Call Of Duty: Vanguard Review(PS5)
New year. Same Game?
Developed: Sledgehammer Games
Genre: Japanese First Person Shooter
Release Date: Nov 5th, 2021
*Review copy provided to me by Activision*
''Time For War''
Call Of Duty Vanguard is the latest entry in the long running first person shooter franchise, developed by Sledgehammer Games and published by Activision. With a previous WW2 game like Call Of Duty: WW2 feeling more of the ''same'' for the franchise, Sledgehammer Games decided to switch it up a bit with a different approach on story telling and new multiplayer game modes. But were these decisions sound decisions? or is it a case of ''If it aint broke, dont fix it''. Only one way to find out, so lets go!
The unified narrative of Vanguard's single-player campaign spans four different frontlines of World War II - focusing on the Pacific War, the Western and Eastern Fronts and the North Africa campaign. Join a cast of four characters and witness their stories and perspective of the war based off their own personal and heartfelt experiences of triumph and tragedy.
If you have paid attention to my content for the last year or so, you would know that me and Call Of Duty have a weird checkered past. It's not a love and hate relationship, but more so an off and on again relationship between me and franchise. Quite a few times has the series been the butt end my jokes or quips and that could give the impression that I hate this series or even dislike it, but that couldn't be further from the truth. I do not dislike the series, in fact, some of the titles are really good, but over the years it's been a hit or miss with some of the entries feeling a bit repetitive or repeating the same formula over and over. So with all my jokes and ribs aimed towards Call Of Duty, ''how can you even even be impartial to the series, aren't you going to have a bias against it''. Well truth to be told, it does feel a little bit like joining the dark side if I'm going to be perfectly honest. A Slow descent into madness and being converted into ''the dark'' side of gaming. However, I was taught a power by my master that allows me to be completely unbiased and review this title 100% fairly on all its positives and negatives and give YOU my personal and honest truth, whether its positive or negative. So its time to dive right in and start off by talking about the campaign mode first and then we'll transition into all the online features, you know, the REAL bread and butter of the series that everyone knows and loves.. or rather, at least cares for.
Story modes in Call Of Duty haven't exactly been the cream of the crop. Some have ranged for me personally as really cool and engaging like Advanced Warfare with Kevin Spacey, Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare with Soap and Price.. but then some others for me really have fallen flat on their face with titles like Black Ops beginning really good with CIA related black operations, but ultimately leaves little to be desired by the time you reach its conclusion. Luckily, however, in this latest entry, Sledgehammer Games has learned quite a bit from not only their last outing of World War 2 back in 2017, but also overall from the franchise as a whole. As you push through your 6-7 hour long campaign mode, you will be put in the shoes and perspective of four main characters, each with their own stories of hardships, reasons for going to war or self grandeur. Whether you are playing as Wade Jackson, a hotshot maverick like Tom Cruise in Top Gun, Arthur Kingsley, a dedicated and fearless leader that leads by not only force but with compassion, or my favorite character, Polina Petrova, a legendary sharpshooter dubbed Lady Nightingale, you're going to get a very unique experience. This is in large part due to multiple factors, some that are just nice touches like character bios with an interesting backstory and other things like locations of history that make this feel like a story and campaign that is actually worth paying attention to. ''Pay attention to a story in Call Of Duty? what are you crazy, woman? just get to the game play and online, we don't care''. Woah hang on there. Calm down. We'll get to all of that really really soon, I swear. Sheesh. You know those moments when someone bombs on stage and get fruits and popcorn thrown at them? Well in my case it seems like I'm about to be hit with Doritos, Mountain Dew, Air Horns blasted and Geoff Keighley tweets.
