Here we are: another year, another Call of Duty. This year, it’s Sledgehammer Games’ turn with Call of Duty: Vanguard. As is the norm every year, players are given a chance to test the game’s multiplayer out before it’s official release, and that’s just what we did with the early access beta.
First off, note that the COD Vanguard beta is not the complete version of the multiplayer mode. Lots of items are locked for higher levels, and we don’t have access to the full gamut of weapons, perks, streaks, maps, etc. In saying that, this impressions piece is for the Vanguard beta, and my initial take on the multiplayer.
Right off the bat, Vanguard feels familiar…maybe a little too much. In case you didn’t know, the game runs on the same engine as Modern Warfare 2019, and it’s pretty noticeable that it does. From the way characters are heavier compared to past Call of Duty games, to how the guns behave. If you weren’t a fan of MW2019, then there is a big possibility that you won’t dig Vanguard given the similarities.
My take? I did eventually warm up to Modern Warfare 2019, though it’s far from being my favorite Call of Duty multiplayer experience. That said, the issues that I came across MW 2019 is present in Vanguard. Firing unsuppressed weapons won’t show that player’s location on the mini map unless you use the Radar perk. While you can run-‘n’-gun in Vanguard more than in Modern Warfare, it still feels like you’re being penalized for playing aggressively rather than, just sitting and peeking out windows and ledges to pick people off that are trying to run ‘n’ gun.
Another thing that’s back are doors and windows. If you hated them in Modern Warfare, well, there is a slight improvement that some parts of the environment (and windows) can be smashed. But doors themselves, though? Nope, they still present the same problems before as it did in MW 2019. They are still death traps that have another player waiting for you as you enter, and no way to turn them “off.”
Given this isn’t the final build of the game, there are issues that are present that it would be odd not to mention. First off, the sound design is weird, as you can never tell where gunfire is coming from. I’ve had instances where the enemy was gunning down my teammate and I couldn’t hear their foosteps or even unsuppressed guns. I gather, enemies felt the same way as well.
Visibility is another major issue in the beta. Not only are enemies hard to discern from the environments, but Sledgehammer Games even included a haze and distortion effect when players aim down sight (ADS).
Thankfully, Sledgehammer has gone on record to state that they know about the audio and visibility issues, and will mend it.
However, one thing that might not be fixed are the game’s visuals. Simply put: Vanguard is not a pretty game. It’s not the WW2 aesthetic, but rather, how dull and washed out everything looks (on the PS5 version). This compounds the visibility problem a lot, and I have no clue if this is something Sledgehammer Games can fine tune come launch.
In the beta, Sledgehammer has revealed that it has labeled how each mode is played. There are Tactical, Blitz, and Standard. It’s supposed to let players choose how they want their matches. Blitz throws as many players as possible in a map (10-14 on each side by my count), and it’s sheer bedlam, as explosions, gunfire and more fill the battlefield. Tactical is more or less a slower version of Blitz, while Standard, is your typical 6v6 match.
I honestly didn’t feel any of the difference. Sure, there are more enemies in Blitz, but that’s about it. The map sizes seem to be the same, which means that in 6v6, it feels kinda empty.
There’s also a new mode introduced in Vanguard called Patrol, which plays out like Hardpoint but with a moving zone. It’s kind of nice in theory, but in actual gameplay? It misses the mark, as most players won’t cap the point given that it doesn’t add to your streak in any way, and it just tells enemies where you are.
Outside of that, you have your usual Domination, Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed modes. Of course, given how the game uses killstreaks instead of scorestreaks, except people to not go after objectives much, and just camp to get as many kills without dying. For those who played Modern Warfare, this isn’t something new, and it’s up to your own personal preference if you’re OK with it or not.
Possibly my main issue with Vanguard’s pace right now is, it’s SLOW. Throwing a frag grenade is slow, running or moving feels slow. It just feels like doing anything in the beta right now is slow, which pushes players to just not run, walk around while aiming down sights, and so on.
