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Call Of Duty Vanguard Returns To Its WW2 Roots

Courtesy of Activision

Call Of Duty: Vanguard

Publisher: Activision
Release Date: November 5, 2021
Available as: Digital and Physical

Call Of Duty Returns To Gritty Realism

Following last year's Call of Duty: Cold War, the Call of Duty franchise is in its third year of developer rotation with Sledgehammer Games in the forefront. Beginning as early as the original Modern Warfare, it's impressive that a series lasted long as CoD has. Part of the reason was due to its "developer rotation," with Infinity Ward and Treyarch alternating releases. Starting with 2014's Advanced Warfare, Sledgehammer Games was added into the rotation. 2019's Modern Warfare remake was Infinity Ward's turn, followed by Treyarch's Cold War. In 2021, it is now Sledgehammer Games' turn with Call of Duty Vanguard.

Each developer has a specific vision for Call of Duty, making each yearly entry distinct from the previous game. It's best to compare each game from their developer's previous works instead. In the case of Sledgehammer Games, their previous game, Call of Duty WW2 is more in line with Vanguard. WW2 was a special game as it was the first Call of Duty in almost a decade to focus on World War 2. For a series that had roots tied to World War 2 originally, WW2 tried to combine both eras of Call of Duty. Three years later, Sledgehammer once again returns to World War 2 with Vanguard, following the success of WW2. How does this fare compare to other works?

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Call Of Duty Vanguard - Xbox Series X Direct Capture

Call Of Duty Vanguard = The "Real" Call Of Duty 4?

The Call of Duty series is one of the most underrated franchises when it comes to its stories, often sprinkling real life with fiction. Call of Duty Vanguard is no exception, playing on several tropes in the past to weave a narrative. The campaign begins with a team of soldiers, all from different backgrounds, riding a train in Hamburg. Brought together by a mission sent to retrieve an important document shrouded in mystery, they ambush several German soldiers in the process.

In most games like Vanguard, train levels are expected and it's something I never understood. I understand the appeal, traveling from car to car as enemies ambush the player in tight spaces. What I don't understand is its appearance in almost every major FPS as of late. My opinion on Vanguard was unexpectantly positive from its presentation alone. A dark and stormy night, with the only light sources coming from lamp poles and the burning embers of war, sets the tone for Vanguard. Gone are the tropics and guerilla warfare of the previous introductions to Call of Duty. Instead, it's just the player and five members alone in a cold train ride to nowhere.

COD Vanguard
Call Of Duty Vanguard - Xbox Series X Direct Capture

Call Of Duty Vanguard's Gunplay Is Unique

The introduction to Vanguard's campaign also serves as the player's introduction to its many guns, beginning with the Sten. What's unique about the weapons in Call of Duty Vanguard is that each weapon handles unique even amongst their classes. There's a rifle the player gets their hands on that had a very weird ADS, positioning the gun over a player's head to the left rather than down center. This makes each gun an extension of the player themselves, a character, rather than something the player uses and discards.

The inclusion of these guns also serves as a way to lead the player to the new gameplay mechanics, different from last year's Cold War. Call of Duty Vanguard may just be the closest game to the original trilogy in recent history. Gunfights are visceral and each gun feels punchy, demanding control and patience. Classic enemies including dogs also make their appearance. Dogs are an instant kill and it sucks that the player can't defend themselves like previous titles. While the player can recover their health, death in-game is treated like classic Call of Duty, including war quotes from famous people at the time.

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Call Of Duty Vanguard - Xbox Series X Direct Capture

Is Vanguard Historically Accurate?

Following the bait-and-switch protagonist in the prologue, one of the featured protagonists the player controls is Arthur Kingsley. Kingsley, born in British Cameroon, is based on Sidney Cornell, a real-life African-British soldier known for his talents in Normandy. The main antagonist, Freisinger, has an interaction with Kingsley which is racially charged. When Kingsley responds in German, confirming he understood Freisinger's wise-cracking insults, the latter is not impressed. While Vanguard doesn't outright state anything outright, the tensions and superiority the antagonist exhibits are apparent.

While Call of Duty Vanguard may attempt to be historically accurate, the gameplay is as close to the CoD formula as possible. Online gameplay is more of the same, especially Team Deathmatch. The players are introduced to default classes until they get to a point where they can create their class. Until then, prepare to get "pub stomped" by those who have played the game since launch. I'm well aware that the game was only launched a few hours prior to the recording, but I could have been fooled otherwise.

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Call Of Duty Vanguard - Xbox Series X Direct Capture

Vanguard's Online Is A Learning Curve Even For CoD

Upon getting disconnected from my first online match, I realize I made a critical error in playing a Call of Duty title. I realized I was in for a world of pain. Let this be a lesson for everyone who plays Call of Duty this way by default. Do not play wireless, always use a LAN cable, and make sure your test your connection. Seeing everyone skip and jump everywhere was annoying and switching to the LAN connection made things palpable. It didn't help that my second match was absolute destruction, where I went 1 and 280 or something.

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Call Of Duty Vanguard - Xbox Series X Direct Capture

Obvious exaggeration aside, the newbies will get crushed by those who have been playing nonstop. That's with any competitive game and over time the flow of skill level will settle. It's a shame that the initial online experience wasn't as great as it could be because the graphics for Vanguard is amazing. Vanguard is one of the first CoD games that is developed with next-gen consoles in mind. Everything from vibration, immersion, fidelity, and gameplay is some of CoD's best. The WW2 content may be divisive towards those who are used to "Modern Warfare," but Call of Duty Vanguard is a unique experience for long-term and new fans alike.

Call of Duty Vanguard is available for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, and Xbox Series X.

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