As we told in the review of the Call of Duty Vanguard campaign, the single player prepared by Sledghammer trudges and stumbles on more than one occasion: the extremely short duration of the adventure does not give breath to the most interesting ideas, and the tone of the story remains halfway between the historical celebration and the heroic and imaginative rereading, resulting in a mix that is very difficult to read and appreciate. On the other hand, it would be unfair to limit the analysis of Vanguard to the mode that least represents Activision’s shooter, which has always been maintained by competitive multiplayer. Here, then, after an in-depth tour on the servers, a more complete examination of the modalities, gameplay and ambitions of this COD, solid episode even if not very original, quick and fun as per tradition but unable to find its own identity.
The multiplayer war
It is no mystery that Vanguard’s PvP was developed in collaboration with Infinity Ward, who played the role of tutelary deity during the production phase, lending the engine on the one hand and some creative mechanisms on the other (such as the Gunsmith model). After the beta, several players had even renamed Vanguard as a “reskin” of the latest Modern Warfare (here is our review of Call of Duty Modern Warfare), and although it seems to us a somewhat extreme position we understand very well why the rumor has begun to meander among the community. In terms of pace, weapon feedback, mobility, Vanguard works exactly like the 2019 chapter.
The soldiers move on the battlefield without obvious exaggerations in the intensity of the movement, in the slips, in the jumps, but it certainly cannot be said that this approach makes the games less furious or the action less lightning-fast: the Time to Kill is in fact very fast, the weapons are extremely lethal if not downright lightning. In case you don’t like the sometimes schizophrenic rhythm that Infinity Ward has been reviving for a couple of years now, surely Vanguard won’t be your favorite episode, and only Cold War could be a lifeline. On the other hand it must be admitted that Sledgehammer did great work on the map design, encouraging a less frontal approach devoted to the game of massacre. To be able to combine something in multiplayer games, it is necessary to carefully study the layout of the battlegrounds and avoid the confrontation head on, looking for solutions to get around the enemies. It is true that in many cases the team played it safe, adopting an extremely classic approach and therefore drawing traditional three-lane maps.
This does not therefore avoid furious OK Corral-style shootings and indecorous massacres in meat grinder mode, but after a few games, having internalized the conformation of the maps, it is possible to adopt a less self-destructive approach, taking advantage of the minimal but noticeable verticality of some areas or of the advantageous secondary passages.
The introduction of some elements of the scenario that can be destroyed, underlined in the communication phase as a revolutionary feature in its own way, adds a minimum of spice to the clashes but certainly cannot be said to be sensational: it is possible to open new lines of fire to capture the unprepared for the less attentive players, but a few afternoons of play are enough to transform it into an automatism rather than a curiosity.
However, there remains confirmation of a generally careful level design, which manages to shine on almost every occasion (only a couple of maps are made in a very lazy way). An applause, in this regard, it must also be done to the variety of atmospheres and settings; in this case having collected the suggestions of the campaign, which moves from the eastern front to the European one without disdaining a couple of forays on the coasts of Africa, has helped not a little to differentiate the set of maps available.
Loadouts and customization
From Modern Warfare 2019 this Vanguard not only recovers the pace, but also the loadout system. When creating your class you need to choose between three different perks, as many killstreaks and a field upgrade (the latter is an activation ability that does not require you to ring a series of kills, designed to leave some space to maneuver even to novice players).
There are some additions that widen the range of possibilities (such as the Goliath, small and clumsy tank-bomb) and other skills now very popular with all Call of Duty. The customization of weapons passes from Gunsmith, which this time – in addition to optics, grips, stocks, magazines – also includes a couple of additional slots, such as the one for ammunition. The idea is to let players customize their experience, but the truth is that the most effective changes tend to always be the same (in the case of bullets, for example, the one that increases the speed of the shot is currently l ‘most abused option).
In short, a few days after the launch of Vanguard, there are already the lists of the most suitable builds for PvP, and the most competitive users certainly prefer to adapt rather than experiment. It must be said that some deviation from the “norm”, in certain maps and modes, can make a difference, and the large amount of customizations can only be well received.
