Call of Duty: Vanguard brings WW2 to life with a fraught and desperate fight for survival
The latest Call of Duty debuts some great gameplay and tech
After conclusion year 80s warfare, this year’s COD jumps back further with Call of Duty: Vanguard. It’s a income on WW2 that countenance spectacular so far in the Modern Warfare engine (which Black Ops Cold War skipped), and channels a far more raw profits on the Second World War than the usual average waving heroism. From a diverse cast, to beautifully atmospheric locations, and the genuine terror overtones to some sequences, Vanguard has a grim life to it that feels far removed from the old yee-ha beach storming shootouts into French villages.
But it’s also the first big game announced under the trace of the Activision Blizzard lawsuit, leading Sledgehammer office head Aaron Halon to open our appearance with a appeal on those events. It was an unusual but welcome step to confront the issue head on (you can read the full statement here), with Halon saying that “the stories and sickness tribe have shared are devastating” before concluding that “there’s no easy medium to switch supplies to talking approx our game. So please grace me for the awkward transition”. And, like Halon, you’ll have to statement my clumsy pivot…
A courtyard of games like to discussion roughly the ‘horrors of war’, especially with historical or actuality earth inspirations like World War 2, but that usually translates into something fairly blunt: dead bodies, blood, a trait destruction while carrying the player’s fist and keeping very deliberate eye conspiracy with the camera. (“Tell Ma (gasp) tell Ma I….” [breathy rattle].) Call of Duty: Vanguard seems to be focusing intently on the ‘horror’ segment – getting across a intuition of impactful terror and danger in a dark, night introduction that doesn’t wave obvious Second World War ascription under your nose.
World War 2-inspired amusement can also often come across with a slight silverware screen sheen of heroism, as soldiers salute flags with axe-chop arms. But none of that is apparent in the breathless despondency of Call of Duty: Vanguard’s action. The gameplay opens with Operation Tonga, a real nighttime attack that took position just before D-Day, and follows the game’s lead character Arthur “King” Kingsley – a Black British paratrooper loosely inspired by the real life Sidney Cornell. What follows is a chaotic and tense scrabble for survival through dark environments and dusty abandoned houses.
There’s a toss black forest, lit by flames, that seems to channel The Last of Us 2’s first Seraphite encounter. A shootout has you firing at dusk flitting past windows and floorboards gaps, feeling more like the lycans coming in Resident Evil Village than Nazis attacking. Tying it all together, a desperate run through occupied France, alone and lost, while German soldiers swarm, prey and killing straggling, dazed paratroopers who’ve barely survived their landing. It’s a more evocative debut than the normal locale of soldiers keenly pressed up against walls hue out adversaries positions.
From the value Arthur Kingsley stress from his burning guile there’s fire, bodies, and a brains of madness that this actually ever happened in actuality life. The forest section I mentioned sees you moving through trees lit in dark shades of orange from flaming slyness wreckage. That Modern Warfare locomotive continues to produce incredible results – there’s a weave to the clue as faint light plays across smoke and dust that feels tangible, and the illumination captures exactly the same ‘flames in the dark’ ring to Ellie’s first rendezvous with the Seraphites. The first enemy contact in Vanguard mirrors that attention further as a German soldier violently gores a paratrooper hanging in the trees.
There’s a strong survival terror sense to this debut Call of Duty: Vanguard gameplay. Having missing all his outfits in the drop, Arthur finds himself holed up in the basement of an abandoned house with a stolen German rifle and a handful of bullets. As soldiers surround the building, he’s left potshoting shadows that pass across the floorboards overhead, or between partially cracked window shutters. A lot of historical shooters have worn the Second World War like a topic park mascot outfit, but if I hadn’t been told what I was watching here, it would only be the German shouting that gave anything away. Game director Josh Bridge introduced this whole clause talking approx the importance of conveyancing a “sense of desperation, of survival”, something that’s evident throughout – there’s no shaky handy cam found footage camera vocation here, but nature on screen conveys that brains of panicked urgency.
While Arthur is the main arrangement of the Call of Duty: Vanguard campaign, fighting across the Western Front, he’s eventually the guidance of an early WW2 spec ops team. The rest of that group is formed by three other playable disposition that fight across North Africa, the Eastern Front, and the Pacific. Overall, there’s mention of the jungles of the Pacific Theater, African deserts, Stalingrad during the winter, Normandy, and Tuscany. While Sledgehammer absolutely dodged a investigation about means in such a wide obtaining campaign – formations an queer consideration to the “live season of component coming” to share more – we know there evidence be at least one flying mission system in the Battle of Midway.
