Much has been made about the rich and inclusive history of this year’s edition of the popular Call of Duty video game franchise.
It can be, but”Call of Duty: Vanguardwhich comes out Friday for PlayStation 5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC ($59.99 and up, rated 17+) wastes little time on exposure early on. Instead, the single-player story mode drops you right into the action of WWII.
You are part of a team of special forces soldiers trying to commandeer a German train headed for Hamburg. It’s a fast and frantic fight as you and your five teammates jump back and forth between the cars of two trains moving in parallel. You must dodge Nazi gunfire on both train lines and German military trucks zooming between the tracks.
His team, led by Sgt. Arthur Kingsley, a black multilingual British Army officer, discovers that the Germans have a secret plan hatched, with the war ending not in favor of the Nazis. His investigation leads to, semi-spoiler here, the team’s capture and sets up an intriguing story device.
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As the captured characters are interrogated by a Nazi officer, we get each other’s backstory in flashback. This is a device that doesn’t always work in movies, books, or games, but it feels appropriate here.
Each character’s hero’s journey involves a different type of quest. Stealth is vital in Kingsley’s goal of reuniting with his fellow paratroopers who landed in France before D-Day. And it becomes important again after fighter pilot Wade Jackson lands on the Pacific island of Bougainville and must open up. way through a jungle full of Japanese troops to rescue his gunner.
Skill and speed are required when you play as Polina Petrova, before she picks up a sniper rifle and becomes the most feared marksman in Stalingrad. Particularly challenging of hers is guiding her to take down a genuinely malicious Nazi character. Later, she is responsible for supervising her brother and other fighters in Stalingrad, and then the special forces squad, and as a sniper she feels that duty.
When you play as Australian explosives expert Lucas Riggs, one of the Tobruk Rats, the Australian troops in North Africa who held off General Erwin Rommel’s desert tank forces, you’ll want to focus on getting the grenade right. .
Eventually, some warlord decides to bring this disparate group together and send them on the secret mission at the heart of “Call of Duty: Vanguard.” Hitler is dead, but some super Nazis are planning a Fourth Reich. You and the squad must prevent that from happening.
Using a leadership focus feature (press the up button on the PlayStation 5) is critical when the team must battle villains called jagermorders, nearly unstoppable soldiers deployed by the Führer’s successor who shed a cover of smoke that makes them harder to attack. You don’t want to face them alone; point the squad in their direction and attack when safe.
Finishing the fight took around 11 hours on Regular and I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. There have been a few nits to choose from. A defeated bad guy hung in midair suspended in the middle of a doorway at one point. Occasionally an enemy patrol would walk to the right and I wouldn’t notice if I moved from prone to standing to shoot. Again, this could be because I’m playing on the relatively easy Regular difficulty – a man needs to know his limitations.
Speaking of violence, here are some pretty bloody battle depictions. A reminder: the game is rated “Mature” for ages 17+ by the Entertainment Software Rating Board for blood, gore, and strong language. There is a Graphic Content setting that you can toggle from On to Off, which should tone down the effects, if you like.
But overall, the game’s plot, its immersive effects of bombers bombing Stalingrad, and the challenging combat (the fast-paced dogfights in the Pacific skies, for example) have been masterful.
And I hope that the game will lead players to learn more about the real-world fighters these characters are based on, and the history of the 93rd Infantry, a unit of black soldiers in the US Army, who in the game he helps Jackson on his mission. Diversity and inclusion were cornerstones for Activision-owned studio Sledgehammer Games, which developed “Call of Duty: Vanguard” and had previously created Call of Duty: WWII, released in 2017.
When players finish the story campaign, there is much more to “Call of Duty: Vanguard”, including multiplayer battles, and you can kill zombies in the continuation of a story that began in the Zombies mode of “Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War” from last year. “
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.