STAFF REVIEW of Call of Duty: Vanguard (Xbox One)


Thursday, November 4, 2021.
by Peggy Doyle

Call of Duty: Vanguard Box art I need to start this out by stating something; I don’t play shooters. I don’t enjoy the PvP craziness, I can’t keep up with people with much better internet, or playing on PC or simply just better/younger reflexes. Last month I covered Insurgency: Sandstorm and I actually enjoyed it, but when XboxAddict asked me to take on Call of Duty: Vanguard and step even further out of my safety net of adorable indie games, I thought they were crazy. I haven’t played a Call of Duty game since Black Ops II and had no idea what I was in for. But I took the leap into this new venture and I have a lot to say about my experience.

Like most Call of Duty games, Vanguard is broken up into different sections; Campaign, Multiplayer and Zombies. I have broken them up for this review to make it easier to digest.

Let’s start with the fast and furious, Multiplayer:





Vangard multiplayer has been created to give you a powerful weapon feel. You will adjust tactically on the fly, using skills to work with your team to win in the varied PvP modes. Every map should be a new and exciting experience with your team, working on a strategy to complete your objectives. There are two main types of gameplay: tactical assault and blitz combat. Based on which mode, you could have the same map but a very different type of experience. Tactical is standard COD 6v6 players, while blitz is 24v24 players.

There are 38 weapons at ship. Each have a unique set of attachments; some can only be used for certain weapons and each weapon can have up to 10 attachments. There are a variety of operators you choose for multiplayer, creating a lot of customization options as well. One of my favourite modes in multiplayer was Patrol. It’s a new mode that is a moving zone through the map. It’s not a set track either, so every time you play it will mix it up and be a bit different. Your objective is to maintain control over the designated zone. Kill confirmed, domination, search and destroy and hardpoint are all there as well.

Champion Hill mode was an interesting change that I was not expecting. Played in Duos or Trios, you and your team are given a set number of lives and are eliminated when you hit zero. You play in a match versus one team at a time, randomly assigned for a time limit and the number of lives you have at the end of the round is what you start with going into your next match. This continues until there is only one team remaining.

There are 20 maps available at launch, 16 regular gameplay maps and four more for Champion Hill. By the end of the year, there should be 24 maps available total.

Zombies:

Sledgehammer Games hopes that Zombies fans new and old are going to be happy. Vanguard's Zombies is WWII, last time they were in WWII was the original Zombies mode. This should provide new and interesting stories. You now have a single universe across all Call Of Duty games, as Black Ops, Cold War and Vanguard are all connected. Cold War was based on the science of the zombies where Vanguard is focused on the supernatural.

Der Anfang is German for The Beginning, and this is the description you will see in game. DER ANFANG – Explore new mysteries of the Dark Aether and join forces with otherworldly allies to stop Ober Fuhrer von List and the demon lord Kortifex from raising the undead Nazi army. Expand out from the fog to explore the rest of the map. Do this by going through the portals you see; each portal takes you to a different mode. Each zombie type you encounter has different way to kill them. Faster than RBZ (Round Based Zombies) and Outbreak to get into action. Go to your objective, complete the action, explore, rinse and repeat. It’s tight and fast loop.

Three Ultra covenants are randomly assigned perks you can have, but you can also purchase them to make sure you have certain ones active with sacrificial hearts (the currency you earn in Zombies). Five different perk fountains have their own tiers to upgrade. Mystery weapon boxes also returns in Vanguard. Intel is already built into the map and it’s more accessible, able to hear it while you are in the space. There were some interesting conversations to be overheard. Although there is no Easter Eggs currently in Vanguard zombies, there will be one coming with Season 1, which is due to drop on December 2nd. I enjoyed Zombies far more than I expected to considering I had never played it before.





Campaign:

Sledgehammer games are big fans of WWII, and this isn’t their first game in that time period. Call of Duty World War II launched in 2017's Call Of Duty. Once they completed that game, they knew there were more stories to tell of the people who actually fought there. Marty Morgan, a historian, was inspirational in telling a lot of unknown stories to the team about WWII and helping create the framework for Vanguard. How ordinary people became extraordinary. Tide turning battles and epic locations are all things that heavily impacted and affected the war. Locations like North Africa, Stalingrad, a plane at Midway, all of these varied locations were important and the team at Sledgehammer went to great lengths to make it all feel authentic. WWII was also the birth of what is known as the Special Forces. Teams from different walks of life, countries etc. that come together to do amazing things. WWII was a global event and involved many countries.

