Sledgehammer Games, with their Call of Duty: Vanguard, takes the franchise back to the era of World War II. While the latest iteration of the long-running first-person military shooter franchise did manage to check some of the boxes, the theme of the World War has started to become stale.
The mechanics of Call of Duty: Vanguard are very similar to 2019’s Modern Warfare. However, the gameplay and overall setting of the game have a sense of lackluster to it. The story is historically accurate, while the multiplayer is chaotic and filled with events but does feel sluggish at times.
While the story mode has been reviewed here, the following article reviews the Multiplayer and Zombies modes.
Call of Duty: Vanguard review - Multiplayer and Zombies
Call of Duty: Vanguard is developed on the same IW engine on which 2019’s Modern Warfare was based, with improvements in visuals, more interaction with the environment, new gameplay features, and more. But somehow, it felt like Modern Warfare presented with the reskin of World War II.
The multiplayer in Call of Duty: Vanguard is as fast-paced as any other Call of Duty, but filled with chaos and destructible environments. Yes, it has improved a lot over what it was during the alpha and beta period, changing the pacing and movement, but it does not feel fresh. Many elements of Modern Warfare have been incorporated into Vanguard, giving the World War II theme a more modernized approach.
There are certain perks that players choose to use in their loadouts, giving them a tactical advantage in return, but it doesn’t synchronize with the World War theme. Also, the tone of the environment appears to be quite dull, making it more difficult to notice the enemies. They could have added more vibrance to the maps like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, giving it a fresher feel.
By default, there’s a lot of motion blur in the game. Depth-of-field can be turned off from the settings, reducing the ranged motion blur, thereby helping to notice the enemies faster. Options for World Motion Blur and Weapon Motion Blur are also present, which most of the players will be turning off anyway. Keeping these options on will make it even harder to land headshots and dominate over the opponents.
Like its previous titles, Vanguard has features that unlock different abilities. One of the most iconic is the Juggernaut ability, renamed "Flamenaut" in this game. After managing to kill nine enemies back to back, players unlock this ability, where they are equipped with an overpowered flamethrower for domination. Historically, this particular ability has appeared to be broken as it gives the player a massive advantage over the others and is no different in Call of Duty: Vanguard.
Unlike previous installments, Call of Duty: Vanguard includes 20 maps at launch. Of these 20 maps, 16 are available in multiplayer mode, while the remaining four are kept for Champion Hill mode. This mode is the latest addition to Call of Duty, featuring a battle royale on a smaller scale accompanied by 2v2 gunfights.
In Champions Hill, 12 teams comprising two players start with a pool of 12 lives, and the fight goes on until there’s only one team standing. This mode is fun, unique, and involves an economic management system similar to other FPS titles. Champions Hill felt pretty competitive as numerous 2v2 battles occurred between these 12 teams, sweating it out to be the last team standing. Some of the mechanics are taken from Warzone and the maps featured are very versatile.
All the maps featured in Call of Duty: Vanguard at launch are:
- Castle (originally from Call of Duty: World at War)
- Das Haus
- Desert Siege
- Dome (originally from Call of Duty: World at War)
- Eagle's Nest
- Hotel Royal
- Numa Numa
- Red Star
- Sub Pens
- Airstrip (Champion Hill)
- Courtyard (Champion Hill)
- Market (Champion Hill)
- Trainyard (Champion Hill)
As the year progresses, Call of Duty: Vanguard will continue to receive DLCs to expand the map roster. A new map for Warzone and a remake of a famous map from previous games are also kept for a later release. Call of Duty has always been pretty active with their content, and it’s no surprise that they have a lot planned for their latest game as well. The new map coming to Warzone is something to look out for.
Call of Duty has focused more on its multiplayer aspect in recent years, and Call of Duty: Vanguard is no different. This has resulted in shorter campaigns while multiplayer has been rewarded with innovative game modes. At present, multiplayer in COD has something for all kinds of gamers. A total of eight game modes (classic and new) are featured, excluding Zombies and future DLCs.
At launch, the core multiplayer of Call of Duty: Vanguard features the following modes:
- Free For All, basically a deathmatch.
- Team Deathmatch, the team with the most kills, wins.
- Domination, designated zones need to be captured and defended to gain points toward victory.
