjoy in the game’s weapon system. Each weapon now has a massive list of upgrades to unlock and while that sounds like fun at first, it, unfortunately, adds a massive amount of grind to the game. If you like a gun, get ready to spend a massive chunk of time levelling it up in order to obtain that attachment. Thankfully, these attachments actually make a difference so, in a way, they feel worthwhile. However, it also means that because of SBMM, everyone is also overpowered and the top-tier loadouts are impossible to beat.
Players might also get bored of the usual rinse-and-repeat multiplayer mode in Call of Duty Vanguard. Heaven knows there are much better games on the market with more robust multiplayer modes. Warzone is one of them. So Vanguard just doesn’t feel exciting enough to keep grinding especially with the matchmaking issues, SBMM and the grind. New seasonal content will bring more life to this shooter but it just means spending more money on a game that is pretty mediocre already.
Call of Duty Vanguard Zombies
The zombie mode is probably one of the most ambitious new directions we have seen in the series to date. It takes on a roguelike approach that sees players get dropped into an objective-based map and forced to complete missions to expand the area. Each new run provides new weapons and items to experience and the enemy spawns change too.
If anything, this is the furthest thing from a traditional COD zombie mode and you might enjoy its refreshing take on the series. You do need to keep in mind that it is far from perfect. The game mode suffers from some nasty balance issues and items and perks aren’t meaningful enough to make a difference. Perks upgrade too fast, weapons play it safe and once you have the best of the best available, which happens faster than it should, the game mode becomes a snore-fest.
Unlike other zombie modes that kept things exciting for a few dozen waves by increasing the grind, this on the other hand fails to do so. They also massacred Pack-A-Punch that now simply doubles the damage and nothing else. I just could not find any sort of excitement after round 10 and that is very short for a mode that thrives on its replayability.