The latest entry into the FPS behemoth that is Call of Duty is arriving on PCs and consoles 5 November, but we managed to get some hands-on time with Activision and Sledgehammer Games’ return to World War II in the Call of Duty: Vanguard beta; but what should you expect from the upcoming sequel?
As mentioned, the game marks the series’ return to its World War II roots, and is a ‘coming home’ of sorts for developer Sledgehammer Games, who helmed the 2017’s brilliant Call of Duty: World War II. We haven’t seen too much of the single-player component (which follows four characters in the four fronts of the War), but in terms of multiplayer, there are a few things to get excited for, and some other elements that longtime CoD veterans will want to keep an eye out for.
In terms of the general feel of the gameplay, Vanguard feels very in line with that of 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot (it’s running on the same engine) which is a good thing, as the fluidity, momentum, and speedy weight of that entry felt great and a real refinement of the CoD pacing and gameplay dynamic. It’s snappy and responsive, but climbing through windows and making more tricky manoeuvres do carry a bit of realism to it in order to balance the speed of the experience.
Returning from previous entries, although featuring a bit of a revamp is the Combat Pacing system, which helps you find a style of game to suit your needs (so to speak). The options include: Tactical (lobbies that franchise veterans know well. This is the experience that you’re used to with classic Call of Duty combat timing. Tactical Combat Pacing is always 6v6.) Secondly, there is Assault, which provides balanced Combat Pacing that gives you enough room to breathe and a lot of targets to kill (around 20-28). Assault is a middle ground between Tactical and Blitz. Blitz is all about high-action lobbies that see the intensity cranked up to frenetic levels. Prepare for plenty of combat when choosing to join a Blitz.
Those who want to hop into a game can also set the Combat Pacing to “All” and get a variety of Combat Paces between each match, in a similar fashion to how Quick Play allows you to hop between an assortment of modes you select.
We got a closer-look at three new maps: the rooftops of Hotel Royal, the snowy Russian cityscape in Red Star, and the pacific island of Gavutu. The best thing about these maps, as opposed to some other Call of Duty titles, is that every map is vastly different. They look and feel as if they have their own personality from one another, and each result in different degrees of close-quarters or long-range combat, which really made each round feel entirely unique. Fitting together like gear cogs, the maps and Combat Pacing system work together well. On larger maps, like Red Star, playing in the Blitz gameplay mode works, as there are more than enough players around, fitting the atmosphere and frenetic action with the environment size. On smaller maps, like Hotel Royal, playing on the Tactical option is better, giving you a closer, (and aptly named) more tactical experience.
In terms of game modes, Team Deathmatch operates as you’d expect, along with the favourite Kill Confirmed — and a new one called Patrol, delivers an interesting spin to keep the action going. Based on the Hardpoint game type, Patrol is an objective-based mode that features a scoring zone in near-constant motion; if Operators want to rack up points for their team, they should keep up and move around the map within this Patrol point. It causes opposing teams to find one another with ease, and almost feels like an escort challenge / moving flag that forces your team to have your back.
From the short time spent with Call of Duty: Vanguard, it’s clear that Sledgehammer Games is aiming to give players the most versatile CoD to date, allowing you to adjust almost anything to suit your needs or what you’re in the mood for. The new maps and gameplay tweaks are fantastic, and the fact that there will be 20 maps at launch is an exciting prospect. Seeing how the weapons and playstyles balance out over time will determine the experience, but from early impressions, this is looking to be a home run for Call of Duty.
Call of Duty: Vanguard will launch on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, and PC on 5 November.