Vanguard is the latest installment to a game series that has been dominating PCs and consoles, as well as phones recently too, everywhere since its first release in 2003. In case you were unaware, that series is Call of Duty.
Vanguard finds us not in the present, nor in the future – where some Call of Duty titles have picked up some criticism and fans said they wanted real world, boots on the ground stuff again, but finds us throwing back to World War 2. Now curb those sighs, World War 2 has a lot of shooter content to give us as this global event changed the face of war forever.
Let’s get stuck in.
What to expect
As we’ve all come to love about Call of Duty, especially those from the Treyarch side of the Call of Duty family tree, this game is a triple threat release comprising of a campaign (shakes head at Black Ops 4), multiplayer, and zombies.
With the release of a new game, you can also expect some changes and new additions (some have already rolled out) in Call of Duty’s famed Battle Royale mode, Warzone. With me having moved on from my Battle Royale craze, I have not spent much time in this but instead delved more deeply into the campaign, followed closely by multiplayer and then some zombies for a change of pace and scenery.
With all this content packed into one game, you can expect Vanguard to take up around 55GB on a PlayStation 4, 56GB on an Xbox One, 64Gb on a PlayStation 5, 61GB on an Xbox Series X|S, and 61GB on a PC. Obviously, the newer generation taking up more space because of better graphics, as well as PC with its RTX glory. Strangely, the required space for the Xbox consoles is the same as the file size, while the PlayStation 4 requires around 93GB of total space on your hard drive, and the PlayStation 5 needs just shy of 90GB. Why this is, we can only speculate.
The Vanguard campaign starts with a bang as you and a small team of elite soldiers have stealthily boarded a train teeming with Nazis headed towards a secret submarine base. The action quickly picks up and jumping between two trains traveling alongside each other is the order of the day, along with gunfire and explosions that make a Michael Bay movie seem like child’s play.
The campaign continues this trajectory for most of its nine missions and leaves you with a sense that you were more part of a 6 to 7-hour long World War 2 movie, more than playing a game. This, in itself, is not a bad thing as the movie is very cinematic and graphics and scenery are superbly laid out in front of you, giving you a sense of actually being there. Big ups to the devs for managing to do this.
Now, some of you reading this may think 6 to 7 hours of explosions, adrenaline, stealth, and teeth-gritting action is not much but a quick google search has revealed that all Call of Duty campaigns, since the first one, fall somewhere between 6 and 9 hours with the longest of these being the Black Ops III campaign at 9 hours and only Black Ops: Cold War falling below that with a dismal campaign length of about 4 and a half hours. So, all is not that bad with this one as the 7 hours it took me (yes, I play slow – blame it on my RPG background) to complete the campaign kept me engaged and thinking of ways to outsmart my enemies as a standard run and gun very seldom had the desired effect.
Call of Duty has come full circle with their Zombies mode as we see ourselves ripping through the reanimated corpses of the undead soldiers of the Third Reich. I did have flashbacks to me, 13 years ago, booting up the old Xbox 360 and logging into Zombie mode on Call of Duty: World at War and trying to see how many waves I could survive.
With Vanguard’s Zombies, you see yourself and 3 other players transported to an alternate European battlefield with hellish red skies, otherworldly mystical entities, and cursed talismans and crystals that scatter the maps of this world. The Zombies have long since moved from science experiments, with a touch of the arcane, gone wrong, and have moved far into the realm of eldritch magic and heavy spiritual influences affecting the world.
This Zombies sees you starting in a sort of neutral zone, although the horde of the undead is present here too. Your weapons, ammo, upgrades, and mystery boxes can be found here, and kill here do earn points and install, double points and max ammo can still be dropped. Scattered around this zone are portals that drop you into a plethora of game modes, some familiar and some new. All with the objective to appease some godly being and to bring some sort of order into the chaos that is this red sky hellscape.
Call of Duty multiplayer is probably one of the biggest drawcards for many regulars to the franchise and is what keeps Call of Duty among the upper echelons of FPS games. Call of Duty has long since been known for its high intensity, fast-paced, quick killing style of play and Vanguard is not different. As a seasoned Call of Duty online player, I found that the feel of the Vanguard multiplayer is reminiscent of older titles such as Black Ops I and II and the earlier Modern Warfare games (yes, I know those are Infinity Ward and not Treyarch) and, as such, I found the online experience to be far more enjoyable than with other more recent Call of Duty titles.
The game modes that we’re exposed to are your usual Team Deathmatch, Free for all, Domination, Hardpoint, and Kill Confirmed. Some new game modes and ones from newer titles also make an appearance here with modes like Search and Destroy, Control and Patrol.
What is new to Vanguard is the new Champion Hill game mode. This game mode is a hybrid between Battle Royale and Team Deathmatch and rewards teamwork, communication, and gun skill (naturally). Eight squads of duos or trios battle it out in a round-robin Team Deathmatch that takes place across four maps. As in Battle Royale – the last team standing wins.
It is rumored that more game modes, weapons, operators, and skins will be added in the upcoming seasons, with operators and skins coming through the game’s battle pass that is one pass across multiplayer, Warzone, and Zombies. Playing through the campaign and completing certain challenges will also unlock things for you to use in multiplayer.
As I mentioned before, being a seasoned Call of Duty player and owning almost every title (all the ones worth owning at least) to date, it was with the anticipation similar to that of the day before my birthday knowing that I was getting that thing I’d dreamt of for so long that I waited for the drop of Vanguard. Playing in the betas left me with a sense of both wanting more and hoping that there was more to the game than what was revealed to us in the betas (I was a little disappointed with the latest beta). So, when the day finally came, and I was able to finally play the game – I was ecstatic.
And that’s where the elation ended for a time.
My two or so weeks were spent with a highly annoying glitch that would start a 2.3GB update every single time I opened the game to play. I uninstalled and reinstalled the game about 4 times in this period and nothing seemed to help. Frustrated, I gave up and waited for the first official patch before attempting to play again. Once that update came, I installed it as quickly as my internet would allow and dove straight back in… to be greeted with a connection error at the title screen. This prevented me from playing even further and, highly annoyed with a few scathing messages about my frustrations to my friends, deleted the game AGAIN and started my reinstall. Now, if it wasn’t for the sake of this review, I probably would have deleted the game and left it in my library until early 2022 when the disappointment and frustration had worn off. For this, I am thankful for this review forcing me to reinstall the game again immediately as once I was finally in and error-free, I began to play one of the most entertaining Call of Duty titles that I’ve played in a while. I see that not all reviewers have agreed with this, and some have even gone as far as to call Vanguard uninspired, unimaginative, and unambitious. I can see where they get off with these opinions, but I quickly fell in love with Vanguard as it gave me that old-school nostalgic feel that I loved about Call of Duty in my younger years. The fact that I’m a big fan of World War 2 and lap up almost anything that I can find that is based on or inspired by, World War 2 may have also contributed to this love.
And so, in conclusion, I award Call of Duty: Vanguard from Sledgehammer Games and Treyarch the following ratings:
Unfortunately, my initial experience with the game did mar the ratings, and the fact that this was played on Xbox One and not a Series X|S, we award Call of Duty: Vanguard with an overall, Early Axes rating of 8 out of 10 stars.
A big thank you, once again, to Prima Interactive for giving us the chance to play this title.