The campaign is the story of the first Special Forces team, ‘Vanguard’, a rag tag team from different countries that aren’t used to working together. They are used to their own way of doing this with the countries they are from. Their special operation mission is to investigate what is simply known as Project Pheonix. They must go into Germany at the end of the war to investigate and discover what this project is and if it is a threat to allied forces. You play as the four main operatives, each have their own abilities, mechanics and specializations. They were chosen to be part of Vanguard because of these skills. The campaign story is broken up into sections where you play as each of the four main protagonists. In between each story, you watch cutscenes where you see the four of them interacting in their current situation. I can’t talk too much about the actual story without spoiling it though.

The first of Vanguard’s main characters is Arthur Kinglsey, a member of the British Army. He is voiced by Chike Okonkwo, who recently featured in the EA published Anthem as Prospero. Second is Polina Petrova, a Soviet Lieutenant based on Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the most prolific female sniper in recorded history. Polina is played by Laura Bailey, perhaps best known as Abby in The Last of Us Part II and Black Widow in Marvel’s Avengers. Up next is Australian Lucas Riggs, based on the most decorated Commonwealth soldier in WWII – Charles Upham. He is portrayed by Martin Copping who also voiced Sipes in 2019’s Infinite Warfare. The final of the four main characters you play as is Wade Jackson., He is part of a US Scouting Squadron, based on the real-life pilot Vernon Micheel. Played by Derek Phillips, COD fans may recognize him as the voice of Raptor-1 in Black Ops Cold War as well as many other games. Each of the four main protagonists had a compelling story of their own to play though, ending in a mission where you play as each of them, showing how they work together. I will say that Riggs was my favourite, as he was wild and cocky, but somehow also incredibly likeable.

With all the incredible voice talent in the game, the standout for me was Dominic Monaghan as Richter. Known to most as the loveable hobbit Merry from Lord of the Rings, Monaghan could not be further from that in Vanguard. I spent some time looking into his portrayal of the character after seeing on his social media how much he liked playing him. He spent a lot of time reading about WWII and doing a lot of research prior to recording for this role. He was terrifying, and terrific. As an actor, Monaghan said his job is to find the justification for his character's behavior, and I can’t imagine the work that went into this. Dan Donohue as Friesinger (the main baddie) was serious and terrifying in the best possible way.

As with all campaigns in Call of Duty, Vanguard's wasn’t very long, somewhere in the 4 to 6 hour range. I loved every minute of it and really wanted more at the end of it.



Music composer, Bear McCreary, who created some epic scores for 2018’s God of War as well as working on TV Shows like The Walking Dead, absolutely stunned me with his score. Instead of using a full orchestra arrangement in much of the soundtrack, he chose to use closed mic’d instruments. Each character has a distinctive feel with the music used in their scenes and it all blends incredibly well into the main game.

On the topic of sound, Sledgehammer games did something I haven’t had happen in a game in a long time, especially a shooter. I got goosebumps, literal goosebumps playing this game in parts. Besides the music, the sounds of the vehicles, bullets and planes flying overhead were incredibly immersive. In order to capture the real authenticity of sound, they brought a dauntless aircraft out, installed recording devices and the result was brilliant. I highly recommend you playing with headphones and experiencing this in its full immersive glory.

Visually the entire game was top notch. The environment was realistic, I didn’t see many issues with voice synching to motion of faces, and the motion capture of the actors was fantastic. There were a lot of familiar faces in the game.

Did Call of Duty Vanguard turn me into a fan of PvP shooters, no it didn’t, but I am certainly glad I played it and am looking forward to playing some more Zombies with friends once it launches for everyone. I loved the campaign though, as well as the four operatives, and Monaghan was just terrific. The visuals, sound mixing and score were also top notch in every way.

*Call of Duty: Vanguard was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X*




Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10

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