Call of Duty: Vanguard Beta Impressions

By Nicholas Barham

Platform played on: PS4 Pro

Boots on the ground

Anyone reading this is no doubt familiar with Call of Duty, but in case you’ve been living under a rock for eons, Call of Duty is a first-person shooter series that releases a new game every year. The gameplay is well-established by now, but as they say: “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Call of Duty fans know what they want and expect little change to the core mechanics, rather they anticipate graphical enhancements, technical polishes, and hopefully a unique and refreshing setting every now and then.

In past instalments Call of Duty has dipped its toes into more futuristic sci-fi settings, complete with jetpacks and laser weapons. Many fans got bored, especially after Infinite Warfare, so Call of Duty returned to a more grounded boots-on-the-ground gameplay. Vanguard continues this pattern, returning all the way back to a World War 2 setting, using the Modern Warfare (2019) game engine. During the beta I played around with many different primary and secondary weapons. Each of them feels unique and handles as you would expect, with assault rifles dealing a good deal of damage and penetration at the expense of a fair bit of recoil. SMGs are satisfying to run n’ gun with, allowing for faster sprint movement, good sprint to fire time, and a high rate of fire. Sniper, and tactical rifles are slow to use but they hit hard, with the two sniper rifles on offer being able to one-shot enemy combatants with ease. LMGs are here too and I found the MG42 an absolute blast to use, the high fire-rate and ammo capacity making it a terrifying weapon to find yourself on the wrong end of. For those wanting a weapon for close quarters combat, there are two shotguns on offer. Secondary weapons consist of the usual line-up of pistols, launchers, and one melee weapon.


World War 2 weaponry, with artistic license

The developers have done a tremendous job at representing World War 2 era weaponry, but as necessary in any Call of Duty game players need to have the ability to level up and customize weapons with unlockable attachments such as optics, grips, custom barrels, magazines, different ammo types etc. these modify the performance of each weapon to suit a particular playstyle. For example, a barrel might allow for a quicker aim down sight, but also reduce the range.

The developers have employed a generous dose of artistic license that is irksome for those like myself that are familiar with World War 2 weaponry, as weapons of this era were not nearly as modular as modern firearms. The attachments available are, for the most part, completely fictionalized, but are necessary to give the player a sense of progression.

Included in the game is a generous assortment of both allied and axis armaments, and no doubt we will get even more in post-launch content updates. I spent most of my time with the StG 44, the MP 40, the Sten, the M1928, the MG42, the M1 Garand, and the 3-Line Rifle. My favourite weapons from this assortment were the StG 44 and the M1928. The StG 44 has a moderate rate of fire, decent damage, but also has a lot of kickback which you have to keep in mind if you want to stay on target. The M1928 (AKA, Thompson submachine gun) was my go-to weapon of choice for run n’ gun gameplay: it’s light, allowing for fast movement; it has a high rate of fire at the expense of recoil, and it has great magazine capacity. I am quite happy with the weapon selection shown so far, and I am also excited for future possible additions through post-launch updates.

The real world counterparts of Vanguard’s weapons. Top left to right: M1 Garand, M1928, Sten, MP40, BAR.

Gameplay footage

I have included below some of my own gameplay footage, edited to show highlights. I am by no means a pro-gamer, but I had a fun time with it.

Multiplayer Footage Nick-1701

Killstreaks

I am happy to see that Vanguard is abandoning the Cold War approach to killstreaks, and that this time around the killstreak counter will reset upon death. Many fans were unhappy with the point-based death persisting nature of killstreaks in Cold War. Killstreaks once again are based on kill counts within one life, regarding skilful players for smart use of tactics, weaponry, and the equipment that’s available. It gives great incentive to improve your gunplay skills and to refine your loadouts. Most players will be familiar with the killstreaks on offer as many are simply World War 2 reskins of previous classic killstreaks. During my playthrough I had great fun challenging myself to reach higher killstreaks, some of which you can check out here:

Killstreak gameplay Nick-1701

Perks and field upgrades

Field upgrades are back, adding further tactical opportunities for those players that utilize them appropriately. These upgrades recharge passively in the background, charging at different rates depending on the selected upgrade. Ammo boxes allow for teamwork, effectively serving as backup ammo and equipment when your team mates are running dry. There is a remote-control explosive vehicle similar to the RC-XD killstreak in previous Call of Duty titles, and much more. I found that the field mic was the most useful to use myself, when set in a corner it pings a small area of the map around it, allowing you to spot enemies nearby.

Anyone familiar with Modern Warfare (2019) will recognize most of the perks in the game. For the most part I like the selection, especially Double Time which doubles the duration of tactical sprint and increases crouch movement speed, it is really good for my run n’ gun playstyle. One worry I do have is Radar which allows you to detect unsilenced weapons fire on the mini-map. In previous Call of Duty entries this was not a perk and just happened as a default, I fear making it a perk kind of defeats the purpose of silenced weapons somewhat. In previous entries if you wanted to stay off the mini-map you had to put a silencer on your weapon which reduced the damage or range stats of that weapon. But this time around as long as the enemy does not equip the Radar perk then you will have no need to make this choice.


Conclusion

My experience with the beta was largely positive, despite the odd connection, graphical, and visibility issues that can no doubt be blamed on the games unfinished state. I am very hyped for this game and will definitely pick it up at some point in the near future where I will no doubt spend hours in multiplayer levelling up my soldier and weaponry. I also look forward to immersing myself in the single player campaign, and hope that they try to maintain some semblance of historical accuracy for those of us who happen to be massive history nerds. I also wait in gleeful anticipation for the zombie mode reveal.

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