A year has already passed in the Call of Duty cycle and Sledgehammer Games is the developer of this latest title, Call of Duty: Vanguard. The first game they created for the series was Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which brought on three years of jetpacks in the series, as well as loot boxes containing weapons with better stats than their originals. Sledgehammer’s second game was Call of Duty: WWII, which wasn’t a banger, but it was at least mediocre. The team then decided to revamp the entire game six months into the its life cycle, which caused the playerbase to fall off the map.
This is when Activision decided to take Sledgehammer off the three developer rotation, because that last decision was a total disaster. I honestly wish they would have left them off the rotation. Not only did Sledgehammer go back to the World War II time period (which has been played out at this point), but they also managed to ruin the entire game as a whole.
To start, the campaign is all over the place. The first mission brings a group of six elite members, with the bunch including individuals from four separate countries. It is a special operation task force codenamed Vanguard, and they ended up in Hamburg, Germany to seek out intelligence on Project Phoenix. The team is made up of Sergeant Arthur Kingsley, Sergeant Richard Webb, Lieutenant Wade Jackson, Lieutenant Lucas Riggs, Red Army medic Polina Petrova, and a soldier named Novak.
After hijacking a train and reaching the Kriegsmarine submarine, the squad attempts to steal documents on Project Phoenix, but they get end up getting captured by the Nazi Freisinger. From here, Freisinger beats Novak (who you have been playing as up to this point) to death with a chair. He then brings the others to Waffen-SS and Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. Freisinger wants officer Jannick Richter (played by Dominic Monaghan) to interrogate the team.
This is where things start to bounce around the timeline, as well as odd character switches. I did like that Sledgehammer included a cutscene at the beginning of each character change, which made it easier to know who’s body you were about to take over. What bothered me though was the lack of proper chronological order, which really took away from what was happening at the Gestapo headquarters. I don’t like when movies do this, and I really don’t like when games do this. However, if the character’s backgrounds were not included, the campaign would have been about an hour and half long.
Other than these issues, the cutscenes were beautifully detailed and they typically segued into gameplay rather nicely. There was also the typical Michael Bay action, as well as interesting interactions between the the main group members and their family members/fellow soldiers. It was quite refreshing to see how each person learned something valuable or dealt with an internal struggle during such a tragic event in human history. Even if it is a fake story.
The Vanguard campaign also included these command sections, where players can direct others help them through parts of the game. I really enjoyed these sections, as it brings the stress of the situation to the forefront.
While the campaign may be commonplace at best, Vanguard’s multiplayer completely subpar. It’s not just one particular feature or issue that makes me so frustrated with it, but it’s just the whole experience. It’s blatantly obvious that weapons are the focal point of multiplayer and that’s probably the biggest issue.
Instead of balancing out weapons and perks, like previous titles, it leans so heavily into the abuse of the gun and its attachments. Weapons should never have ten attachments without their being a drawback. I’ve never been a fan of the pick-10 system from other Call of Duty games, but if players wanted that many attachments on a weapon..they’d have to give up perks and equipment to do so.
Add to that the overwhelmingly powerful ammo types like Frangible and Incendiary rounds, it just becomes an entirely different nightmare. All weapons have different levels for unlocking the various forms of attachments. So getting those coveted pieces could take quite a bit of time to obtain, especially when taking into account every weapon has 75 levels. There are two problems with this:
- This is pushing players to keep using the same exact gun, hence why there are so many people right now still using STGs and MP-40s.
- Any new players will have an extremely difficult time adjusting to playing against players who have already weathered the storm — which will cause problems for incoming users this holiday season.
Operators also have levels attached to them, but leveling them only rewards cosmetic items and weapon XP for that Operator’s favorite weapon. Leveling an Operator is faster when using their favorite gun, but with the way people are sticking to the weapons they’ve already leveled, I haven’t seen many people actually using them.
Another major issue with lack of noise coming from enemy footsteps. It’s impossible to know that an opponent has walked up behind you, so weaving through some of the overly intricate buildings can be a disaster waiting to happen. I took to using High Alert just to be aware of enemies who might be near by. Couple this with the ungodly quick time-to-kill, and you’d be lucky to get out of sight or turn around to combat them.
Perks also have their own set of issues, mainly being that they are either underwhelming or just average. One of them wouldn’t if need to be in the game if it wasn’t for the overpowered Frangible attachment. Dauntless is that perk. It makes players immune to movement reducing effects, making it easier for players to escape those who are using Frangible (and stun grenades of course). It’s painfully obvious that Sledgehammer heard complaints about this attachment during the beta, but instead of removing it, they added a perk to counter its effects. I almost get the feeling that the perks were not fully flushed out, especially when taking into account the power of the weaponry.
The maps are also beyond chaotic. They have little–to no–flow, and this makes it difficult to defined cut off locations for Domination and Hardpoint. On the larger maps I typically see players camping, mounted up, because running across the open is a death sentence with the high time-to-kill. The darker settings in some of these maps make it hard to see an enemy players body position. Sure, the tag can be seen easily, but it seeing if that player is prone or crouching can be irritating.
The spawns for Hardpoint, Patrol, Kill Confirmed, and Team Deathmatch are out of control. Dome and Das Haus are the worst offenders for terrible spawn locations, with players spawning directly in front of enemies. Domination–which should have fixed spawns–sees flip flopping of starting locations all the time.
There is also some random glitches like Operator models not showing certain parts when you view them. A Challenge also appears to be glitched, as it says get 50 eliminations in Objective based game modes. I haven’t been able to get a single one, despite playing mainly objective based games. Players should also be aware that Vanguard doesn’t have Ricochet integrated yet, so cheaters are definitely out there.
*I haven’t gone through Zombies as of yet, but from what I’ve heard it’s not good*
All in all, from what I’ve seen, the game really isn’t that much fun. The campaign is decent enough, but that’s always a linear experience that is rather short lived. Typically, players go straight for the multiplayer or play the campaign and then head online. The problem is, the state the game is in right now, it truly isn’t worth the money. Call of Duty: Vanguard’s multiplayer has a lot of problems and it’s far from a finished product–at least in the sense of how it interacts with itself. Hopefully, the feedback Sledgehammer receives will bring on needed adjustments. I can imagine how many people will disappointed when Christmas rolls around, if they do nothing by then.