Call Of Duty: Vanguard gameplay first impressions and release date reveal

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GameCentral has a sneak peek at this year’s new Call Of Duty, as Activision announces the multiplayer, Zombies mode, and a new Warzone map.

Activision has been making entirely the wrong kind of news headlines recently, with their press reveal for Call Of Duty: Vanguard starting with an apology from Sledgehammer Games studio head Aaron Halon and a promise that he and the company at large will do better – while acknowledging how awkward it is to talk about issues of discrimination and workplace abuse and suddenly switch to the unveiling of this year’s new Call Of Duty.

Like every Call Of Duty before it, news leaked out about Vanguard long before it was officially announced. There wasn’t as much detail as usual though, with last week’s teaser trailer offering the most information up till now, by confirming a Second World War setting and what seemed to be at least four different locations.

A few days ago, we saw the announcement trailer above and were treated to an extended look at the story campaign, confirming that the game covers the war across four different fronts: Soviet Russia, the D-Day landings, North Africa, and the Pacific.

Except for the Pacific, and paratroopers instead of beach landings, that’s all very similar to the set-up in 2005’s Call Of Duty 2, although that’s not something Sledgehammer referenced when they were talking about it.

The four soldiers shown in the teaser trailer are the playable characters in each setting and while they’re fictional they are based on real people from the war, namely British paratrooper Sidney Cornell, Ukrainian sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Kiwi infantryman Charles Upham (the only person to be awarded the Victoria Cross twice during WW2), and American pilot Vernon ‘Mike’ Micheel (who was featured as a character in The Pacific miniseries).

The only extended gameplay footage we got to see was from the Western Front, featuring the British character Arthur Kingsley, but as you can see from the announcement trailer the Soviet setting seems to be heavily influenced by the movie Enemy at the Gates, which again was also true of Call Of Duty 2.

Playing as Arthur, on the night before D-Day (specifically Operation Tonga), the first thing that strikes you is just how good the graphics are. Call Of Duty has only occasionally been cutting edge in its visuals but the lighting in particular is exceptionally good, as you dodge through woodland and then into a village, watching the light pierce the floorboards as you try to hide in a basement.

Even more impressive is the silhouettes you see flitting across some cloths hanging up to dry on a washing line, with the player shooting through them in a panic. The fire effects are excellent too, with a windmill aflame in the distance, while the footage ends with a flare going up and exposing the area to its unnatural glare.

The gameplay appears to be the typical linear style associated with Call Of Duty but there’s no shame in that, as when it’s done well it can still be hugely enjoyable and very cinematic – with the developers specifically mentioning how they want to make a ‘filmic blockbuster’. Thankfully that doesn’t seem to mean anything quite as dumb as Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor but has snagged Bear McCreary for the soundtrack, which is a definite win.

Watching the footage, everything seems very authentic and grounded, but the overarching story of the campaign involves infiltrating Germany and trying to stop a Nazi project to anoint a replacement for Hitler. This supposedly involves all four characters teaming up, in what is supposed to be an exploration of the origins of modern special forces but sounds more like something out of a Captain America comic book.

Hopefully, either the plot isn’t as silly as it sounds or it’s simply not a large part of the overall campaign but listening to it being described, together with a few pieces of concept art, there does seem to be something of a tonal mismatch going on, even as Sledgehammer say they’re, ‘rooted but not beholden to history’.

Nothing of the multiplayer was shown but Sledgehammer confirmed that there will be 20 maps in total, with 16 for the core multiplayer mode. There was also a lot of talk about down-the-barrel gunplay and hammer vs. scalpel action, or in other words absolutely no jetpacks.

An expanded Gunsmith will be part of the multiplayer, as well as new custom ballistics and ‘reactive environments’ (there certainly seemed to be a lot of destruction effects in the single-player). There’s also a new mode called Champion Hill which involves fighting across four maps to be the last squad standing in solo, duos, or trios tournaments.

Even less was said about Zombies, but it was confirmed that Treyarch will be making the mode, not Sledgehammer, and it will work as a prequel to the Black Ops Cold War story.

Since Warzone itself was used to announce Vanguard the free-to-play battle royale is going to be vitally important to the game’s ongoing success, with Raven Studios creating a brand-new Warzone map this year, which is implied to be set during WW2.

Warzone will also be altered to feature the same tech as Vanguard, including weapons and operators. Although there was also a lot of emphasis put on a new anti-cheat system, following considerable fan upset at how cheaters are close to ruining the game.

Given the pandemic, and the fact that we could only watch the footage via a blurry livestream, it was a convincing first showing for Vanguard. The new graphics are impressive and in terms of modes the game seems to be as good value as ever, especially once you factor in Warzone. As long as the peculiar plot doesn’t prove too jarring, given the high level of visual realism, this could well end up as the best WW2 Call Of Duty so far.

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