All joking aside. One the coolest things about this story and its progression, is the fact you play as four different characters and from four different experiences and points of view. By jumping back and forth between time from the past to the present times in the war, all storylines meet in the middle and play themselves out. By the end of your 6-7 hour journey, you know these characters, their histories and can feel for them even on an emotional level or if anything, they became more relatable based off tragedies like Polina having her family killed or Arthur losing his men in battle. A main culprit in why I found these characters so interesting is because all the heroes of this game are actually based off of real life inspirations. Sure they might not be really named Wade or Polina, but Sledgehammer games took inspiration from real life legends and made them come alive in video game form, albeit with some liberties taken and loosely connecting. For example this games Polina Petrova is actually based off a real life figure named Lyudmila Pavlichenko, known to all as Lady Death, who today still stands as one of the most notorious and deadliest female snipers of all time, racking in a total of 300 plus confirmed kills. Arthur Kingsley is based off real life british soldier Sidney Cornell of the 7th Light Infantry Parachute Battalion during the early days of World War 2. Cornell's most well known mission and heroics involved him parachuting the night and day before D-Day into enemy territory and being stranded there. Serving as a runner of messages to british outposts, he was stuck in the heat of danger and behind enemy lines for FIVE whole weeks. That's insane! and for his bravery in the war efforts. he was ultimately awarded with the Distinguished Conduct Medal. These are only some of the main examples as to WHY I got really into the story when learning about who these characters are actually based off of. But I know, we got to move on, so lets start chatting a bit about how this story actually intertwines with the gameplay itself. So no more with the air horns ok? ok? ok stop it!. As you push through the nine different missions during your story mode, each taking you to a different location and giving you the perspective of the European side of the the conflict, as well as taking you to North Africa and the Pacific Ocean Theater, you will get a variety of different game play experiences than just pop into a room here, shoot this and move on. Sure that same old gun play is here with your loadouts, upgrading weapons, attachments, etc, but this time it doesn't throw all fish into one barrel. I'll explain. Previous Call Of Duty games fell into the trope of you moving through a narrow corridor, bullet time, move on, but here in Vanguard I feel there's more diversity in game play. One minute, yes, you'll be mowing down hordes of enemies in a room like stated, but the very next level as someone like Polina, you're pushing through enemy lines with your brother and utilizing her skill as a sniper to pick of enemies in the distance, watching for the shine of their scopes, then move to a mission as Wade that wants you to focus on stealth over gun play so you can make it to your friend in time before he is killed, get into a dog fight in the air as you shoot down enemy warplanes in super intense battles, which I absolutely sucked at with my horrible aim. If they had just played ''Danger Zone'' though, forget about it, I would've crushed it. Surprisingly, the jungle mission with Wade was actually one of my favorite missions of them all, believe it or not, and this is coming from someone who overall, hates stealth focused missions. I think it was due to the atmosphere of the thick dark forest, knowing your enemy is out there in the darkness looking for you, creeping up on them to do a takedown move with R3 and then seeing a dead body hanging from a tree. I know I shouldn't laugh, but come on, look, that's funny. ''So hey buddy, what are you doing''? ''Just hanging around?'' haha. ok. If I had a bat, I'd swing away just like Merrell in the movie Signs. Only I wouldn't have an incompetent race of aliens after me that flew thousands of light years to earth, couldn't open pantry doors and who's one major weakness was water. Invading a planet that has 71% of your species weakness. Very smart. Almost as smart as a call of duty fa... oh wait I can't make that joke anymore. Ahem. At this point in the story, after learning everyone's backstories and how they've all come together from different parts of the world, america, russia, britain, to achieve one goal, stop Hitler's tyranny. I realized, ''Wow. I really really like this story mode and not only the story mode, but this game in general and how it plays''. There's more emotion felt by all characters involved. You learn about losses of their men, people feeling like failures for things gone wrong, characters watching their countries fall and are powerless to stop it. The more I enjoyed it, the more I felt myself slowly beginning to sink further to the dark side with my transition almost being almost complete. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the story mode, its not perfect at all and does have its issues. It has some frame rate dropping, freezing, still an abundance of the ''falling and being dragged trope'' and a little disconnect between wanting to follow World War 2 and then wanting to be a pure action game. But the emotional set pieces, different locations in the world during the war, events inspired by real life, great voice acting and combat and controls feeling extremely smooth and responsive, made the campaign really fun to play.
Now we've come to the part that people are actually going to spend 90% of the time playing, and if I'm gong to be honest, the main modes that players are actually interested in anyways. Booting up your multiplayer will allow you to select from multiple game modes, some new and some familiar. These modes include Team Deathmatch, which is your tried and true team based combat where the first team to x amount of kills is the winner, Zone Blitz that acts as an attack and defend style of battle where you must capture specific points and hold them for as long as possible from enemy combatants, Patrol which involves a moving capture point that makes you and your team follow it to rack up points on the scoreboard, all while fending off enemy fire, and then there's Champions Hill Duo and Trios. Champions Hill is basically a more streamlined version of Gunfight mode from Modern Warfare. In that mode you had to eliminate all targets to get the win overall, but here in Vanguard, that process has been more way more optimized and thought out. In Vanguard, you are now placed in a tournament style bracket with two or three people and your objective is to eliminate specific teams and be the last team overall in the tournament at the end alive. Each team has a set amount of deaths that are allowed before your team is completely eliminated, so don't panic if you happen to lose completely in one or two rounds, that doesn't mean you're out just yet, you can still make a comeback. Luckily in between rounds, you and your team can restock weapons, ammo, throwables in the main hub area while you wait for the next bracket tournament to begin. I actually had a lot of fun in this new mode, even eliminating a team myself on one occasion, and I really hope it comes back again in the future. The modes of Patrol, Zone Blitz, Champions hill are absolutely my favorite overall though, Champions Hill mostly because it reminds me of Murderball from T.F.C. In both Patrol and Zone Blitz, I'm pretty good at capturing points or holding them and usually lead my team in capture time when those modes come up. I actually feel like I'm ''good''. But move my butt over to Team Deathmatch and I get completely bodied to the ends of the earth. Only way to make myself feel better is by not coming in dead last on the scoreboard. If that's achieved then I take my own personal W for my self esteem. ''But what good are all these modes without actual enhancements?'' you say. True, very true, it would not be a Call Of Duty game without all the extra goodies to unlock and achieve.
