Call of Duty Vanguard Review: A Welcome Return To World War 2

If you're a gamer and mention the month of November, it's highly likely that you will be aware of a brand-new Call of Duty title launching. Like clockwork, Activision and Sledgehammer Games have launched Vanguard, a return to a World War 2 setting for the first time since late 2016 and while some players weren't impressed, others have been looking forward to discovering the origins of Special Forces in an all-new single-player campaign, along with the usual doses of action-packed multiplayer and fending off the undead in Zombies.

Rather than providing fans with a title drastically different from previous installments, Vanguard maintains focus on the core areas of the franchise, filling the game with arguably the most day-one content ever seen. Despite plenty of content, there's nothing that truly pushes the boat out but it's a slight improvement on recent titles.

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Black Ops Cold War was a somewhat underwhelming offering, meaning expectations for Vanguard are extremely high. With that said, are the campaign, multiplayer, and Zombies modes good enough for you to part ways with your hard-earned cash? Here's our full review for Call of Duty Vanguard.

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The Campaign - Surprisingly Underwhelming

Considering the promotion surrounding the members of Task Force One has been extensive, I was expecting Vanguard's single-player storyline to blow the most recent campaigns out of the water, and with the potential to create new cornerstones of the franchise, I was quick to realise that the introduction to the newly-formed Special Forces unit felt like any other Call of Duty campaign.

The short storyline fulfils its purpose of providing the backstory of the numerous soldiers from across the world, showcasing their wartime experiences. Some are more exciting than others while others paint a harrowing picture of what some soldiers went through during the latter stages of the war.

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With few twists, the campaign plods along at a steady pace as you attempt to halt the Nazi's attempt at executing Operation Phoenix but as expected with any new Call of Duty title, the core mechanics are as strong as ever. Gunplay feels the best it's felt in a long time while the lighting looked incredible on the PlayStation 5, utilising its immense power to truly showcase the four theatres of war.

The missions felt slow due to the unnecessary amount of cutscenes putting a temporary halt to the unfolding action, but once the story had been completed, there's not a lot to write home about from another surprisingly underwhelming campaign. If anything, it's a great way to learn about the playable Operators that can be used in multiplayer.

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A Solid Multiplayer Offering

After taking plenty of feedback on board from the beta weekends, Vanguard's multiplayer feels vastly superior to what was on offer earlier in the year and compared to Black Ops Cold War. The modified IW8 engine excels in producing some of the very best gunplay, allowing me to differentiate between the characteristics of the STG 44 assault rifle and the nimble MP-40 submachine gun.

While recent titles have sometimes felt repetitive, Vanguard feels fresh, with the additions of Combat Pacing creating all-new ways to play. Ranging from the usual dose of six-versus-six action to all-out chaos thanks to the Blitz Combat Pacing, there are matches to suit those that prefer a more traditional pace and for those that want to load into a match and score as many kills as possible.

Destruction has never played a significant role in Call of Duty multiplayer until now. All 16 multiplayer maps contain wooden walls that can be broken to create new routes while thin panes of glass can be smashed in a variety of ways to provide players with some innovative sightlines to patrol certain areas of the map. Speaking of Patrol, this is the only new game mode to appear in multiplayer and while it may only be a singular new addition alongside the usual suspects of Team Deathmatch and Domination, the mode does its best to encourage players to constantly move around the map thanks to the objective continuously moving until a team manages to reach the score limit. It's a great addition to multiplayer and a mode that will prove to be popular throughout Vanguard's cycle.

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As expected, the spawn logic on some of the smaller maps does need work but for the majority of the extensive pool of battlegrounds, they're certainly not the worst. After Black Ops Cold War launched with under ten maps, it's great to have a huge variety available in the early stages of Vanguard's life cycle. Ranging from the chaotic close-range action of Das Haus to the more spacious layout of Tuscan, Vanguard's map pool is diverse and caters to all styles of play whether you want to run and gun or patiently pick off opponents with a sniper rifle from afar.

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Zombies - A Huge Disappointment

I've never been a huge Zombies fan but even after a few minutes of Der Anfang, I found myself thinking that the latest Dark Aether adventure is a huge downgrade compared to what Black Ops Cold War offered with its clear separation between round-based maps and the large-scale Outbreak mode. Treyarch has attempted to create a hybrid between the two, much to everyone's disappointment and despite a range of clever new innovations and rewards to earn by completing objectives, a lack of round-based mode doesn't seem right.

It's not just a lack of round-based action that places Der Anfang as a sub-par Zombies mode. Usually, players can get their hands on some insanely powerful Wonder Weapon capable of sucking the souls of undead or blasting them into oblivion but not for Der Anfang, a mode where a crazy Wonder Weapon would slot in perfectly.

The real downfall of Der Anfang is the lack of a main Easter Egg quest at launch and although Treyarch has revealed that the quest will begin after Season 1, that may be too late for those that have already lost interest in what could've been a strong follow-up to the first Dark Aether story.

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Call of Duty Vanguard - Is It Worth Buying?

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Compared to Black Ops Cold War, Vanguard has a vastly improved multiplayer that feels like a solid foundation for Sledgehammer Games to build on throughout the seasons of post-launch content but with an underwhelming campaign and Zombies mode that seemingly needs a lot of work to win back the hardcore fans, it's not a bad Call of Duty title but it's certainly not one of the very best.

Having spent several hours playing all three modes, I can safely say that it's definitely worth buying, specifically for the multiplayer which is surprisingly good for a change.

Review Score: 3.5/5

Reviewed on PlayStation 5

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