Interestingly, like Arthur, all of the main characters are inspired by actuality people. There’s Polina Petrova, a Russian sniper based on Lyudmila Pavlichenko who, with 309 confirmed kills, is the bulk successful noblewoman sniper of all time. Wade Jackson is a flyer based on Vernon Micheel, who bombed and sunk two Japanese aircraft carriers in the Battle of Midway. And, finally, Lucas Riggs, who’s based on Charles Upham, a New Zealander who was the only homme to be awarded the Victoria Cross twice during World War 2. Campaign creative director David Swenson mentions the “lengths we went to to discovery the voice of these characters” highlighting both the actor seat Arthur, Chiké Okonkwo, and award harvesting writer Tochi Onyebuchi’s parts in serving the team “identify and find the voice for Arthur Kingsley”.
Where belongings get a little eccentric is that these four characters ultimately come together as a special operations team, and are sent into Berlin to tackle something called Project Phoenix. What this actually is isn’t clear – both in-game and from Sledgehammer itself. Swenson describes how, at the close of the war, “elements of the Nazi Party were desperately trying to finger out how to obeying the Party functioning.” He concludes, somewhat enigmatically, that “Project Phoenix was something Allied command heard about, wasn’t sure what it was, and felt it created this potential intimidation of identifying a potential successor to Hitler.” When I questioned him directly approx it, all he would say was that Arthur and his team’s final assignments is to “go identify what Project Phoenix is” adding, “we’re excited for athlete to have that experience.” It’s hard, given the rumors of alternate-timelines, not to wonder if belongings effectiveness get a little freaky…
I mentioned prerogative at the start how good Call of Duty: Vanguard looks in the Modern Warfare engine, but it’s value repeating. The lighting, smoke, and particles bring levels to life in an impressive way, with the environments as scads a character as any of the actual group in the game. During the gameplay I saw every bullet fired performed – from splintering characteristics to the dust thrown up by impacts, or books and goal flying from shelves – bombardment brings Vanguard’s spaces to life. Multiplayer creative director Greg Reisdorf explains that “it wasn’t just closely pulling that trigger and understanding it in the weapon, [it’s] about everything that that pellet is hitting along its path in the world, [and] how that world reacts and responds is something that we’re aspiration reactive gameplay environments.” As well as observing great, there’s a tactical boundary to it too. “You can pause through boards,” explains Reisdorf, “you can open new pathways, and utility those to your advantage, utility them tactically.”
In terms of the actual multiplayer itself, Greg and the band at Sledgehammer are teasing more than photograph privilege now. There testament be 20 maps at launch focusing on 6v6 multiplayer (with four maps designed for 2v2). There’s also a new manner called Champion Hill, which Reisdorf describes as “our big tentpole mode”, adding that it’s a mix of “Battle Royale plus Gunfight” with a single map and crew battle to win. There’s also departing to be Vanguard Zombies, with Treyarch leading offshoot of what will be the series’ first crossover, with a tale that testament act as a prologue to Black Ops Zombies.
The big multiplayer news though is the much rumored shake-up of Call of Duty: Warzone. Raven testament be adding a whole new Warzone map “this year” according to Halon. This testament also include Vanguard’s tech for “seamless equalizer integration and worker balance” as well as (somehow) creating a ‘metaverse’ to connect Vanguard, Black Ops, Cold War, and Modern Warfare. Perhaps most importantly, there evidence be an all new anti-cheat design entrance when Vanguard arrives in Verdansk. You tins read more on all the Vanguard Warzone details here.
I wasn’t entirely sure about a return to the Second World War – Sledgehammer’s 2017 effort, Call of Duty: WW2, was fine, but felt a little too much of a novelty after the future-chasing sci-fi of the games that preceded it. Despite a decent run up, it couldn’t quite staff the dock narratively, and never felt entirely comfortable trying to phrase a 1940s Call of Duty experience following on from the likes of Infinite Warfare and Black Ops 3. Call of Duty: Vanguard, however, feels more assured. It’s atmosphere and atmosphere vocation regardless of the setting, especially in that amazing looking engine. And, based on what I’ve seen of it in action, I’m looking forward to seeing more on how the team and the tech manage to realize the rest of the site and conflicts.