As per usual with each entry into this franchise, custom loadouts are selectable that allow you to be the fighter you wish to be by utilizing Rifles,SMGs,Shotguns,handguns,bazookas,perks,grenades,etc. Besides your own character level that you can raise and get upgrades for that relate to great stuff like attack dogs for killstreaks, new weapons, perks like radar that allows you to see people on your map, you're also able to raise the level of each individual weapon at your disposal as well. That's right, all of them. By completing challenges, such as getting 120 eliminations, getting a specific amount of crouching kills or melee kills, along with just getting exp naturally for your weapon by just killing or winning matches, will allow you to unlock so many new additions to your weapons such as attachments that make for faster melee, recoil buster for better firing rate, laser sights for better accuracy, as well as unlock items for your killstreaks and field upgrades like spy planes for 4 consecutive kills, bomb runs for 6 consecutive kills, supply boxes to refill equipment for your teammates, dead silence ability that makes your footsteps silent and makes you undetectable to enemy spy planes and many more. Like good lord, there's just so many upgrades that it will make you do a Tailspin. No, I'm not talking about that cartoon. Moving on over to the Operators section is where you will pick which avatar or character you will be playing as during your time with the online. Here is where you'll be able to select from 12 different characters, each with their own set of challenges to complete for rewards, character bios, customizations like skins for their clothing, quip taunts, finishing moves with R3, and even specific objectives you need to do to unlock some characters that aren't available to use yet. Characters such as Daniel, who in order to use, you must get 2000 marksman rifle kills, Solange requiring you to get 10 double kills, or Arthur requiring you to get 10 kills with killstreaks. Heck even with all this, it doesn't even cover the OVERALL career challenges that aren't related to just a class or the barracks that hosts your customizations for player cards, player records and progression. Phew!. There's so much packed in here that its like trying to pack a suitcase that just won't close. But there's one mode we haven't talked about isn't there? yup, good ol zombies. I will briefly touch upon this mode before wrapping this bad boy up and giving my final positives and negatives in the wrap up.
In zombie mode, it acts a bit like a roguelike, meaning its generally the same areas you go to via portals that have you escorting a flying skull to safety while defending it against zombies or defending the hub area from incoming hordes of zombies that crawl, walk, glow red and explode or even have their own mini guns to mow you down with, these areas repeat, but different zombie types spawn. The main goal here in zombie mode is to take down a demonic entity at helm of all this madness, but also by fighting fire with fire by utilizing your own demonic powers too. Abilities like an ice attack that which summons a blizzard, L1+R1 which gives you temp boost in power, drinking demonic fluids for health or damage boosts or by purchasing upgrades by sacrificing hearts inside the main hub area. Make no mistake, there is very little downtime in zombie mode. Its fast paced and hectic regardless if you're escorting a magic skull or having to survive waves of zombies for three minutes straight. It will keep your heart pumping. If described accurately by me, to me this mode feels like a more refined version of Outbreak mode from Call Of Duty Black Ops Cold War. It takes the elements from that which worked and combined it with traditional zombies mode we all know. Super fun!
At the end of the day, Call Of Duty Vanguard actually genuinely surprised me. I know people have been giving it grief on whether or not its ''historically accurate'' but I just see it as, if you can entertain me, you know, like a game SHOULD, then we have no issues. If I want ''historically accurate'', I'd go watch the History Channel. Wait.. on second thought, yeah, no, maybe not. My point being here is Vanguard does a lot of good things, playable four characters with each having unique experiences and play styles, action going from over the top set pieces to sneaky and silent stealth sets, immediately to airborne dog fighting or intense boss fights where you only get a knife for protection as you're hunted down slowly, which turns it kind of into a horror element. These things are done all while having a very good cast of characters that I actually grew to really like or relate to by the time the journey ended. Taking the positive of the campaign and adding the cherry on top with the series staple online multiplayer that gives you vastly more options, upgrades, gameplay modes that pushes the series forward with Patrol and Champion Hill, zombie mode upgrading itself beyond outbreak mode, there is a ton to like here. Its definitely not issue free, with problems like freezing during campaign, frame rate drops, glitchy enemies, some of the main villains going from menacing and cunning to stupid and comic book like. However, I feel there's far too many positives, at least for this entry, to me, that outweigh the overall negatives. I guess that means my journey to the dark side is now complete. So with all this having been said, my verdict is clear, GameNChick says BUY NOW