Call Of Duty: Vanguard's multiplayer feels familiar, have I been here before? Yes, in the past, but also in the future. Despite its World War II setting, Vanguard's open beta has me thinking back to the days of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare. Having played a sizable chunk of it now, I'm not kidding when I say that it's like the Modern Warfare lot LARPING on a WWII set. For some this will be good. For others this will be bad. For me? It needs Warzone.
One thing's for sure, boot technology clearly hasn't changed between WWII and modern day. Movement feels incredibly similar to Modern Warfare: slides, crouches, sprints, I'd be hard-pressed to tell them apart if you stripped both sets of soldiers down and entered them into Tough Mudder.
This isn't detrimental, though. If anything, steering your soldier through Vanguard's maps feels like a glorious return to peak physical fitness, where Black Ops Cold War suffers from an unshakeable stiffness in its joints.
Sure, Black Ops Cold War isn't a smooth Call Of Duty by any means, but at least it has that unmistakable Treyarch punch. Guns produce a proper pap-pap-pap, and medals clang onto the screen as you slot magazines into chambers with satisfying snaps. Judging by my time in the beta, Vanguard lacks this strong identity. It borrows so much from Modern Warfare that any excitement you may harbour for a freshly caught CoD evaporates the moment you tuck in.
This may sound delightful if you're into Modern Warfare, but Vanguard does such a good MW impression that I wonder whether it's enough to tempt those diehards away in the first place. Most modes descend into this mad crush of spawning and dying and spawning...and dying. Use a gun for a bit and you'll be able to pop the 1940s equivalent of a red dot sight on it. Get three kills in a row and you're free to whip out a chunky black phone and call in a recon blimp. Everyone still sounds like Danny Dyer hollering, "Some FAHCKIN INTEL CAMING AP".
All right, so there is one totally brand new game mode called Patrol, which sees both teams fighting to capture and hold a moving zone, but even this didn't do much for me. Based on my experience, most players tended to ignore the zone altogether, and since it's constantly on the move, there's all the more reason to drop the objective in favour of racking up some kills. Some very iffy spawns also didn't help matters. I mean, I'm certain I spawned in front of, or behind, entire teams at least a handful of times.
No matter what, I suppose you're thinking, "Well, isn't this the job of every Call Of Duty ever?" And yes, you're absolutely right. Vanguard's open beta suggests that it will ultimately achieve its destiny. But I do believe that "the job" has morphed somewhat since Warzone burst onto the scene. While Cold War was the first to import some weapons into Warzone, Vanguard is the first to fully take over responsibility from Modern Warfare.
To be honest, I think this is a fantastic thing. I haven't touched Warzone in a long, long while. Verdansk tires me nowadays. I've been to the Boneyard and the Hospital and the Farmyard too many times over the last year, and I needed a break. We don't know yet how Warzone's going to change once Vanguard pitches up at the end of the year, but I reckon Vanguard's arsenal and that new Pacific-themed map will breathe some new life into its battle royale sibling.
At the same time, though, there's also this sense that Warzone has Vanguard on a leash. It can't stray too far from Modern Warfare, because it's next in line to the throne. The movement and the gun feel, everything is fated to familiarity. Again, this isn't a problem for a Warzone fan like myself, but it's a problem for someone who wants to enjoy Call Of Duty multiplayer. You see, the two have coexisted for a while now: play multiplayer, earn EXP to upgrade your guns, and thus, have a better time in the Warzone.
I never played Modern Warfare's multiplayer for the sake of it. Every single time I booted it up was a means to an end. I'd spend hours in Shipment grinding guns purely because they were hot shit in Warzone. Motivation, even fun, were all tied to my relationship with Warzone at the time. And I know Vanguard is only in open beta at the moment, but without Warzone as an end goal, it feels a bit empty.
Right now, Vanguard looks to carry on Modern Warfare's legacy. Even though the devs will tweak and adjust Vanguard before release, I'm not sure I can see myself playing its multiplayer modes without Warzone being in the same room. My enjoyment and motivation for Call Of Duty multiplayer is now irrevocably linked to the question, "Where we droppin' boys?" for better or worse.
Call Of Duty: Vanguard publishers Activision Blizzard are being sued by a California state agency with claims of discrimination, harrassment, and retaliation, and allegations that their workplace culture is "a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination". A group of workers have also teamed up with a union to file charges of unfair labour practices against them too.