The modalities between tradition and innovation
Speaking of modalities, Vanguard decides to swing between innovation and tradition, with a number of well-known game modes and a couple of additions that should characterize it and set it apart from previous titles. Unfortunately, not all the novelties can be said to be successful, and in some cases they are indeed appendices that can be renounced after all.
Among the classic options could not miss the Deathmatch all against all and the team deathmatch, accompanied by Hardpoint and Confirmed Killing (still today one of the best inventions of the saga!); the most interesting novelty of this episode is Patrol, a reinterpretation of Hardpoint in which the area to be defended moves following a fixed path on the map. Not in all playgrounds the new Patrol can be said to be interesting, but the experiment is absolutely successful: we often witness furious reversals in the face, diversified tactics (staying all together within the circle or leaving someone to defend from afar?), ambushes organized in the most critical points of the map. Really a nice idea that of Sledgehammer, for a modality that we hope will become “canonical” and be preserved in the next episodes. A little more complex is Collina dei Campioni, which allows you to organize a sort of tournament between eight teams, which compete in rotation in the four areas on either side of the central octagon.
In the latter area you will return, meeting after meeting, to spend the credits earned on the spot and progressively improve your loadout. This sort of mini-tournament can be a pleasant diversion from the classic PvP experience, and in some cases the games get tense and pleasantly nervous. With a couple of close friends the Collina dei Campioni it is extremely inspiring (as was Modern Warfare’s Gunfight), but it’s also true that it risks getting very monotonous and doesn’t work as well in matchmaking.
Let’s say in any case that in our view the very essence of Gunfight, with its random assignments, was much more fun, resulting in furious and pounding matches. The addition that we did not find too interesting is the Combat rhythm: basically a “selector” that allows you to increase or reduce the number of players on the maps. The “6v6” option makes fights more tactical (as the name suggests) and is suitable for veterans looking for a more reasoned experience.
Again, nothing that can effectively replace the appropriate modalities already seen in other episodes. At the limit of the unplayable is instead Blitz: a carnage that can accommodate up to 48 players, and that transforms the maps into incomprehensible meat grinders. Ultimately it is the Assault option, the traditional one, which is the most interesting and popular. Net of some stumbling blocks, it must be admitted that Vanguard’s competitive multiplayer is solid, fun and above all rich.
While some users may prefer a higher Time to Kill, Sledgehammer’s work is compelling in line with that of the chapter two years ago. Here, if there is a criticism to move to Vanguard it is that almost all the effective elements are recovered from Modern Warfare, and that the new introductions cannot always be said to be successful: this makes it an unoriginal and certainly not courageous product. It is also true that, on the PvP front, we have rarely seen such a rich and dense COD.
Call of Duty: zombies are back
The same thing, unfortunately, it does not apply to Zombie mode, which presents itself with an altered formula compared to the past, as if it wanted to make a mix of the experiences available on Cold War. The story, meanwhile, recovers the mythology of Kortifex, of the dark Aether and of the revived, building a narrative framework that is certainly eccentric and over the top, but which manages to tease longtime fans and intrigue newcomers. At the structure level, Der Anfang works like this: players move around a reven-infested hub, which opens up several portals.
Each of these leads to a mini-test: in some cases you have to escort a desiccated head to the finish, in others simply resist the waves of opponents, in still others collect cursed runes and deposit them at an obelisk. These microscopic levels last a few minutes, after which you return to base camp: here you can build new gadgets, upgrade your weapon, sacrifice undead hearts to get bonuses of various kinds. Little by little the explorable area of the central hub will increase in extent, leading us to other portals and mysterious altars where you can buy different upgrades. After passing the tests of four portals, the group will have a decision: to resist a final assault and flee to safety, or to stay and continue to fight to raise the level of the world?
Unfortunately the number of tests, of enemies, of weapons, of perks it is not enough to keep this mode up for more than a few hours: Despite the frenzied pace and the difficulty that soon becomes Mephistophelic, at launch Zombie suffers from a bleak lack of content. The potential is all there, but it will take time and patience. After all, as the title of this first experience suggests (Der Anfang literally means the beginning), we are only at the starting line: over the months and seasons, as usual, Zombie will gradually enrich itself. The idea we have, however, is that it will be difficult to overcome Treyarch’s stunts regarding the Dark Aether saga.