Call of Duty: Vanguard’s first public playtest is available for PlayStation players this weekend, and while there is only one game mode available, it makes a pretty good first impression. Champion Hill is a new multiplayer mode that turns the series’ 2v2 and 3v3 Gunfight mode into a tournament that plays out until one team is left standing. The idea is simple; each team starts with 12 lives (in 2v2 at least) and will be put up against one of seven other teams for a minute. During that time, your team must kill the enemy as much as possible while saving your lives before being put against another team. If your team dies with no lives remaining, you are eliminated.
Champion Hill is a really simple idea that is different enough to warrant a new game mode, but familiar for anyone who enjoys Gunfight. I had a lot of fun jumping into games and not only working for kills but trying to survive. The maps you play on are small, so you have a pretty good chance to run into an enemy wherever you go. I found myself getting that same adrenaline you get in a battle royale match whenever my team’s lives were running low. Those kill-or-be-killed moments made every round really exciting.
When you start up a match of Champion Hill, you are placed into an area with all the other players and are given a small amount of cash to buy upgrades at four tables. Cash is earned by picking it up off the ground, killing enemies, or winning rounds by having fewer lives lost than the opponent. Weapons, equipment, perks, and support items are the four areas you can spend some money in, but it isn’t until three rounds into the game that you really have the cash available to make significant purchases. Additionally, you can upgrade your held weapon at any time with better attachments by pressing right on the d-pad. This is an odd thing to have separate from the other upgrades, but I really liked it. Getting an instant boost to my weapon’s reliability was sometimes just what I needed to win a round.
On my first night playing Champion Hill in Vanguard, it ran well. I ran into some network issues, but nothing that made the experience unplayable. I also had an odd glitch where when a round started, the game transported me back to the upgrade area instead of into a fight, but that only happened once. Playing on PlayStation 5, I wouldn’t say the game looks graphically superior to anything else that has been released recently, but a large part of that can be attributed to playing a game taking place in a well-worn setting like World War II. Not bad, but not something to really talk about.
Overall, the Champion Hill Alpha in Call of Duty: Vanguard was a fun time. After being so burnt out on Call of Duty multiplayer over the last decade, I did not expect to have as good of a time as I did. I don’t think it will carry the game’s success, but we’re talking about what will be the highest selling game of the year here, like most Call of Duty games. It’s nice to see something that is at least a little different and is a fun time, especially if you are not interested in Warzone.