Call of Duty Vanguard has turned its war wheel once again, and the needle has fallen on ‘World War the Second’ for the sixth time in the series’ history. CoD has always had a lot of fun kicking Hitler square in the Panzerschrecks since it’s easy to assume that villains actually were evil. It’s also the most challenging place to start a new project. There are only so many World War II conflicts, and Call of Duty has covered them thoroughly throughout the years.
Sadly, Vanguard is unable to address this issue, which is too bad given the game’s familiar visuals and sounds conceal some intriguing concepts. Vanguard, on the other hand, eventually succumbs to expectations. Sledgehammer checks all the boxes for what a Call of Duty game should be, and it does it in a solid but uninspiring manner.
The campaign is a perfect example of the disconnect between Vanguard’s vision and its actual implementation. During the dying days of the Third Reich, a squad of special forces operatives from several fronts of the war are sent on a covert mission to Berlin. Fires from the Russian advance are heard in the background as a German train is raided. Assault on the submarine dock leads to the discovery of a Nazi project known as “Project Phoenix,” which the gang learns about during the assault.
For a World War II shooter, this is an odd setting Following this band of renegades around Berlin was tantalizing, and I was eager to learn what Sledgehammer had to say about this hitherto untapped sector of the World War II. So why does it never happen in reality? They are imprisoned under a dreary Nazi administrative building for much of their campaign after being caught by Nazis shortly after their raid. Meanwhile, the campaign switches between flashbacks in which each member of the team’s experiences in World War II are examined in detail.
World War 2 Perpective
In other words, what at first seems to be a new perspective on World War II quickly becomes merely another way to relive the most dramatic moments of the fight. Sledgehammer, admittedly, attempts to alter familiar situations. As a prerequisite for the D-Day landings, players must parachute into Normandy’s treacherous woodland before attacking a clifftop bunker from behind. In contrast, in the Pacific-themed “Numa Numa Trail,” players join an all-black American unit to avoid Japanese deathtraps and snipers in preparation for a spectacular airfield assault. Before the Nazi invasion, you get to see what life was like in WWII’s most important city, Stalingrad, before the campaign’s outstanding action moment.
Some of the missions have a more haphazard design. Your band of Australian saboteurs lends a feeling of humor to the later operations in North Africa. It’s a trip across the desert, but it’s a derivative one. The Battle of Midway is the greatest disappointment, with breathtaking sights of aerial battle being ruined by Call of Duty’s stubbornness to relinquish control of the flight stick, never allowing you to appreciate the action itself. In general, however, the campaign has a problem in that it provides few opportunities to interact with your spec-ops group as a unit. For the first time in the series, the characters are likable. Death-screen quotations from the game’s own protagonists are a hideously pompous way to end the game’s patriotic tone. However, the team’s chemistry is captivating, and characters like the Australian saboteur Lucas and the Russian sharpshooter Polina are fleshed out enough that you care about them.
Poor Story Line
It’s a real shame that the team only gets to work together twice throughout the whole game. While Dominic Monaghan’s scary Nazi administrator does his best to hide Vanguard’s nearly total absence of narrative, the two are confined to a jail cell for the remainder of the film. Short and tedious sequences build-up to an uninspiring final task. In the end, Call of Duty: Vanguard’s campaign plays like a set-up for a possible sequel, with the most intriguing elements reserved for it
Multiplayer, on the other hand, is more forward-thinking, offering a few big modifications as well as more customized new features that stand out from prior years. More damaging maps are the most notable of the new features. Some walls and windows may be smashed in order to disrupt the flow of maps, and surroundings are prone to a more superficial ‘dirtying’ over time. It makes the maps seem more alive, and it’s amusing to witness the devastation left behind after a half-dozen bombing runs.
When everything is said and done, Vanguard’s multiplayer works well, but it doesn’t make it a must-have. The backdrop of World War II looks to be an issue for this game, as well. Call of Duty: WWII’s War Mode, for example, is unlike anything else, and the game’s gunsmithing mechanics seem completely out of place in the context of World War II weapons. A “no attachments” option, in which you just use the game’s basic weapons and ignore scopes and stocks, would be quite welcome in Vanguard.
I guess I’m now obligated to bring up the subject of Zombies again. So, I’ll admit it: I’ve never been a fan of Call of Duty’s Zombies mode, and Vanguard’s rendition does not do anything to change my mind. From a central Stalingrad hub, you may access portals that take you to other locations, such as Paris or the Pacific, where you must achieve one of three objectives. Defend an orb as it floats across the map, gather runes to deactivate a chain of magic obelisks, and kill zombies until time runs out in the other two games. Cursed Hearts may be earned by completing these tasks. This money may be used at an altar to purchase different abilities and powers that can be combined with your weapons and skills in…interesting ways, but that’s a stretch. So, for instance, I paired the combat shotgun, which has a wider spread than Covid-19, with a critical hit reload ability. As a consequence, I seldom had to reload, allowing me to slaughter zombies mercilessly. As the zombie horde expands, you’ll be able to purchase more powerful versions of these powers, increasing the difficulty of the fight.
Additionally, completing missions unlocks additional locations in Stalingrad and new ways to get around the city. With just three mission kinds and three zombie types, the hamster wheel immediately emerges from the systems during the first hour of play. It didn’t help that the Demons of the Dark Aether were depicted in a lighthearted manner. If there is any momentum left in the Zombies plot, this strategy will only serve to weaken it more.
Finally, we need to talk about the shadow it has cast over this year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Activision Blizzard has been sued by the state of California for charges of discrimination and sexual harassment within the company’s larger “frat-boy” culture. Sledgehammer is now releasing a game in response to these allegations. Prior to the release of the album, Sledgehammer addressed the claims made against its parent business, and the ABK Workers’ Alliance is working to reform corporate culture. In the confines of a review, it’s impossible to do justice to this complex subject. PC Gamer has been following the subject closely and will do so in the future. Although the allegations were never far from my mind while I played, it’s hard for me not to be frustrated at the prospect of who might benefit from my positive things to say about Vanguard and how that feeds, however slightly or indirectly, into the facilitation of a culture of harassment and abuse. Although I wouldn’t want to punish the work of Sledgehammer for actions taken by people elsewhere in Activision Blizzard,
For the sake of the series, I hope Sledgehammer doesn’t have to offer any more explanations in the future, since Vanguard has some interesting concepts that may be developed further on its next trip. However, this time, I’m mainly unconcerned. There are a few standout objectives in the singleplayer mode, and there are a few interesting multiplayer options as well. In the end, Call of Duty: Vanguard is just another war game.