Call of Duty: Vanguard Zombies and Der Anfang are a step backward in nearly every way from Black Ops Cold War – Hands-on impressions

A disappointing first entry for the expansion of Call of Duty Zombies.

Image via Treyarch

Being as big of a fan as I am of Call of Duty Zombies, I was pretty excited when I heard that Treyarch would be fully developing a Zombies game mode for Call of Duty: Vanguard. I have been very vocal about how this could lead Zombies into a new era of potential standalone releases. Unfortunately, Call of Duty: Vanguard Zombies seems to have taken a massive step backward from where it was with Black Ops Cold War. If you look anywhere on social media this weekend, you will find people complaining about Der Anfang, Vanguard Zombies’ first (and currently only) map. I share a lot of the criticisms Zombies players have.

Stripped away features for a rushed product

Image via Treyarch

Putting it bluntly, Vanguard Zombies feels rushed and unfinished. Before we get to Der Anfang, let’s look at how the overall Zombies experience has been tuned down from Black Ops Cold War.

Starting things off, Zombies did not run well during this launch weekend. Lag was a constant issue, especially in solo games, because the mode always requires an internet connection. To this point, every single game I have played ended because lag completely kept me from moving. I found solo to be essentially unplayable. Matchmaking runs smoother, but still has quite a few laggy moments. It’s frustrating, although it is easy to write this issue off as something that will be taken care of as time goes on.

What won’t be fixed so quickly is the general upgrade and progression system. Perks, one of the most iconic pieces of Zombies, are worse than they probably have ever been. The great permanent skill upgrade system in Black Ops Cold War has been replaced with a shallow set of enhanceable perks. What you usually get for 2,500 points in other games will take you 15,000 to get here. All the effects are watered-down versions of the basic perks from previous Zombie modes. For most of the game, you won’t even notice the benefits. In addition, the Artifact powers are basic. Artifacts are just a rename of the super moves originally called Field Upgrades in Black Ops Cold War, but now that you can’t upgrade them past their base form, they feel much worse than what we are used to.

Out of all these negatives, one slight positive appears. Rather than have the four damage tiers for weapons in Black Ops Cold War,  you will only need to pay attention  to what Pack-a-Punch level your gun is to determine its upgrade status. That being said, the fact that you can now get Pack-a-Punched guns in the Mystery Box makes the Pack-a-Punch machine completely pointless. Where are you going to go first? Will you gather and spend 30,000 points on getting the third Pack-a-Punch tier at the machine or spend 950 points at a time and take the chance that it appears in the box?

Zombies in Vanguard feels incomplete compared to the last year we had in Black Ops Cold War. Add on to that the absence of any Easter eggs and no wonder weapons at launch, and you have a Zombies mode that feels like an imitation of what Treyarch usually makes. Of course, we are in a reality where Treyarch have poorly imitated themselves.

Der Anfang is a poor, uninspired beginning

Image via Treyarch

As for the first Zombies map in Vanguard, Der Anfang feels as rushed and lacking as the overall mode. I already mentioned there are no Easter eggs here, main quest or side ones, and all the different sections of this map are blank slates of multiplayer maps and Shi No Numa. The fact that there is no round-based map only adds to the Zombie community’s bad feelings towards the game this weekend.

Like Outbreak in Black Ops Cold War, Der Anfang does not base its gameplay on survival rounds. Instead, you need to complete objectives to complete rounds and fight tougher competition. Unlike Outbreak, though, these objectives are basic and there are only three of them. Blitz is a survival objective. Nothing else. You are placed in a small area and told to “take the fight to the enemy,” but you could just avoid all Zombies and complete the objective. Harvest is a collection objective that has you drop five runes at a time in some obelisks, and Transmit asks you to escort a floating head through tight alleys. These get incredibly repetitive after about your third time playing them. Even if you loved Outbreak, you will see how bland Der Anfang is.

As for the story, it’s fine. Vanguard is a prequel to the Dark Aether story started in the previous game. The inclusion of Dark Aether gods as the main characters this time around sounds cool at first, but after about 20 minutes, you will begin hearing them consistently repeat the same voice lines. It’s better than the Operators, but only because those are essentially soulless puppets. There just is not a lot to latch onto here.

Image via Treyarch

Der Anfang in Call of Duty: Vanguard Zombies at launch is the worst iteration of Call of Duty Zombies we have ever seen. The one playable map is bad and holds gameplay changes that take away the good feeling progression Black Ops Cold War had. The mode is underdeveloped, feels rushed, doesn’t perform well, is not fun, and is a lacking experience overall. Play five rounds and exfil, and you will see everything this map has to offer. The difference between Black Ops Cold War and this is amazing. For any issues that that game had, it at least had the best upgrade system, some fun maps, and introduced a new game mode in Outbreak that people enjoy. I can’t say that about Vanguard. After walking away from it this weekend, I have no desire to play it again anytime soon. Don’t waste your time or money on Vanguard if all you want to play it for is Zombies.