Call of Duty: Vanguard Is Better than Expected

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With Call of Duty: Vanguard going back to the series’ World War 2 roots, I was apprehensive of how developer Sledgehammer would breathe new life into this particular setting given how it powered a large chunk of the military shooter franchise’s entries. However, after a few hours with the final retail release of Call of Duty: Vanguard on the PS5, I was pleasantly surprised.

First up, the suite of options at your disposal are aplenty. From being able to tweak your field of view and modify image sharpening even on console, it’s all present and accounted for, much like it was in last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. After customising it to suite my style of play (swapping out the default TV sound stage to headphones, enabling subtitles, and ensuring every DualSense-related feature was on), I dived right into Call of Duty: Vanguard’s campaign.

Call of Duty: Vanguard Single-Player Campaign Impressions

While this is a game mode that some tend to disregard in favour of multiplayer or battle royale hijinks, Sledgehammer’s take on World War 2 feels a lot more personal and detailed versus recent efforts from others like Battlefield V. Call of Duty: Vanguard’s campaign starts you off as a part of an elite team of Allied soldiers, hand-picked for a dangerous mission behind enemy lines to retrieve Phoenix — documents outlining top-secret Nazi plans, without spoiling much, you’ll end up visiting a host of visually arresting environments as you run and gun your way through the Third Reich.

From a stellar opening level across rainswept Hamburg to the Battle of Midway, Call of Duty: Vanguard’s campaign is a well-paced affair. Outside from each mission being generously doused with shooting galleries and set pieces, Sledgehammer has also tried to make some of them play a bit different than the usually guns blazing approach these games are known for. This is particularly true of an early level that has you going through Stalingrad to rescue your allies, allowing you to quietly sneak your way through certain sections. You can of course go loud, taking a shotgun to the face of ever Nazi in the vicinity but the option for the quiet approach is welcome.

While I’m about halfway through the campaign, it’s so far shaping up to be one of the more interesting Call of Dutys in recent memory, which is never a bad thing. Given how unremarkable the game looked with each reveal, I’m constantly surprised with how much fun the campaign is.

Call of Duty: Vanguard Multiplayer Options Help Even The Odds

That said, I did spend some time in multiplayer too. Like prior titles in the series, you’ll die fast and often if you don’t have the twitchy reflexes of an over-caffeinated, prepubescent teen. And it seems that Sledgehammer is aware of that, adding in a feature called Combat Pacing to somewhat even the odds. It lets you raise player counts in correlation to the size of a map, letting you choose between Tactical, Assault, and Blitz Combat Pacing options which limit, balance, and max out player counts respectively.

While opting for Tactical Combat Pacing did make a small but noticeable difference to my experience in terms of getting through a match with a kill death ratio not as depressing as the world economy during a pandemic, what with matches being less chaotic, how Sledgehammer will be able to maintain this feature and allow for a level of consistency to keep the not so well-skilled Call of Duty fan coming back, will be of interest.

Call of Duty: Vanguard Zombies is A Lore-heavy Romp

And then there’s Zombies. The co-op mode’s gone from strength to strength over the years, being the most entertaining way to play Call of Duty with friends. This year’s version in Call of Duty: Vanguard seems to be no different. You’ll fight seemingly infinite hordes of the undead while completing a host of objectives like collecting runes or escorting occult-looking orbs across a map, all while earning guns and buffs along the way. The core gameplay is intact and exfiltrating from a mission is as hectic as ever, making Zombies a tense, entertaining ride.

However this time around there’s an added emphasis on story what it connecting to and continuing from the Dark Aether plot line from 2020’s excellent Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Crafted by Zombies veterans Treyarch, Call of Duty: Vanguard narrative involves demons pitted against each other, with one faction supporting the Nazis in their quest to raise the dead and the other aiding you with buffs and power-ups to make short work of the titular zombies in your way all while filling each round with an immense amount of chatter that helps flesh out the world of Zombies and its key characters. Unless you’re a hardcore Zombies fan, all of this would likely fly over your head if you were simply expecting a casual, co-op experience with your friends, which it still manages to deliver if you ignore all the lore thrown in your direction.

Call of Duty: Vanguard PS5 DualSense — How Is It?

The big reason for me opting to play Call of Duty: Vanguard on the PS5 is DualSense and Sledgehammer has delivered with controls that feel immersive.

The difference between firing a shotgun or a rifle is all the more obvious with varying degrees of trigger resistance and rumble, making gunplay feel tactile. Furthermore, Sledgehammer has opted to use the DualSense’s haptic feedback to enhance combat scenarios, such as allowing you to feel debris around you as bullets whiz by or the impact of explosions as you try to outrun Nazi bombers along the rooftops of Stalingrad.

It’s not as comprehensive as some recent Sony first-party fare as Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart or Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut, but it’s a step in the right direction. If you have access to a PS5, it’s well worth considering to play it on that console for DualSense alone.

Buying Call of Duty: Vanguard in India

Much like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, you won’t be able to buy a physical copy of Call of Duty: Vanguard at retail in India just yet. Unlike Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War though, this may not be a long-term issue.

Sources in retail tell me that Activision’s India distributor, World Wide CD ROMs has stopped selling the company’s games and that Activision is in the process of appointing a new distributor soon.

The timing is pretty poor, which has resulted in physical copies being delayed in the country. You’d think that a company with a slate of games as sparse as Activision would take more care in resolving this in time for Call of Duty: Vanguard’s launch, evidently this has not been the case.

No price has been revealed for disc copies either. Safe to say it should be in line with the digital version — Rs. 4,999 for PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, and Rs. 3,999 for PS4 and Xbox One. Nonetheless, if you want a physical copy, you’ll have to go via the grey market or parallel importers for now. For PC player though, there is no other option than sticking to Battle.net where the standard edition is priced at $59.99 which doesn’t support regional pricing as of yet.


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