After months of rumors and speculation about what is happening with Call of Duty this year, Call of Duty: Vanguard has been officially confirmed as the next main game in the series. Vanguard returns the series, for the seventh time, to World War II with a campaign that lead developer Sledgehammer Games hopes will feel new in the series.
Sledgehammer, who has not led the development of a CoD game since Call of Duty: WW2 in 2017, is shaking things up by establishing most of the campaign after the official end of the war. Hitler is dead, the Nazis are lost, but the Allies learn of a troubling plan (called the "Phoenix Project") to somehow facilitate Hitler's "successor."
What the hell does that mean? Your guess is as good as mine. The main villain of Vanguard is the fictional Heinrich Freisinger (inspired by the real Gestapo agent Heinrich Müller). In 1945, Hitler technically had a real successor: this boy, Karl Dönitz, who surrendered immediately and was eventually convicted of war crimes in the Nuremberg trials. Obviously, here is at least a distortion of history. I’m crossing my fingers for CoD to go even further and delve deeper into historical fiction, or even the supernatural, into some of its campaigns.
Call of Duty is no stranger to campaigns about small special forces teams deployed in hostile countries, but Vanguard’s hook lies in the fact that this is a new concept at the end of World War II. To deal with all this successor problem, the Allies deploy a team of four specialists from four countries: Arthur Kingsley (Britain), Polina Petrova (Soviet Union, also the woman she has been) except from helicopters to war zone winners), Wade Jackson (USA) and Lucas Riggs (Australia).
I had a brief look at the Vanguard campaign during a closed press session. The mission shown arrives at the beginning of the campaign, which depicts Arthur parachuting behind enemy lines the night before the D-Day invasion (if you think you could rest from D-Day in this World War II game, think again).
Arthur barely survives the fall after his parachute burns in the middle of the fall and has to look for a weapon, eventually looting a Kar98 from a dead soldier. What follows is a stealthy Call of Duty mission you’ve probably played before: sneak in, shoot once you can no longer hide, all that good. It was familiar, but what caught my eye was how short each shot was. The player never exchanges shots with more than one or two soldiers at a time. The soldiers chase Arthur, firing through wooden doors and restarting the search when he has lost them. The sequence was portrayed more as a stealth action game than a conventional CoD level.
It’s a pretty effective eight-minute show, but it also seemed very scripted. Obviously, all the moves and shots were choreographed. Demonstrations with an intensive script can be very effective for a game like The Last of Us Part 2 when they show the potential of the same scenario to go differently, but I doubt that’s what I saw in Vanguard. It could be that everyone's version of this mission is identical, which would be a nuisance.
It wouldn’t be the first time a CoD campaign has turned out to be less unique than a game show suggested. In a similar briefing held last year by Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War, we were shown a snippet of the stealth mission at KGB headquarters. The presentation suggested that it would be a comprehensive map with many options to complete your goal. It actually looked more like a set of linear goals that you could tackle out of order.
That’s not to say the Vanguard campaign isn’t a good time – the shooting and animations are fantastic again (possibly thanks to the return of the Modern Warfare 2019 engine). Actually, most CoD fans won’t know how to feel until we know more about Vanguard multiplayer. We know Gunsmith is coming back and has a taste of raw destructibility from the maps, but Sledgehammer saves the full multiplayer revelation for a later date.
Call of Duty: Vanguard will be released on November 5th. As for Call of Duty: Warzone, we also learned that Battle Royale will get a new map and a new anti-cheating system in 2021.