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Call of Duty: Vanguard PS5 Review – A Jam-Packed War

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There’s no denying the fact that Call of Duty is a juggernaut of a franchise. Four development studios are on a 2-year release rotation which is how a new COD is released yearly. We saw a major change to the franchise in the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (2018) release with developer Treyarch decision to remove the campaign mode from the game.

I am personally a huge fan of the over-the-top COD campaigns and felt a COD with no campaign just didn’t feel like a legit COD release. I clearly wasn’t alone; the player community were extremely vocal which led to publisher Activision announcing that the campaign mode would return in future COD releases.

Infinity Ward & Raven Software released Modern Warfare (2019) which steered campaign storytelling toward a more realistic / hyper intense direction. This new approach was well received and a reassuring message that innovations are being made to the mode. Developer Treyarch & Raven Software was next with Call of Duty: Cold War (2020).

This release introduced dialogue choices which actually impact the story and in turn can produce multiple endings. This new gameplay mechanic enticed players to re-play the campaign in an attempt to see all three endings. So here we are in 2021 with Call of Duty: Vanguard by developer Sledgehammer Games and all the above-mentioned campaign improvements are completely absent.

Call of Duty: Vanguard in traditional COD standards is packed to the gills with content. Campaign, multiplayer, Warzone, and zombies. As you read from my opener, I decided to focus a bit more on the campaign mode because as I mentioned, we were seeing some significant  [AV1] gameplay changes to the formula and all in the right ways. However, Vanguard’s campaign (no spoilers) does not incorporate any of these new features and instead returns back to basic sneak, snipe, fire fight and repeat mission structure. Now I’m not saying there is no fun to be had because there is, but it all feels dated with no surprises.

The majority of the story has the captain of an elite squad remembering how he moved up the ranks and providing the backstory for each member of the team. You will play as each member of his team during these flashbacks so there really is no question on what the outcome will be since you already know the future of the character you are playing. If you’ve seen the reveal trailer then you will recall the Lady Nightingale parkour gameplay which looked amazing. Well, her paths are linear so you can’t just free roam around to find alternate routes to your objective. I was really hoping that this “new” movement mechanic would offer such variety but that was not the case.

Visually, Call of Duty: Vanguard’s campaign cut scenes are above and beyond anything I’ve seen in the franchise. The smooth transitions from gameplay to cut scene is a work of magic. The dynamic lighting throughout the game is well done and since the majority of the missions take place at night, you will seek out a light source whenever possible. Remember this is World War 2 so we don’t have the luxury of using infrared or night vision goggles. Overall, Call of Duty Vanguard’s campaign felt basic and dated compared to the past two releases. So now let’s talk about what a good 90% of the COD community will be spending their time in which is all the multiplayer modes.

Call of Duty: Vanguard doesn’t divert from the winning multiplayer formula we come to expect and that’s fine by me. If there is one thing, I love about playing a new COD title is that my muscle memory will kick in and I’ll be off running & gunning without the worry of the controls being re-mapped. I’m familiar with the lobby system and top ribbon navigation panels so if you’ve played a recent COD, you will have no issues navigating around to create a new loadout and jump into a match. Speaking of matches, all the previous match types such as Kill confirmed, Domination and Team Death Match just to name a few make their return along with two new additions.

Patrol – This match type requires your team to keep control of a zone and reach the goal of 200 points to win. However, unlike the match type Hardpoint, the zone to control will constantly change and will keep your team on the move. Depending on the map some locations could be closer than others but regardless it’s a fresh twist on Hardpoint.

Champion Hill – is by far the most ambitious new game mode to appear in a COD title. You can play 8 or 16 teams in a round robin elimination tournament. The number of teams competing depends on the size of the teams (duo or trios) which also impacts the amount of allowed respawns. So, the goal is to defeat a team in one of four maps by reducing their respawns to 0. During a match you will find money which can be used to upgrade your weapons along with extra lives.

After three rounds your team is placed in a HUB area in which you can use your in-game money to purchase new weapons, armor and perks along with extra lives. Some matches can last 3-5 mins or 10-20 mins depending on how your team work together and strategize. I highly recommend playing with a team with headsets for constant communication is key to winning matches. So, as you can see this mode includes elements from war zone, death match and zombies. There are so many more layers to this mode and if you choose to invest the time it could easily become your new favorite COD MP match type.

Call of Duty: Vanguard Zombies mode tells its own story built around Wolfram Von List and his dark magic. Personally, I am not a fan of this mode. I spent a couple of hours playing with Editor-in Chief Richard Bailey Jr and while we love zombies (check out our TWD podcast) something about this mode feels bland and unnecessary.

The story attached didn’t pull us in and some may argue the entire aspect of any zombie shooter is repetitive and mindless. Yet other zombie games (2 of which released this year) are able to keep you engaged and motivated to progress. We just didn’t feel that from this mode. Now if you are a fan of previous COD zombies’ mode, then I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Like it or not, the new heart of the COD franchise is Warzone. This battle royale mode has divided the COD community since it was introduced in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. I enjoy the experience it offers when playing with friends and working as a unit to find necessary items in order to survive.

Warzone is jam packed with new weapons, attachments, operators and other goodies all of which are attached to the Battle Pass. Like previous COD Battle Passes, you can complete challenges to unlock the items during the respective season or spend some real-world cash and purchase the pass out right.  

Call of Duty: Vanguard in traditional COD form is PACKED!!! With content. There is something for everyone whether you want to do a campaign, play some multiplayer, kill zombies or parachute into an all-out war. So, the question of is this a good COD title and worth buying is subjective to the experience the player is seeking.

As mentioned, I have always loved the campaigns, especially Modern warfare 2019 and Cold War. Vanguard falls short in this area. However, I really enjoy the two new MP modes with Champion Hill quickly becoming my preferred match type. Overall, Call of Duty: Vanguard delivers on producing a complete COD experience but lacks the “WOW” factor we experienced with the previous two titles.

This review was written based on a digital review copy of Call of Duty: Vanguard for the PlayStation 5 provided by Activision.

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