Call of Duty: Vanguard review: A fresh approach to the WWII scenario

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In terms of PR, Call of Duty: Vanguard has been fairly silent. All Fall long it’s been Battlefield 2042 this and Battlefield 2042 that. So Call of Duty: Vanguard’s release snuck up on us just a little and that may have been extremely strategic on Activision’s part. With opinions on the WWII theme’s of the game at odds, it was anybody’s guess as to what this new installment would play like. Here’s to the unexpected.

Call of Duty: Vanguard is developed by Sledgehammer Games and published by Activision. After Modern Warfare, we began to make our way back in time, first with Cold War and now with Vanguard. We have the usual fair: a campaign, multiplayer and zombies. I played Vanguard on the PS5 and my first impressions were that the game is STUNNING. The campaign follows a group of elite ally soldiers as they come together to sticky-finger some super secret Nazi documents that even the Nazi’s are hiding from other Nazis, so you know it’s good. I have played a lot of FPS solo campaigns in my day and this has to be one of the best.

While most players may roll their eyes at ANOTHER D-Day themed campaign, this one surpasses the others by far. The characters are likeable, the graphics look amazing and the action continues at a good clip with some slower moments mixed in. You make your way through the solo campaign by playing as each of the elite soldiers and experience their time through the war. Each soldier has their own specialty which is utilized in the gameplay.

Call of Duty: Vanguard (2)
Activision /

At release, Zombies mode is really an afterthought. It plays really similarly to Cold War with a lot less modes. The only mode currently is Der Anfang where you and three others pick up initiated tasks and challenges and each completed task makes the world harder. There isn’t a lot to it and I hope that Zombies gets expanded because it’s pretty dismal as it stands.

Now, the piece de resistance is the multiplayer. The campaign is a good 7-9 hours but the multiplayer is where you will get your most bang for your buck.

I was super curious if the gun play would lean toward Modern Warfare or to Cold War and the answer is neither. I am a fan of Modern Warfare, and Cold War really grew on me after a few hours of gameplay, but the gun play in Call of Duty: Vanguard is some of the best I have felt in a while. In Cold War itwas way too bouncy; your gun could get away from you like an out of control firehose. No matter how much I adjusted the sensitivity, everything just felt…loose.

Modern Warfare is the opposite side of the coin where the gun almost feels too sluggish and heavy. Vanguard’s gunplay feels really balanced. You feel the weight of your gun but the aim feels a lot steadier. Is it realistic? Nah but it’s fun and isn’t that the whole point. There’s not a realistic amount of recoil but recoil can increase depending on your gun or optic choice but it still feels a hell of a lot steadier than Cold War. The modes in Call of Duty: Vanguard are pretty similar to that of its predecessors with Team Deathmatch, Domination, Kill Confirmed, Search and Destroy, Free-For-All and Hardpoint. One addition I noticed was a mode called Patrol which is similar to Hardpoint but instead of a small location that cycles, the objective location is a constant moving circle for which each team must fight for possession. It seems simple enough but it can get pretty intense.

There is also different combat pacing for each mode: tactical which is for more calculated gameplay, assault for a balanced gaming experience and blitz for a match of flying bullets and chaos. You can choose a favorite or experience them all from one match to the next. I appreciate the option to cater my gameplay experience.

Call of Duty: Vanguard - Warzone Pacific
Activision /

The operator set up is different for Call of Duty: Vanguard, as well. Normally you have two factions filled with different operators. Past games will play it off like the good guys vs the bad guys but to me it was always the cool characters vs the squares. It’s all very Cry Baby. You would pick an operator from each faction that you would want to be dependent on which side you play during a match. It made it easier to tell who was the enemy. In Vanguard, they have made it a bit more complicated.

There are four classes of operators: hellhounds, shadow, barbarian and sentinel. There are three operators in each class and certain operators can only be unlocked after certain challenges are met. Furthermore, certain skins can only be unlocked after certain operator challenges are met. It really opens the pathway to a lot of grinding. Also able to be unlocked are quips, finishing movies, highlight intros and MVP highlights. After each match, an operator will appear for play of the game and then that players…uh…play will be shown. After that, three team MVPs will be presented and it’s up to the team to vote for team MVP. Voting and winning MVP all adds up to XP and it’s a fun little addition.

The guns themselves feel really good but as of right now, there seems to definitely be some slightly OP options like the MP-40 or the STG44. The STG44 is a starting weapon depending on your chosen class, but it remains one of the better guns to play with. My weapon of choice is the MP-40 with a G16 2.5x optic, a no. 3 rifle brake, a VDD 285mm shrouded barrel, a VDD 34m padded stock, the grooved grip and the 8mm Kurz 32 round magazine. It’s a big boost in firepower and accuracy and the sights stay fairly steady. The only downside is the smaller magazine, but anything bigger really drags down your running speed.

The killstreaks have been changed to fit WWII technology including a play on the Juggernaut by giving it a flamethrower and adding attack and guard dogs. I really enjoyed the guard dogs as they run around independently of your operator, attacking ONLY the opposing team, which is convenient in hardcore. Other killstreaks run the risk of taking out your own team, but the trio of attack dogs are targeted attacks that keep your own team safe.

All this being said, I think this is one of the best CoD games that I have played. As someone who has put hundreds of hours into both Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War, I think that Vanguard might be my favorite out of the three. All of the good parts from both have been fine tuned to feel really well-balanced. I did have some latency issues but I believe that was more something on my own end than some issue with the servers. If you liked Modern Warfare but hated Cold War, you’ll like Vanguard. If you liked Cold War but hated Modern Warfare, you’ll like Vanguard, It looks great, sounds great and feels great.

The battle pass for Call of Duty: Vanguard will not start until the next season, but any XP you earn in Vanguard will translate to Cold War and Warzone, which is a very smart idea. You can play Call of Duty: Vanguard now on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5 and Windows.

Call of Duty: Vanguard (PS5) Score: 9.5

Call of Duty: Vanguard may be the best CoD installment to date (yeah, I said it) with stunning graphics that shine on the new systems and finely tuned, balanced gun play. They bring a new and fresh approach to the WWII and D-Day scenario making the solo campaign just as enjoyable as the multiplayer.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.