Review of ‘Call of Duty: Vanguard’

Review of ‘Call of Duty: Vanguard’

“Call of Duty: Vanguard” feels like a game I’ve been playing since 2008.

Much like a Double-Double in In-N-Out, each new installment in the “Call of Duty” series tends to be pretty good, but not super inventive. With each iteration, you know what you’re getting: stunning graphics, incredible attention to detail, a single-player campaign full of blockbuster action scenes, fast-paced multiplayer, and some sort of co-op challenge to complete. things out.

A screenshot of "Call of Duty: Vanguard" shows a soldier on the battlefield.

“Call of Duty: Vanguard” is no exception, very much like an upgraded version of “Call of Duty: World At War” from 2008. “Vanguard” has the standard campaign featuring heroics from the Allied Forces, the experience Reworked regular multiplayer for the edgiest reflexes and a cooperative playfield to shoot undead Nazis. However, don’t confuse these facets as pure negatives; While “Vanguard” may not be revolutionary, it’s nice to know what you’ll get and that it will hit a certain bar for quality and polish.

As a game, “Vanguard” feels as good as any “Call of Duty” to date. Movement feels a bit slower than last year’s iteration of the franchise, but moving, aiming, and shooting is an absolute joy. There are a lot of little touches that also bring the game world to life. When partially reloading a weapon with a bullet clip, for example, the game character will load the correct amount of ammunition. Watching cars flip near a moving train really does feel dangerous as sparks and smoke fly through the air. The wide variety of weapons available to players feel reasonably unique to play.

Narratively, though, “Call of Duty: Vanguard’s” single-player campaign is so standard that it’s hard to get excited. The story follows a select team of soldiers drawn from various Allied armies for a suicide mission in Nazi Germany during the final days of World War II. This guiding narrative is broken up with flashbacks to formative moments in the history of different members of the squadron ranging from one member’s experience as a paratrooper on D-Day to another’s dogfights over the Pacific.

But while this installment still shows off the jaw-dropping proprietary action scenes the series is known for, there are a number of issues with the story. First, the story is driven by the Vanguard squad hunting down the results of a mysterious Nazi effort known as Project Phoenix, which is so enigmatic that even the characters in the game don’t know what they’re trying to find. Now, I love a good MacGuffin as much as anyone else, but when the characters within the game can’t even articulate why what they’re looking for is important, it’s hard to care if they succeed or not.

A screenshot of "Call of Duty: Vanguard" shows a large building.

Beyond the narrative itself, the characters that populate it leave much to be desired. The main characters – a stone-cold Russian sniper, a cocky American pilot, a dashing, multilingual British commander, and a loud, brash Australian wrecker – are well-acted but so formulaic they’re hard to connect with. with. Also, pretty much any supporting character who seems remotely funny or interesting is quickly killed off after their introduction, ostensibly as a way of showing off the brutality of war. However, the problem with this approach is that it leaves the players involved in the main characters, who really aren’t that interesting.

However, despite these glaring flaws, the main campaign builds on the playstyles of the different characters. Missions based on Polina Petrova, a fictional Russian sniper, encourage the player to sneak through levels, hitting enemies from the sidelines before disappearing through vents or under tables. By contrast, missions based on Lucas Riggs, a rowdy male Australian demolitionist, allow the player to carry much more explosive ammunition, encouraging the player to target groups of enemies and then take out stragglers with gunfire. The other two main playable characters also have unique skins that similarly encourage adaptation. This game’s focus on the campaign means that while the story isn’t as deep, it’s still a lot of fun to play.

However, on the multiplayer front, there’s not much to love. There are plenty of unlockables, but playing the multiplayer modes is hard work. The time to kill, basically the minimum time it takes for one player to defeat another, is super fast. Combined with the slower movement speed overall, this fast TTK means that only those with near precognitive reflexes can survive for an extended period of time in a match. All it takes to lose a matchup is one small unlucky miss on the player’s part or a single lucky shot to an enemy.

On the plus side, there are new matching options that allow players to mix and match game modes and particular player counts. For example, series regulars can set the “Vanguard” multiplayer mode to only look for 6v6 Team Deathmatch matches. Meanwhile, the chaotically lined up can set their sights on free-for-all matches with large numbers of players. These changes are welcome, but they don’t make up for the game’s fundamental shortcomings. It’s definitely not enough to make multiplayer fun enough to be worth playing for long.

The new Nazi Zombies experience is great though. Unlike traditional iterations of the game mode, players start out in a hub area with upgrades like Pack A Punch Machine already available. From there, players teleport to other areas to complete different objectives while fending off waves of the undead. After completing the objective, players return to the hub area to upgrade their characters and gear. Also, each match does not continue round after round until the players lose. Players can end a match early by completing an escape event.

A screenshot of "Call of Duty: Vanguard" shows a soldier shooting a zombie.

Honestly, all of these changes help the Zombies game mode feel fresh after so many years. Having a way to end a match early without players having to get overwhelmed by enemies is nice. Additionally, all the different objectives add variety to a match and encourage players to tailor multi-purpose team loadouts. Also, since many of the unlockables can be obtained through Zombies as well as multiplayer, those disappointed by multiplayer can spend time on Zombies and still earn rewards.

In the end, “Call of Duty: Vanguard” is far from perfect and far from innovative, but it’s still a lot of fun. During my time with this game, there was something meditative about being able to unwind while shooting hordes of the resurrected dead after a long day at school. Even the campaign was fun enough to play, despite the passable narrative. That said, I don’t see myself going back to multiplayer anytime soon. Also, to bring back the In-N-Out metaphor, unlike Double-Double, “Call of Duty: Vanguard” doesn’t come cheap. Priced at $60-$70 for a new copy, depending on the platform, those looking for the best value should wait for a sale.

Review Score: 7.5/10 – “Call of Duty: Vanguard” is a beautiful game and a lot of fun, but flawed and far from perfect. So unless “Call of Duty” is an annual must-play, maybe expect a sale.

“Call of Duty: Vanguard” is available for purchase on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.

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