Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X , Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC (Reviewed)
Release Date: 5 Nov 2021
Price: $59,99 USD- Available Here $109,95 AUD – Available Here
Do you know what cheat day is? It’s when people on a diet go wild one day and indulge themselves in a meal or a dessert that might not be diet-friendly, but it does sure feel good. I have them too sometimes when it comes to reviews. So how does it work? Well, after a good number of indie games and budget releases, I might get the urge to just go buts and play something with a bombastic high octane campaign. A game with production quality that would put Michael Bay movies to shame. Voice acting that consists of overpaid Hollywood actors and visuals that would sometimes be indistinguishable from the real world. So how convenient is that Call of Duty Vanguard just came out last week?
Before we get to the story, let me explain to you my general relationship with Call of Duty games. I played almost every game since its inception (missed one or two at most) and for what it’s worth, they’re a pretty good way to let off some steam after a long day. You kill some Nazis/Russians/whoever is the token villain this time, feel good about saving the world for the nth time and call it a day. It works. The key is to not have high expectations and approaches to them like you would watch the newest entry in the Fast & Furious saga. You leave logic, common sense, and basic physics at the doorstep, and everything will be fine. With that said, Call of Duty Vanguard strays away from the usual formula when it comes to the campaign, at least. It’s a bit shorter compared to the campaign lengths from the previous games but it does something rather extraordinary. Believe it or not, it made me care for the characters and it got me somewhat engaged in the story. Although the story is unraveled in a non-chronological order, I’ll help you make the most sense of it. The story begins in 1941 spanning across Australia, the USA, Russia, and the UK, with four distinct characters. Lieutenant Lucas Riggs and pilot Lieutenant Wade Jackson are both witnesses of the missions failing in the worst way possible (Wade loses his plane and Lucas barely survives a failed ambush). On the other side of the world, Red Army medic Polina Petrova observes as the Luftwaffe invades Stalingrad while British paratrooper Sergeant Arthur Kingsley takes part in Operation Tonga, helping the Allied forces to invade Normandy. After their introductory missions, their fates will soon intertwine and they will be recruited to form the first special operations task force, callsign Vanguard. The campaign does feel maybe an hour shorter than what I expected, but it is all redeemed in the final mission where you switch from one character to another and move through Berlin chasing your bad guy. It feels corny to write this and I don’t get to say this often, but the campaign alone is worth it for that last mission and the payoff at the end.
Now onto the gameplay….uhhh, I mean multiplayer. Since I got my hands on the ultimate edition of Call of Duty Vanguard, I did have a slight advantage of a weapons pack, some operator skins, three weapon blueprints, battle pass bundle, and 5 hours of 2XP and 5 hours of Weapons 2XP. I found that last bit most useful since 2XP was a great push in leveling my weapons and operator. Maybe it was because I wasn’t last to the party this time in a Call of Duty game, but this just might be my first multiplayer experience in the franchise where I didn’t completely suck. Strange how the games become way more enjoyable the better you are at them, huh. In any case, I managed to get myself a few “play of the game” moments and I was voted a couple of times as an MVP. And I did all of that with just my starting class and using one assault rifle (though I did switch once or twice to a sniper and a shotgun out of curiosity). But that’s the thing, starting weapon or not, every gun in Call of Duty Vanguard is incredibly customizable where you can tinker with its stopping power, accuracy, aiming speed, and looks until you find a build that suits your needs. Think of it this way, the campaign is a cozy warm-up, but the multiplayer is where the real fun starts.
Ever since the system requirements for Call of Duty Vanguard were released not so long ago, after looking at them I had a feeling this title will be eye candy. And it sure is. The missions with Polina Petrova in destroyed Stalingrad and finally taking back Berlin with all four characters is where the visuals really come into the spotlight. The game will even do a check-up and optimize shaders during your first run so you’ll have the most balanced experience when it comes to performance and visuals. Sadly, the level of detail and level design is not on par in multiplayer as it is in the campaign. I had a feeling that the resources for this mostly went into the campaign and fine detailing the protagonists. And it’s not like you can stop and stare often in a 12×12 team deathmatch where there are always people to kill and objectives to capture.
If this segment of the game is where you have high expectations, I’m not here to disappoint you. The music for Call of Duty Vanguard was done by none other than Bear McReary. A renowned composer who did a lot of work for acclaimed tv shows, movies, and games. You’ve heard his work by now in Godzilla: King of the Monsters movie, played the most recent God of War game so you’re accustomed by now to some high-quality orchestral pieces. Aside from the soundtrack, the notable mention goes to the audio design when it comes to weapons. You can feel the weight of releasing shotgun pellets with every blast and a satisfying “zwoop” as you headshot someone from half a mile away with your sniper rifle never gets old.
While I could nitpick a somewhat short campaign (it could have definitely used an hour or two more), I have to say that this might be the best-looking Call of Duty game so far. We all know that this series didn’t get high acclaim for its visuals but I’m happy that they’re finally lifting this part of the game to be at least close to the level of polish that the gameplay is known for. In closure, if you’re on the lookout for a good triple-A shooter with a decent campaign and incredibly engaging multiplayer, look no further.
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