Call of Duty Vanguard Multiplayer Beta Hands-On: A Step Back in Time


Call of Duty: Vanguard multiplayer is bare and ruthless. It drops you right into the chaos of a simulated World War II battlefield without wasting anyone’s time. The game mechanics are pretty much standard CoD, and you’ll find your feet almost instantly if you are familiar with the franchise. Despite Activision choosing the hackneyed WWII theme for its new first-person shooter (FPS), the game feels starkly different from 2017’s Call of Duty: WWII. Vanguard is 2020’s Black Ops Cold War wrapped in a WWII skin with tweaks borrowed from 2019’s Modern Warfare. The familiarity in gameplay is enticing for CoD fans to jump right in, but the theme is what makes it an alternative to Cold War — and the free-to-play Warzone — and not a natural next chapter in multiplayer gaming.

We got to experience the Call of Duty: Vanguard multiplayer open beta over a course of two days on the Xbox Series S. The game is based on the Modern Warfare engine and is developed by Sledgehammer Games — with Treyarch handling the Zombies mode that we have yet to see — who previously developed 2017’s Call of Duty: WWII. The common theme is no coincidence.

One of the early things to work in the favour of the developers is that the Call of Duty: Vanguard multiplayer open beta has turned out to be a lot less buggy than expected. Sledgehammer Games was able to iron out some series issues with graphics, sounds, and gameplay that plagued the alpha. That being said, the occasional cheaters bereft of any scruples had a free run with Activision’s heavily-advertised new anti-cheat program yet to be implemented. But once we could get past those, there were enough loyalists, enthusiasts, and amateurs to keep the fun alive.

Call of Duty: Vanguard maps and matchmaking

Call of Duty: Vanguard multiplayer has a bunch of new stuff to get gamers excited. One of the essential additions is Combat Pacing — a new form of customisable matchmaking. Tactical lobbies are classic 6v6, Assault has balanced pacing with 20–28 players, and Blitz gets you into high-intensity lobbies featuring 28–48 players. It’s a sensible addition to give more breathing space to new players, balanced gameplay to casual players, and a taste of the madness to the like-minded. But how well it works in the long run will require us to experience the full game when it launches on November 5.

Call of Duty Vanguard Hotel Royal map Call of Duty Vanguard

The visibility in Call of Duty: Vanguard can get worse in small maps and closed spaces
Photo Credit: Sledgehammer Games

New, fun, and realistic yes, but here’s a dampener that goes against hours of non-stop gaming — at least in the Vanguard beta. Sticking to the theme, the overall colours in most maps seem slightly muted. There’s also more wood around that is meant to be destructible, which contributes to making the overall colour palate slightly dull. The dust from the destruction, mixed with fire, smoke, sparks, or snow in different maps and the effects of different weapons, compromises the overall visibility a bit more that feels comfortable for intense multiplayer gunfights, chiefly making it hard to spot players with WWII operator skins heavy on beige and causing some extra eyestrain. Here’s hoping the variety in the full game solves this as much as is intended.

Call of Duty: Vanguard gameplay and weapons

Vanguard gunplay is fast — a tad faster than Cold War we feel — and the weapons do justice to the 1940s with a noticeably heavier feel and increased vertical recoil. But to make things interesting, the developers have brought back the weapon-mounting mechanism — meaning that you can mount your weapon on most flat surfaces like walls and crates to get a steady aim. Destructible environments are another assist. You can shoot wooden planks, partitions, walls, and doors to make aiming holes or bring them down completely to make new paths. Just expect more wall-banging as we should have, with our cover being blown to pieces far too often. A side note to Vanguard developers though: some solid-looking doors shouldn’t have been vulnerable to mere bullets — a complaint that is also echoing through Call of Duty forums.

Weapons in Call of Duty: Vanguard are now worryingly customisable. Expect to get the combinations wrong till you don’t with 10 attachments each for primary weapons at your disposal. The born-to-be campers, however, will have less to rejoice and more to learn with scopes getting a true WWII treatment. The old-style magnifications will take a bit getting used to and so will the recoil and the loading time.

Call of Duty: Vanguard solo campaign storyline looks fresh and expansive — climbing walls and rooftops never gets old — and should give gamers enough time and background to settle into a new environment before they dive into the multiplayer mode full time. That said, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, which has achieved a rare balance between real and futuristic, will remain in the fray when choosing a lobby.

You can pre-order Call of Duty: Vanguard now. The game releases worldwide on November 5 for PS5 (Review), PS4, Xbox S/X (Review), Xbox One, and PC on November 5. The Standard Edition of Call of Duty: Vanguard meant for last-gen PS4 and Xbox One consoles is priced at Rs. 3,999. Owners of new consoles are encouraged to spend extra for an optimised Cross-Gen Bundle of the game priced at Rs. 4,999 with some bonus content. Call of Duty: Vanguard Ultimate Edition topped up with yet more bonus content is priced at Rs. 6,999. PC gamers can choose between the $60 Standard Edition and $100 Ultimate Edition (roughly Rs. 4,490 and Rs. 7,480).

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