Call of Duty Vanguard sees Call of Duty return to its roots … once again. Long ago. The first multiplayer beta opened this weekend for anyone who pre-ordered on PlayStation, and I spent quite a few hours getting my feet wet before its November 5 release date. If you, like me, have been playing the latest versions of CoD, you are probably familiar with Vanguard’s multiplayer. Actually, let me rephrase that – you might feel like this is last year’s Call of Duty MP with a WWII look to it. The only thing that keeps me playing Vanguard instead of going back to Black Ops Cold War are some interesting new modes.
Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed, and Domination are back, unsurprisingly. However, Hardpoint, a mode that I never really liked, has been changed to a new Patrol mode, which I definitely like. Instead of capturing and holding static points, Patrol has you guard a small circle of territory that moves across the map (hence the nickname “Patrol”). When a team of internet randoes come together to cover and capture this moving target, it’s really fun. It’s by far my favorite addition to multiplayer this year, encouraging both active and passive team coverage and discouraging camping.
Well, long-term camping at least. Since the contested area is constantly moving, it is best for long-range shooters to perch on a sniper’s nest for just a few minutes. The area moves from open spaces into buildings and back out. In fact, it’s great. It requires using all of your shooting skills: close range, medium range, and long range, all in the course of a few minutes.
In all modes, melee combat is where I find the most frustration with Vanguard’s multiplayer because it’s hard to tell who is on which side. Last year’s Cold War pitted NATO forces against Warsaw Pact forces, while this year (in beta at least) both teams are made up of the same allied characters. More than once, especially on the map of the Hotel Royal, he didn’t know who was who. If you are close to someone in melee, the indicator above their head simply cannot be seen, and even at a distance, the off red indicator often disappears into the ocher and brown hues of the map. Fortunately, friendly fire is not a concern here (there is no Hardcore mode in beta) because there are split-second moments where I’ve made the wrong decision. Also, a lot of things that I hesitated on when I shouldn’t have and smoked.
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I understand that in 2021 no one wants to play as the Axis powers, but some sort of distinguishing feature between the two teams other than a little dot with their name in red would help a lot. I like being able to tell when an enemy player is approaching me by their character model rather than their Activision player name, and I don’t want to have to think about increasing my speed by looking at the words floating above their head.
One mode where this is not a problem is the new Champion Hill mode, a cool twist on the Battle Royale formula where instead of fighting to be the last team in an all-out war, you are racing on what is basically a field. paintball battlefield glorified. The premise is simple: you join a team of two or three, get thrown into an arena, and work to eliminate the other teams. There are 10 teams in total, each randomly fighting each other 2v2 or 3v3, until only one team remains. During matches, you earn money that you can use during breaks in the competition to buy upgrades such as weapons, perks, and upgrades, or spend during the match to upgrade your weapon. It’s fun, but the matchmaking took a long time no matter what I tried. I’m not sure if that’s due to a lack of interest or because it’s still in beta so I can’t blame him for that unless it persists into the final game.
Speaking of maps, all three that are available in the beta are … just fine. Of the three, Gavutu, a rain-soaked South Pacific location, is probably my favorite because it has most of the features I like on a medium-sized MP map: a corridor in the middle, an open space on one side. , and a more clustered group of obstacles and buildings in the other. It still doesn’t feel quite right because despite the open nature of the map’s coastline, it still feels a bit too small for the features it uses and during the course of the beta I never had a clue the “flow” of the map. herself. Hotel Royal, a small map with a lot of CQC, is the one I like the least of all (partly due to the aforementioned friend or foe issues), while Stalingrad-based Red Star doesn’t give me strong feelings of a form or another. I appreciated how much Red Star reminded me of Call of Duty 2 from a long time ago, but other than that nothing really caught my eye. My opinion on the maps may change as I become more familiar with them, and week 2 will also open The Eagle’s Nest, a map based on Hitler’s mountain fortress (where it will be even weirder not to fight people dressed as Nazis) .
The rank and load progressions are back and appear to be exactly the same as last year, which, in turn, was very similar to how they felt in Modern Warfare 2019. You build your gear with primary and secondary weapons, lethal weapons. and non-lethal ones like grenades and Molotov cocktails, three perks and kill streak bonuses. Using a weapon during a match unlocks upgrades such as optics, chargers, and different barrels, among others. Gaining rank with your Activision account opens up more weapons and mods and … yes, it’s pretty much the same as last year, so it’s hard to get excited. One thing missing from the beta is the unlockable skins, which add nothing to the game itself, but always push me to grind at least a couple of my favorite weapons to their highest levels. Hopefully they come back for the final game.
I noticed some strange ranking issues on both my XP profile and my weapon. Sometimes, over multiple matches, I wouldn’t rack up XP at all, despite my best efforts. Then, without warning, he would “catch up” and the entire experience from the last 20 games would suddenly appear at once. All the unlocks would come in a huge, delayed wave, which meant that I wouldn’t be able to apply any upgrades to my weapons, or use new weapons, for extended periods of time. It meant missing out on the satisfaction of level-to-level progression, which is hopefully something they resolve before launch.
The guns also feel more or less the same, which is to say they feel modern and not WWII era at all. I understand that the reflective sight actually predates WWII so it’s not technically inaccurate from a historical point of view, but it still feels very strange to have them in small arms. Kill streaks like the reconnaissance plane and skid bomb are just last year’s spy plane and cruise missile streaks (and those were just versions of the UAVs and cruise missile streaks from the year before) . I appreciate the feeling of familiarity from year to year, but a part of me was hoping that the newer, newer killstreaks would feel more age-appropriate rather than just re-tagging them.
Call of Duty: Vanguard multiplayer screenshots
Also, skill-based matchmaking returns to Call of Duty in Vanguard and you probably won’t like it if you’re an old salt. I appreciate it when I play on PS5, in which I must admit that I am not very good. I usually play on PC and have a hard time adjusting from the joy of mouse and keyboard to controller-based gaming. For less competitive gamers like me, who only use CoD as an excuse to play online with friends for dozens of hours each fall, SBMM is a great way to make sure you win something and lose something. But because you always play with people of the same relative ability, there is no way of knowing where you are in the huge database of players in the sky. There’s no way to turn it off either, so it seems like a VPN is still your only option to bypass the algorithm if you’d rather not be assigned the same gamer caliber.
In short, I enjoyed my weekend with Vanguard, especially the Patrol mode matches, but not as much as I expected. It’s hard to tell if it’s the regular maps, playing with a controller instead of my preferred mouse and keyboard, or because it looks so much like Black Ops Cold War with a WWII era skin. It’s still fun and I know I’ll put in a lot of hours when the final game comes out, like I do at the beginning of every Call of Duty cycle, but there’s nothing really new here that I’m excited about. Hopefully my opinion will change as multiplayer evolves before its launch in November, but if I were to rate it now, I would probably give Call of Duty Vanguard MP a 6. Remember, this is a beta version and that score is not. It is by no means definitive, so be sure to double-check before launch.