- Kill Confirmed, eliminating opponents and collecting their tags to score points.
- Patrol, a moving zone, needs to be captured and held to earn points.
- Hardpoint, a rotating objective area, needs to be captured and defended from opponents.
- Search and Destroy objectives needed to be destroyed and defended with no respawns.
- Champion Hill is a round-robin team deathmatch tournament across four maps, and the last remaining team is the winner.
This new feature of rotating and moving objectives was a fresh change from its previous installments, adding uniqueness. The primary battle royale mode, Warzone, has been integrated into the game from day one and will share the Battle Pass progression. Coming to Battle Pass, Activision did not even include it for the Ultimate Edition owners despite paying $100, which is a bummer.
Zombies mode in Call of Duty: Vanguard doesn’t offer much at launch. Separately developed by Treyarch, this mode failed to check a lot of the boxes. If played Solo, the player is not even equipped with a secondary weapon at first. It does not include any pauses, easter eggs, pack-a-punch camo, or round-based waves. It gets pretty challenging because the zombies don’t die with a single headshot and can inflict heavy damage while appearing in good numbers.
Even in co-op mode, the experience is very repetitive and uninspiring. Once the four objectives are done, the squad gets back in the lobby, and everything needs to be started from scratch. At one point in time, it felt like this mode was only good for leveling up guns without the experience of getting thrashed by sweaty players. Perks need to be upgraded to even feel the difference.
Call of Duty has seen better zombie modes in the past, while Vanguard failed to make the mark by lacking a lot of potential content. Maybe with further updates, this mode might get interesting. But as of now, Treyarch did not manage to do their best job.
Performance and graphics
Multiplayer and Zombies modes in Call of Duty: Vanguard were played on Battle.net and had the following system specifications:
- Processor: Ryzen 5 3600
- RAM: 16 GB DDR4
- GPU: GTX 1060 6GB
- Resolution: 1920x1080
- Preset: Medium
- HDD: 2 TB
- Framerates: around 50-60 fps
The multiplayer graphics are not that great, unlike its single-player counterpart. There were no notable stutters or lags during the gameplay, but it was very difficult to notice the enemies amidst the smoke and destructible environment. Illumination in various parts of maps did improve since the alpha and beta days, but the color palette still felt pretty grim with a lot of brown and dark greys. Although the game will run smoothly on mid-tier PCs, higher-end gaming rigs will be able to take advantage of the hardware and deliver a visual treat.
The audio in Call of Duty: Vanguard seemed to be balanced where the player’s gun seemed a bit suppressed compared to the opponents’ weapon sounds. Footsteps were not as loud, and the volume needed to be increased to gain precise information of approaching enemies.
Comparison with previous titles
With Call of Duty: Vanguard, Activision managed to get some aspects right while completely failing to execute some of its beloved features. Compared to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the gameplay mechanics seem to share many similarities. It is fast-paced, guns can be mounted on flat surfaces, has common perks, and a similar gun customization system. This has been executed well because Modern Warfare was already a success, and two years have passed since its release.
Compared with Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, the Zombie mode turned out to be worse. Cold War’s Zombie mode already set the bar high last year, while Vanguard’s counterpart turned out to be a disaster. However, the gameplay is smoother in Vanguard compared with Cold War, adding up to the plus points of the game. Some of the most powerful guns featured in the Cold War are equally powerful in the latest iteration. The graphics did seem to be better in Black Ops Cold War, though.
Call of Duty: Vanguard goes back to the roots of the legacy FPS franchise. The theme of WWII has been overused by now, and Activision needs to develop some new ideas. With that being said, the game does offer a taste of World War 2 to the newcomers.
The multiplayer features many weapons from World at War, while some new ones did manage to debut with Vanguard. Gun mechanics are not something new or groundbreaking and are inspired by their previous titles. Gamers should stay away from this game if they are looking forward to the Zombies mode because it’s miserable.
Despite all the flaws, it’s still a Call of Duty title with fast-paced gameplay and a lot of action. The single-player campaign is decent and is not something spectacular. Players should wait for a sale to get Call of Duty: Vanguard as it’s not worth the full asking price only for the multiplayer.
CALL OF DUTY: VANGUARD
Reviewed on: PC (Review code provided by Activision)
Platforms: PC (Battle.net), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Release: November 5, 2021