The past couple of weeks with Call of Duty: Vanguard multiplayer have invoked the same feelings that I have gotten every year, and I am not mad about that. When I launch multiplayer for any Call of Duty, I expect to play a fast-paced arcade shooter with fun movement and gunplay mechanics.
Call of Duty: Vanguard does this well, even if it fails to massively innovate or change much else — which might be okay for some players. At best, Vanguard builds on recent Call of Duty games, feeling like a much more refined version of both 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot and last year’s Black Ops Cold War.
Vanguard follows the same formula that hooks fans every year: earn experience levels to unlock all of the game’s items, prestige, and level up your weapons. Of course, a new batch of mastery camos has returned for the true completionists of the franchise. While unlocking all of the camos is nothing new for Call of Duty players, some of the challenges this year seem a bit too tedious and long.
For example, the Panzerfaust launcher requires you to take down multiple air-related killstreaks such as UAVs for a few of its camo challenges. This may sound easy, but the Panzerfaust is an incredibly difficult launcher to predict and take streaks down with, making it quite annoying to get camos for the weapon.
There are some parts of Vanguard where innovation is noticeable. The newly introduced Combat Pacing options let players choose what type of game they want to play. Want a more traditional gameplay experience? The Tactical combat pacing is for you. If you are trying to complete camo challenges or just want pure chaos, then choose the Blitz option.
Also introduced within Vanguard is weapon bloom. If you are unfamiliar, bloom is a mechanic that requires players to rely on the randomness of bullets hitting while shooting multiple rounds in succession. There is a small cone where the bullets could go, but it isn’t guaranteed. Thankfully, a lot of the bloom-related issues can be fixed with the right attachments, but it definitely feels weird in a Call of Duty game.
The biggest strength of Vanguard’s multiplayer has been the maps, with map design being the best we have seen from the series in a long time. Activision and Sledgehammer Games appear to have been taking notes on community issues such as camping spots and weird map layouts. There are even some returning favorite maps from Call of Duty: World at War. The maps in this game contain everything that makes a Call of Duty map great: lanes, long sightlines, close quarters, open and closed areas — they really have it all.
Eagle’s Nest is a perfect example of an instant classic Call of Duty map, containing a long open lane on one side, and a short close quarters lane on the other, with a traditional middle fighting area. There’s also a minor level of destruction capability that has been added to Vanguard. Don’t expect this to be Battlefield level of destruction, but it is a welcoming touch. Personally, I noticed it the most on Hotel Royale, as almost every single wall tile and window is destructible, allowing you to sneak in some unexpected kills by breaking a wall behind your enemies.
With the release of Vanguard also comes the debut of the Champion Hill mode. Building on the fan-favorite Gunfight modes from previous titles, this high-intensity competitive mode is a fantastic time. Champion Hill pits eight different squads against each other with 12 lives for each squad. Before you play, you will have the opportunity to buy weapons, perks, and even some killstreaks. Once the game starts, you will be randomly selected to play against another squad, in which you have two objectives, survive and take their lives.
During rounds, you will be able to upgrade your weapons, making the mode more intense the longer you and your squad survive. The gameplay flow of Champion Hill is very fast-paced and really allows players to chase down those clutch moments. It’s a heart-pumping game mode with plenty of opportunities available for the player to feel like they are the best in the lobby. I hope Sledgehammer Games continue to support the mode, and maybe even add a tournament or ranked mode to make the stakes even higher.
All in all, Call of Duty: Vanguard is just another Call of Duty, and that is a good thing. It plays like you want a Call of Duty to play, and feels really rewarding in most areas. Of course, there are bugs and flow issues, but those are quickly overshadowed with just how fun Vanguard can be. Even with some interesting new choices, you know what you are getting into with Vanguard, and if you are a fan of the arcade shooter genre, you should find yourself having a great time.