Call of Duty: Vanguard (PlayStation 5) Review

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 08.06.2022

Review for Call of Duty: Vanguard on PlayStation 5

Call of Duty is a series that doesn't really need an introduction. From its first instalment to its latest, it stood as one of the top military action series in the world. Call of Duty: Vanguard looks to take the series back into World War 2 with more success than the last World War title from Activision. With Zombies making a return, without a story, and the main campaign promising more personable characters, could this be a return to form?

The fiery background of a burning town, rain whipping past the screen, and multiple trains transporting Nazi items, is the setting for the first level of Vanguard, and dear God it's evocative. An exciting, if railroaded (wah-hey) first level introduces the team of characters and sets the stage for a big exciting narrative about espionage and the extraordinary. The main cast is a crack team of multi-national heroes looking to undermine the regime by uncovering and unravelling 'Project Phoenix.' The story this time is a nonlinear narrative with many flashbacks to previous exploits, to flesh out the characters the player controls. These flashbacks make up the majority of the levels and have some fantastic set-pieces as well as some solid action with a somewhat more freeform approach than many other recent CoD entries.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Vanguard on PlayStation 5

What this does with characters is surprising. It's no Battlefield 1 but it really makes them easier to empathise with and gives them a surprising amount of layers. There is, however, a negative to the character narrative. These are based on real people but often undertake actions not taken by the real person. The muddling in Operation Tonga is terrible. The real soldier did some insane stuff but is, unfortunately, in the game, credited with another soldier's achievements. This disparity could give the wrong impression that this is how the operations actually took place, even though it's obviously done this way to push the main, fictional, storyline.

The gameplay itself is extremely fluid with a similar control scheme to the rest of the series, but with a few more old-timey details. Reload animations are usually quite long and arduous, especially for heavier weapons, and this adds a ton of tension in certain situations. The button layout is the same as other CoD games, so veterans will have no issues getting acclimated - though newcomers may well keep pressing the stick to crouch when it's mapped to the circle button. It's fast and thrilling with all the actions being smoothly animated and slick to pull off. Aiming down the sights, in particular, is buttery smooth and quick, meaning nary a second is lost in looking down the scopes for enemies. This is especially crucial to the enjoyment of the Russian parts of the campaign which are heavily focussed on sniping.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Vanguard on PlayStation 5

Naturally, a whole plethora of period-accurate (for the most part) weapons are available for players to cut down reams of enemies from Nazis to zombies. On the PlayStation 5, this is immensely interesting and engrossing as the DualSense controller kicks and resists uniquely for each weapon type. It's possible to feel the shots as well as the different trigger strengths of each weapon amplified by the haptic trigger that allows for even partial pulls of the trigger, which is amazingly fine-grain control that won't exist on all platforms. This being CoD there are abundant and frequent action set pieces involving vehicles, events and more. Some of the standout ones are the plane set pieces at the beginning of the American campaign. These give the players free control of the plane in most scenes, with bombing runs and dogfighting dominating the level. It's exhilarating, well produced, and feels amazing to control. If the whole thing was this tight it would be a knockout.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Vanguard on PlayStation 5

Visually it's a mixed bag. It's typically great with stellar animation and believable effects, but on occasion there is a rough NPC, oddly placed item, or generally wonky physics. For instance, the first level takes place on a moving train. While it's a fantastic set piece, the player is constantly ripped out of the situation by things like minimal hair movement or static long coats that don't seem to catch any breeze. It's subtle, but it is enough to zap away the immersion. Lighting, models, and environments are all equally detailed and excellently implemented when there is no oddness. This is backed up by excellent sound design. 3D audio immerses the player in the character's situation - bombs going off in nearby towns, Nazis sneaking around in the darkness, etc. The only awful sound is the voice acting. The Germans are especially unconvincing. Not only is their German itself rough, but many of the top-level actors that play them are not German at all, and have the worst fake accents. Very "Hollywood."

'Zombies' makes a return but is lacking a big campaign at the time of review. The modes that are there are thankfully solid fun. Even in solo play it's actually quite engaging, but somewhat harder than in a team. Level design is decent, and each stage comes off of a central hub. The individual levels have a linear setup for players to run and gun through while completing mini objectives. The multiplayer normal gameplay is as it always is in CoD games. The levels are decent arenas, the weapons are fun, and the skills and visuals are excellent.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Vanguard on PlayStation 5

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Call of Duty: Vanguard is a great Call of Duty entry with absolutely stellar ser pieces, fantastic visuals, and plenty of modes surrounding an excellently fun campaign. The only downsides are the muddied stories… not to mention what is happening in the company that published it. Highly recommended for CoD fans and people looking for a bit of mindless fun set in WW2.

Developer

Sledgehammer Games

Publisher

Activision

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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