Until Vanguard, my relationship with shooters has simmered the last few years. I used to love them. Loved those AA and AAA shooters. I loved CoD 2 – the house-to-house fighting still jostles inside my gaming memories for prime position. I loved Wolfenstein and Rise of the Triad and Doom and Quake and Singularity and even Timeshift. I’ve enjoyed quite a few Calls of Duty. I even got sent to LA to preview Black Ops 3. We played MW3 on the morning of my wedding to take our minds off the day. But since then, I’ve just kinda . . . not played many.
I’ve seen them come and go. I lost internet for a couple of years in there, so I think that affected my ability to feel like I could fully enjoy them. But also, I’ve just fallen off being online in games in general, while CoD and Battlefield embraced squads and seasons and tiers and unlocks and loot boxes. It was with slight trepidation, then, that I asked for a review code for Vanguard. But my fears have been largely settled by quite a few changes to the way things work. You might already know about these, but I found them welcoming.
Call of Duty: Training Wheels
The first cool thing; If you want to play anonymously, is that you can be assigned a rando profile name for online play. This is great. I have no idea if people can send me messages to berate me for being a noob (which I most certainly am), but it’s yet to happen. The second cool thing; is you can mute everyone. Meaning, I have no idea what anyone is saying, what anyone is singing, or how incredibly young they might be. These two settings made me feel cushioned enough to then nudge up against the main behemoth intent on ruining my time with Vanguard latency online.
This is most likely an issue with my location, NBN speed and the fact that I can only get time to play during peak usage periods. But the lag is so bad that Vanguard online is almost unplayable for me. I have constantly unloaded half a magazine at someone, only to watch their kill-cam to see that I never fired a shot from their perspective. Even Zombies mode on solo has lag. Despite this, it was still kind of thrilling to run around like a helpless (lagging) faun, to be part of the action that is CoD team deathmatch.
I didn’t try the other modes. They either confuse me or make me feel that I would be expected to be far more competent at playing an objective than I know I will be. I still have no idea how or why guns get upgraded, or what challenges I should be working towards – it’s all very overwhelming. But it’s there if I want it, or manage to get decent ping, and that’s kind of comforting.
Call of Duty: Campaign. (Wait, there’s a Campaign?)
Thus, I had to turn to the campaign, which I am very much enjoying. There is a weightiness here that reminds me of Killzone. Sprint and jump and you might not make the gap between two trains. Press reload on instinct and you are locked into a laborious animation for some guns. This is a refreshing inclusion that forces you to plan reloads and which guns you keep.
As I have not played a shooter for some time, the graphical sheen is impressive to me. Even if the odd German soldier’s head melds into the walls of a submarine. Rain, lighting, animations – all are top notch and I am impressed at how planned-out encounters feel, with enemies throwing smoke grenades and rushing my position or digging in with sniper cover. To dismiss the 5-7 hour campaign does a disservice to the obvious effort put into this. Which is not to say that effort equals quality, but I am enjoying it a whole lot, so can only speak for my experience.
Call of Duty: Vanguard
I have little comparative weight as I have not played recent entries, but if you have a brilliant connection (and do not live in the south of Western Australia) then I would say that your experience with online play would be much better than mine. If quick rounds and constant progress appeals, as well as a decent campaign that delivers all that we might expect from a modern Call of Duty title (that is, vestigial yet still impressive), then Vanguard would be worth keeping an eye on for a bargain price (because RRP for new-gen consoles is ridic). CoD diehards will already be on prestige level 7 or whatever. Us little ducklings won’t have a chance. But if enough try to cross the road, a few might make it.