Call of Duty Vanguard is the latest COD game to reach the market and, as expected, is one of the top selling games of the year with millions of players around the world rushing to their nearest retailer or favorite online store to jump into military action. Vanguard may be the latest in the franchise, but it sticks to its guns and keeps things a little on the safe side.
Although COD is often considered a multiplayer title, you would be silly to ignore the campaign. Vanguard delivers a grand adventure that lends from movie tropes to present as an action packed World War 2 epic. Super soldiers Hollywood alumni would love to play take on the familiar foe of Nazi Germany. This time the Nazi’s are nearing the end of their campaign and making a last ditch effort to revive their dreams of world domination. They call this effort Project Phoenix and it’ll be up to the combined efforts of the Vanguard unit to ensure that history remains as we remember it.
There are four characters in particular that you will be entrusted with and each have some unique quirks about them. These quirks include commanding NPC characters you encounter, granting you a significant tactical advantage. Taking the high roads, quite literally, as you leap through buildings and rooftops to secure the high ground. Carrying an arsenal to ensure you have enough ammo to blow through hundreds of enemies. Pointing out enemy locations to ensure that ammo doesn’t even have to go to waste though. The characters are impressively well put together and you learn more about each of them as you progress the storyline. The voice acting is solid and although the premise has been done a thousand times before, the motivation of the characters and the stakes at play make it hard to ignore. It’s a super experience that may be a highlight of the series.
The vehicle sequences are also particularly good and deserve a mention. They may not be a topic often discussed with regards to COD, but it was executed well and made the game that much more connected to a real world experience. Not that I think anyone would want to experience World War 2, but it was a welcome addition to the game.
Let’s get back into the meat and bones of the franchise… The multiplayer experience. The game feels like Modern Warfare in all the right ways. It can be a bit fast and sometimes the pace can make tactical gameplay feel less rewarding. If you prefer the slower pace of competing titles, this one is definitely not for you, but for drop in and play action, Vanguard is a great shooter. The more you play, the more prestige you earn and the more shinies you collect. Vanguard has a great number of attachments you can use to personalise your loadout and dozens of skins to unlock for your weapons. Completionists out there may struggle to complete some of the requirements as they are not all fair play, but it's a pleasant addition to make every match feel more meaningful.
If multiplayer is the main dish for COD Vanguard, the maps are the scenic views. And the views are picture perfect. The developers have excelled in their map design and there's a surprisingly large number of them at launch. They seem radically different, have clear competitive designs and choke points, without alienating a more casual audience. If they can continue with this level of design in future, it’ll be very tough to upset COD as the most successful yearly FPS franchise.
Vanguard includes a few modes to spice things up in the multiplayer arena. Some simply limit the number or explode the number of combatants you will encounter with significant effects on gameplay, but some are a little more expansive. The first worth mentioning is Champion Hill. It’s a squad based battle arena where you team up and coordinate with your best friends in a frantic encounter. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this mode performs in the competitive circuit. Then there is Zombies. Zombies is a beloved addition to the COD franchise. When done well, it can steal the show, when done poorly the community takes note. This isn’t the best Zombies and it’s a real shame since titles like Back for Blood have gone on to prove how fantastic these types of games can be. Hopefully, Zombies will get improved a few patches down the line.
Vanguard is a good time and with the potent performance of the Playstation 5 it looks better than ever. The biggest criticisms will likely be directed towards game direction itself. COD Vanguard is a well polished version of COD, but it’s nothing new. If you are a diehard fan of the series this may be the best of all COD titles, for the casual player, I’m sure you will still make some fond memories. Vanguard isn’t bad, it isn’t great, but oh my those maps are going to do a lot for the review scores.