One thing Vanguard has over its predecessors is how much customization can go into your weapons. Primary weapons can be customized in 10 categories, which is the most in Call of Duty history if I remember correctly. The Gunsmith is ripped straight from Modern Warfare, though with Sledgehammer’s own take on a few gun attachments and perks. If you ever wanted to customize your weapon to the hilt, then this is the game for you. You don’t need to use Wild Cards, forsake perks, etc., just to fully kit your gear.
While weapon customization might be a step in the right direction, the gunplay is hit or miss. it’s not as satisfying as Modern Warfare’s, nor is it as snappy as Black Ops Cold War’s. Perhaps it’s the audio issue that’s making it fell that way? We’ll know for sure come launch.
For now, my main gripe with Vanguard is how familiar it feels, and how much it resembles Modern Warfare. I know, I know, complaining about things being too familiar in a Call of Duty game is laughable, but for franchise fans, each studio had their own identity. The moment you play a Treyarch-developed Call of Duty multiplayer game, you’ll instantly know. For Vanguard, parts of it feel like a Modern Warfare 2019 WW2 mod.
You have your basic killstreaks, perks, and whatnot, and most feel like a retread of Modern Warfare 2019. While that can be said for almost every COD game each year, there are always subtle differences that make each title’s multiplayer component stand out. For now, outside of the WW2 theme, I don’t see that in Vanguard.
War Never Changes
We have more than a month’s time before Vanguard is released, and it’s not like Sledgehammer will stop tweaking the game once it’s out. That’s the good thing since the devs can continually modify the game until it hits that sweet spot. That said, just based purely on the beta, I wasn’t blown away by Vanguard, and to be blunt, it’s the “oldest” feeling new Call of Duty game I’ve ever played so far.
Will Sledgehammer be able to tweak this in a way that can please everybody? Probably not. If you didn’t like Modern Warfare 2019, then chances are, you won’t dig Vanguard’s multiplayer all that much. As for me, while I learned to accept Modern Warfare 2019’s quirks in multiplayer, I can’t say if I’ll feel the same with Vanguard. For now, Sledgehammer Games has its work cut out for ’em, though I’m hoping that the beta feedback will be something the devs take to heart.
Jimmy Lara’s Take:
You know, it blows my mind with all the resources and all the money earned on the Call of Duty franchise, that the studios working on them still can’t figure out a good spawn system.
I’m not expecting a perfect system as that will never happen, but why is it that Call of Duty always seems to be getting progressively worse as the generations go on.
The Vanguard beta proved to me that this was going to be yet another COD game with a poor spawn system as countless times I would spawn directly in front of an enemy and die before even taking my first steps. It’s frustrating beyond all reasons, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s like that on purpose.
Again, I don’t expect a perfect system because I have played plenty of other multiplayer games where I had those instances, but they’re usually so far in between and not every other death. I just don’t get it, this is a multi-billion dollar franchise, give the players some sort of fighting chance, even if it’s a few seconds of immunity after spawning, anything will help at this point.
Then there’s the biggest issue that the last few Call of Duty games have been suffering from, visibility. Look, when someone says the visibility in Call of Duty needs to be improved, they don’t mean to make it super obvious by having characters glow like night sticks or something, it just means to make the environments more diverse coloring.
Just look at this, and try and count how many different shades of browns (I know there’s grays, but come on) there are in this picture. The answer? Too many.
Outside of that, I will say that, unlike Alex, I do really like the overall feeling of Vanguard. It has that similar weight that MW2019 brought with it, but more suited for running and gunning, which is the play style I like to lean in for Call of Duty. I think it feels just right, but there are some aspects that are slow that Alex touched upon, like grenade throwing and such.
Overall, I wasn’t too impressed by this year’s Call of Duty based on the beta. Maybe I will at release, but for me the setting of WW2 is a dull and boring one, but Sledgehammer has the opportunity to pump some renewed life into it. It’ll all depend on how much they take the feedback of its community to heart, or if it will release in a state that isn’t any better than what it is now. A lot of work is ahead of the studio.
Call of Duty: Vanguard is set for release this November 5 on the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.