First Impressions - Call of Duty: Vanguard Beta

September 21, 2021
Also on: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series
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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Black Ops: Cold War: Warzone: Vanguard: Beta

At this point, it feels like my PlayStation 4 Pro is little more than a Call of Duty box. Since buying the console early last year, I’ve used it to play Uncharted, The Last of Us, Detroit: Become Human, Watch Dogs: Legion and last year’s Call of Duty beta. For as much as I love half of those games, it does feel a bit strange turning my console on for the first time in six months just to shoot some baddies in CoD, but then again, playing Call of Duty: Vanguard’s beta feels a bit odd too.

Vanguard’s beta feels like a Call of Duty game (and if that quote doesn’t end up on the back of the game’s box, I’m going to be really disappointed). In the 10-odd hours I spent playing it over the weekend, I ran around shooting people, leveling up, dying and respawning. The game’s World War 2 setting means that there were plenty of cool toys for me to play with, the animations are all on-point and the graphics look good given my dated hardware.

I’m 95% sure I recognize this wall from Rainbow Six: Siege

But what makes playing this year’s beta feel weird is that it just seems like it's a carbon copy of 2019’s Modern Warfare. The two games run on the same engine, which would be a good thing because of how great that engine is, except that it seems like Vanguard isn’t taking any risks or even adding new gimmicks. 

The game’s cool setting should’ve given the developers a lot of creative freedom, but instead, everything just feels like a reskin of 2019’s title. There’s no innovation in the game; literally everything in the beta was in the last good Call of Duty. While ordinarily I’d be ecstatic to have tactical sprint, an in-depth gunsmith and the mounting mechanic back, I quickly found myself playing the game like I did two years ago. My go-to weapon was a Thompson SMG modded out with the same exact attachments I used with Modern Warfare’s MP5, I moved around the maps sliding and hopping while spamming health boosts, and pistols quickly became my guilty pleasure weapon.

I love it when I use a gun for 3 hours just to unlock one of 10 grips that I’ll never equip

This means that, while I definitely enjoyed shooting my way through the war to end all wars, it was hard for me to find a reason to actually play the beta when I’m already at max level in Modern Warfare and Cold War. The weapons look new and the setting is slightly different, but it all feels identical minus the “gimmick” of being able to occasionally blow through small wooden walls Siege-style. There is the addition of “combat pacing”, which determines how many players are in each match, but I found little reason to play anything besides “tactical” — the traditional 6v6 experience— or “blitz”, which crams 24-48 players into maps, when I wanted to grind out some shotgun experience points.

Not to keep beating a stillborn horse, but I was seriously disappointed by how similar it all felt. If I trust the feeling in my fingers as much as my crazy ex did, there was literally no difference in how the MG42 in Vanguard’s beta and Modern Warfare’s MG34 felt. The maps all have the same layout that Call of Duty maps have always had, the leveling up was still painfully slow and there’s even a remote controlled drivable IED that handles identically to the RCXD from Cold War

I’ll admit, blindfiring while mounted is kind of fun, if totally useless

At this point, I may just be getting bored of Call of Duty after playing them every single year since I turned 5, but I can’t see myself buying Vanguard at launch unless something significantly changes. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think the game’s weird Inglorious Basterds-esque campaign looks fun, but the fall release season is packed with games that look infinitely more interesting than what I played over the weekend. I said it earlier this year, and I’ll say it again: Call of Duty needs to take a break, because assuming nothing major changes upon release and I’m not the only person who thinks this way, Vanguard is going to continue the franchise’s downward spiral of sales. 

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Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.