Call of Duty: Vanguard: First Multiplayer Preview

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Once again, we go back to WWII in Call of Duty: Vanguard. While there are plenty of mostly unexplored story opportunities for the campaign side, my expectations for multiplayer were up in the air. Will this multiplayer find ways to be more innovative than what we got with Black Ops Cold War despite the setting? What impact do combat pace filters have? Is adding destructible environment useful? A first look at Vanguard’s multiplayer mode provided a bit of information on all of this. I played for about two hours with a combination of PS5 and PC players and had an equally mixed set of impressions once I turned off my PS5.

We played the classic Team Deathmatch, Domination, Kill Confirmed and a new mode called Patrol on four maps. Patrol is a twist on Domination and challenges two teams to capture a slowly moving zone. The team that has at least one player in the zone scores points. Like domination, if the opposing players are in the zone, it is disputed and no one wins points. Every time I lift my controller to play Vanguard below, I do not intend to voluntarily play in this mode again. It felt a bit ridiculous. As the capture point moved across the map, it seemed like we were surrendering the zone as long as it was close enough to the opposing spawn. Being slowly dragged around the map in this way was not a fun or interesting improvement over the existing capture-based objective modes.

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Then match the Patrol to the Blitz combat rhythm and it’s total chaos. Not necessarily in a fun way, either. The three combat pace filters (Tactical, Assault, and Blitz) change the number of players in a match. Tactical is supposed to have fewer players, while Blitz pushes the player count to the limit. We played 24v24 on a fairly large open map called Red Star. In one match, it seemed like a good number of people on my team got bored trying to follow the little circle around the map and started flanking to earn more Killstreaks (Scorestreaks so far). It’s not a bad tactic, and I adopted it myself when trying to follow the zone meant taking on a sacrificial role with minimal rewards. Are all those other people getting Killstreaks while I jump into the zone? No thanks. On the bright side, the comeback is quick. This is still Call of Duty though, so the kill time is extremely fast as well.

Blitz was more fun with Kill Confirmed. Tags were everywhere, kill streaks were rampant, and according to the map, experts in run-and-shoot tactics were greatly rewarded. We played Blitz Kill Confirmed at the Hotel Royale, a neat night map located on the roof of a hotel. With 12v12 and lots of tight corners on the inside, the SMGs were great. Its roof was open to those who preferred assault rifles. I went back and forth between both charges and enjoyed doing it. Unfortunately, these preview events don’t allow for much time to test a wide variety of weapons, but I was surprised by the rate of fire and limited clips of your chosen LMGs. The default loading assault rifle, the STG44, also had a surprisingly higher rate of fire.

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If you are interested in snipers, the Gavutu map is ideal. For everyone else? Maybe not. The small, rainy island is divided into two sides; one is broken by a large ship with a working lift to raise or lower an inoperable tank between decks, the other is a long stretch of beach and rocks. Don’t want to deal with snipers? Go to the boat. Normally I don’t mind taking out a sniper, but the spawn’s proximity to sniper spots put me off trying too hard.

Call of Duty: Vanguard multiplayer screenshots

The “reactive game environments,” or destructible elements, were most notable at Hotel Royale and Eagle’s Nest, as they featured the most developed interior areas. It’s more of a novelty addition than a useful one. After a person breaks into a closed path, this is it. Call of Duty is also not quiet enough that that kind of surprise matters much (unless you’re camping). Eagle’s Nest is a building on top of a mountain with three lanes, one of which is in the building. I quite liked this map, except for one time a relief pack I called came out of the mountain. Careful with that.

Another Killstreak problem I had was with the Attack Dogs. After 10 kills, a pack of attack dogs can be summoned. The problem is, he often had no idea who the dogs were. There is an audible call if an enemy summons them, but it’s easy to miss. If a teammate also calls the dogs, then I definitely couldn’t tell which one belongs to whom until I realized one was running towards me. The breed of the dog changes depending on which side you play on, but that’s not exactly a memory compromise nor is it obvious from the menus. The audio was also generally low. However, Sledgehammer announced some issues with visibility, sounds, spawns, and a host of other things that will be addressed ahead of the September 10 beta. At this point, I’m more interested in the campaign than the multiplayer, but with 20 maps at launch, I hope I can enjoy Vanguard’s multiplayer more with its full launch.

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Miranda Sánchez is the executive editor of guides at IGN.