Call of Duty: Vanguard is a 2021 first-person shooter game developed by Sledgehammer Games and published by Activision. It was released on November 5 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. It serves as the 18th installment in the overall Call of Duty series. Vanguard establishes a storyline featuring the birth of the special forces to face an emerging threat at the end of the war during various theatres of World War II.
The game received mixed reviews from critics, with praise towards the entertainment value of the campaign and multiplayer, and the graphics, but criticism for its writing, Zombies mode, and lack of innovation. It failed to meet the sales expectations of Activision.
Vanguard‘s campaign features similar gameplay mechanics previously introduced in Modern Warfare, such as the player being able to mount wielded weapons to flat surfaces, interact with doors and execute takedowns. New gameplay features allow the player the ability to use a more advanced tactical approach in combat such as blind firing from behind cover, breaking through destructible environmental elements or creating new paths to complete objectives by climbing walls.
Vanguard‘s multiplayer mode introduces a new game mode to the series, titled “Champion Hill”, a successor to the mode “Gunfight”, a 2v2 arena mode previously featured in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Champion Hill tasks players with surviving as long as possible in a squad-based deathmatch, round-robin tournament. Season 2 of Vanguard introduces “Arms Race”, a large-scale game mode where two teams of 12 players attempt to capture five bases, or destroy them; players can also earn cash from kills and complete objectives to buy custom loadouts and killstreaks. A new feature introduced to the Call of Duty series through Vanguard‘s multiplayer is “Combat Pacing”. This allows the player to have more control over the selection of multiplayer game modes through three pre-defined pacing filters favoring different playstyles. As an addition to the returning Gunsmith system, Vanguard‘s multiplayer features a “Caliber system”, which brings greater destructibility and reactive environments to maps through different ammunition types.
As with Cold War, Vanguard is integrated with Warzone, allowing players to progress and use weapons, operators and other cosmetics items across both titles, in addition to the existing Modern Warfare and Cold War items in Warzone. Like prior Call of Duty installments since 2019, Vanguard‘s multiplayer is also fully cross-platform play compatible, with support for cross-generation gaming regarding eighth and ninth generation home video game consoles.
The cooperative Zombies mode returns in Vanguard, developed by Treyarch in collaboration with Sledgehammer Games. The mode is considered an expansion of the Dark Aether story, and acts as a prologue to Black Ops Cold War‘s story. At launch, the game features a new map titled “Der Anfang”, which combines aspects of round-based survival gameplay with the objective-based gameplay of Outbreak and Onslaught, both new gamemodes introduced in Cold War. Gameplay elements from Cold War return in Vanguard, such as Essence and Salvage currencies, and Dark Aether-powered field upgrades, in addition to classic Zombies gameplay items like perks and the Pack-a-Punch machine. A new gameplay feature, the Altar of Covenants, allows players to purchase randomized buffs every round, allowing a variety in combat builds. Post-launch updates for Zombies feature additional objectives for Der Anfang, including a main quest for story progression, as well as new Covenants and field upgrades. An additional hub map, “Terra Maledicta”, was also added to the game in February 2022 as part of the Season 2 content update. Classic round-based maps were announced for Vanguard in April 2022, with the first map, a remake of the Call of Duty: World at War map “Shi no Numa”, slated for release in Season 4.
Characters and settings
Vanguard‘s single-player campaign takes place in 1945 near the end of World War II’s European theater, with various flashbacks ranging from 1941 to 1944. The story of Vanguard is told throughout various points in time in a non-chronological order. The flashbacks portray various major battles such as the Battle of Stalingrad and Midway through the eyes of the main protagonists. The game portrays the rise of special forces, with the first tasked to uncover a secret Nazi project and thwart it. The player takes control of various members of Task Force Vanguard, a team formed by the Special Operations Executive to uncover Phoenix, a secret Nazi project. Members include team leader British Army Lieutenant Arthur Kingsley (Chiké Okonkwo), his right-hand man Richard Webb (Simon Quarterman), Red Army sniper Polina Petrova (Laura Bailey), U.S. Navy pilot Wade Jackson (Derek Phillips), Australian Army demolitionist Lucas Riggs (Martin Copping), and Milos Novak, a Czechoslovak partisan fighter. Supporting characters appear in flashbacks, including British Army Corporal Thomas Jones (Max Deacon), Polina’s brother Misha Petrov (Mark Ivanir), Aviation Machinist Mate 3rd Class Mateo Hernandez (Christopher Rivas), Private Desmond “Des” Wilmot (Nikolai Nikolaeff), and Robert Jacobs (Jack Hawkins). Opposing Task Force Vanguard is Project Phoenix, a secret Nazi project led by Untersturmführer Hermann Freisinger (Dan Donohue) aiming to take the party underground. Other antagonists include Hauptsturmführer Jannick Richter (Dominic Monaghan), the interrogator of Task Force Vanguard while they are captured, SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer Leo Steiner (Ray Proscia), the commander in charge of invading Stalingrad, and British Army Major Henry Hamms (James Frain), who frequently antagonizes the Australians in North Africa.
The multiplayer mode’s seasonal story takes place after the campaign, across multiple eras, and features Captain Carver Butcher (Ron Bottitta), the founder of Task Force Vanguard, leading other special forces teams on covert missions to take down global Nazi operations. The final season of Vanguard, which is not canon to the seasonal story, features several villains from previous Call of Duty titles as playable characters: Raul Menendez (Kamar de los Reyes) from Black Ops II and Black Ops 4, Khaled Al-Asad (Michael Benyaer) from Modern Warfare (2019), He “Seraph” Zhen-Zhen (Judy Alice Lee) from Black Ops III and Black Ops 4, and Gabriel Rorke (Kevin Gage) from Ghosts.
The Zombies story takes place in early 1944, and depicts a team of Special Forces operators being drafted into a battle against an undead army, led by Oberführer Wolfram Von List (Kaiser Johnson), commander of SS unit Die Wahrheit. Von List possesses the power to raise the dead, thanks to his symbiotic link with a Dark Aether entity named Kortifex the Deathless (Jason Marnocha). Assisting the Special Forces team is Professor Gabriel Krafft (Darin De Paul), a demonologist who was forced to work for Von List and help him uncover the Dark Aether artifacts. Krafft provides the Special Forces operators with other artifacts, which allow them to form their own symbiotic links with four other entities: Saraxis the Shadow (Alexa Kahn), Inviktor the Destroyer (Regi Davis), Norticus the Conqueror (Wally Wingert) and Bellekar the Warlock (Abby Craden). Additional Dark Aether entities later join the conflict, including Vercanna the Last (Jodi Carlisle), who allies with the Special Forces team, and Zaballa the Deceiver, Kortifex’s lieutenant.