After 20 hours of play on the Call of Duty: Vanguard PS5 Beta, we’ve found it to be a first rate MP shooter that needs to tidy some rough edges. The Finger Guns Preview.
I’ll be honest, for the first few hours of the Call of Duty: Vanguard beta, I couldn’t click with the game at all. While much of the stalwart structure of a Call of Duty game returns here, the moment to moment play is… different. It felt different in a “this isn’t just another Call of Duty game” kind of a way. Sure, on the surface it looks like Cold War but with older, crappier guns. The thud of bullets hitting their mark feels just as good as they do in previous CoD games but during play though, it feels a little more deliberate, measured and tougher. It took time but I started to like it and the changes that have occurred felt like they’re in a positive direction.
That all begins with the maps. The 3 that were playable during the first week of the beta – Hotel Royal, Gavutu and Red Star – are really well designed and offered something for every type of player. Hotel Royal offers a looping labyrinth of rooms, tight corners, angles to cover and some tricksy little spots. Gavatu, built up around a beached ship with a crow’s nest perfect for sniping, is a twist on the classic triple lane map, each of which suits a different type of play style. Lastly the snow dusted Red Star map has long streets perfect for players who love using their scope and a maze of paths for those that like getting up close and personal. They’re maps that accommodate players no matter the way they want to play. If it were up to me, there would need to be some changes – that crow’s nest on Gavatu can be much easier captured when coming from one side of the map than the other, for example – but that’s more likely because these points gave me an issue (yes, someone sniped me repeatedly from the top of that ship).
There’s a few rough edges with the Call of Duty: Vanguard PS5 Beta maps though. On Hotel Royal, there’s a few breakable glass panels. Once they’ve been smashed they can create some very weird visual artefacts when aiming down sights near them. On the topic of Hotel Royal, it’d be great if when this game releases that the Patrol mode never gets rotated on to here. The few matches I’ve had of Patrol on Hotel Royal are just unmitigated chaos. In one round, both teams were spawning in the same area for some reason and were just blasting one another seconds later with grenades. Spawn. Explode. Repeat. The spawn camping has been minimal during my time with the beta but it has happened.
While Gun Game has not returned from Cold War, and the much requested War mode hasn’t returned from WW2, the new mode that has been introduced in the Call of Duty: Vanguard PS5 Beta is “Champion Hill”. Here, single, duo or trios teams face off against one another in timed matches. Once the timer runs down, you’re pitted against a different team. Each team begins with a set number of lives and each time you’re killed, those lives drop away. The aim of this tournament style battle is to be the last team with any lives, being the last team standing. All of these matches take place in a circle like arena that’s spit up into sections where the teams will face off.
At first, Champion Hill felt like a massive step down from the likes of Gun Game. Every player begins with the same weapon and a small amount of cash which can be spent on upgrades, perks, new weapons and more. This initially doesn’t feel like a decent system to enable varied combat. More often than not, everyone simply upgraded the starter weapon with whatever cash they earn by winning rounds or picked up in a match. It kind of makes sense in the spur of the moment but it means that you don’t get much variety in battles because virtually everyone is using the same weapon. Also, because every team is on the same map, segmented away in their individual quadrants, you can hear the gun fire and explosions from other battles which can be quite distracting.
As the weekend went on though, more and more players that I faced off against were changing it up. I saw a bigger variety weapons being used in the kill cams of those killing me. The mode started to blossom and one can hope that when the game finally launches, this’ll evolve further.
I’ve been saying the same thing to myself over the past few years: “I don’t need this new Call of Duty, I’ll skip it”. Of course, that’s a lie and every year I end up caving and getting the game on launch day. This year, I truly thought I wasn’t lying to myself when I said I could skip Call of Duty: Vanguard. I genuinely though that I didn’t need another World War 2 power fantasy FPS in my life. If anything, this beta has impressed me enough to know that I will once again be there on day one. A new Warzone map, a campaign, zombie and multiplayer which currently has some rough edges but has an excellent core. If the rest of the game is as good as the core feeling in the beta, this’ll be an excellent Call of Duty game. Roll on November 5th.
Call of Duty: Vanguard is launching on November 5th, 2021. You can pre-order here. Further betas will take place between Sept 16th and 20th.
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