Sledgehammer Games is back at the forefront with Call of Duty as it prepares to release Call of Duty: Vanguard on November 5th. Coming to Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and PC, it’s long been seeing comparisons to DICE’s Battlefield 2042 despite their many differences. While its recent beta didn’t raise as many eyebrows as the latter’s did, all is far from perfect in the COD-verse.
Call of Duty anti-cheat has been so underwhelming over the years to the point where it’s a meme. Though it affects all modes, it’s often Warzone that suffers due to its free-to-play nature. Cheaters may be banned by the tens of thousands but it’s fairly easy to get back in. This year offers a marked improvement with the release of Ricochet, a proprietary anti-cheat solution that works on the kernel level. However, whether it will be as effective as Valorant’s Vanguard or even Easy Anti-Cheat – which is used in Apex Legends – remains to be seen.
Some waiting is necessary regardless – Ricochet is releasing with Warzone’s Pacific update, which is out later this year (and not confirmed to be launching with Call of Duty: Vanguard in November). If anti-cheat is important and you don’t want to risk being frustrated by cheaters, even in regular multiplayer, then it may be pertinent to hold off.
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to be annoyed by the core multiplayer. The beta offered four maps – Hotel Royal, Gavutu, Red Star, and Eagle’s Nest – out of the total 20 that are available at launch. Hotel Royal garnered mixed reactions due to visibility issues, to say nothing of the “Murder Kitchen” spawns (which Sledgehammer has noted will be fixed at launch). While Eagle’s Nest has been more positively received, the lane-based structure of the current maps makes them annoying to navigate. Plus, you’re more likely to be ambushed by campers and encounter those who simply won’t play the objective.
Along with Team Deathmatch, Domination, Search and Destroy, and Kill Confirmed, Vanguard will have two brand-new multiplayer modes – Champion Hill and Patrol. The former is an expanded version of Gunfight which has seen some positive feedback. But Patrol, which became available in the beta, still needs work. Patrol is essentially like Hardpoint, except the point in question is a zone that’s constantly moving. Players need to stay in the zone and accrue points but they also need to watch each other’s backs lest they get flanked or ambushed.
The problem is that terrible spawns ruined the experience as enemies would spawn right behind players and wipe them out, capturing the zone with ease. Though Sledgehammer will look at fixing the spawns, there’s also the issue of camping since players can post up and effectively assault the zone from safe positions with little consequence. There’s some decent potential in Patrol so we’ll see how it pans out but for now, it’s looking rough.
For whatever reason, the time-to-kill in the beta came across as extremely high. There are a few theories – headshot damage seemed to be fairly high, leading to very quick kills. But it could also be that the recoil pattern on guns makes being caught by stray headshots more common, especially if players aim at an enemy’s chest to start. Whether this will be tuned or even acknowledged remains to be seen. Past Call of Duty titles have had rather mixed results with their post-launch weapons balancing so we’ll see how Sledgehammer handles this.
Streaks are a key part of the Call of Duty experience, providing things like a Spy-plane, RC-XD and so on as you perform better. Scorestreaks are usually preferred because they incentivize playing the objective. Killstreaks, on the other hand, are all about getting kills. Guess which one Vanguard has prioritized for every mode? Leaving aside the balancing on the Killstreaks themselves, this feeds into a number of other problems like map design and camping.
Why play the objective when you can just camp around and get free kills? While there could be adjustments and improvements in other areas, the Killstreak system isn’t going anywhere and will continue to be a major hurdle for the objective-based game modes.
For some reason, Call of Duty: Vanguard decided to change up how the radar works. While your allies are visible on the map at all times, your enemies – who should show up as red dots on firing – will not. With the map design encouraging more camping, killstreaks pushing you to ignore the objective and so on and so forth, it can get very frustrating.
There is a Perk which makes the radar function like the past games, causing your enemies to appear as red dots when they fire. But this just means everyone will run this Perk, further limiting the variety of choices available. Plus, if all players are going to run it anyway – and why wouldn’t they because it’s exactly how they played previous games – why not just make it a default part of the game? It’s baffling.
Visibility Issues When Shot
If it weren’t bad enough to not know where your enemies are, getting shot in the beta would impact your visibility significantly. Along with being suppressed that seemingly causes the player’s movement to slow (making it that much harder to get away), their point-of-view shakes and vision blurs. Just one of these would be annoying but all three in combination is just insufferable. If this was meant to reward players for getting the drop on their enemies without too much risk of retaliation, or to provide a more “realistic” way of taking damage, it’s understandable. But it also means that skill is less of a determining factor in a straight-up gunfight, which is just odd.
Skill-based matchmaking has been a very controversial topic for Call of Duty’s multiplayer over the past several years. While it’s necessary to ensure that lower-level players can stand a chance, it can also lead to some questionably balanced teams. In recent COD titles, there’s been a trend of giving the player much “easier” matches, thus ensuring a nice stretch of wins.
Then suddenly, it swings the other way, putting them in match after match with high-level opponents to be destroyed. Then rinse and repeat. Similar complaints have come up during Vanguard’s beta and it’s unlikely this is ever going to be changed. Adjustments and such may be made but if this is something that irks you to no end, then expect more of the same in the final game.
As noted when discussing Battlefield 2042’s issues, sound design is one of the most underrated elements of video games, especially given how much impact it can have on the overall experience. For a competitive shooter, footstep audio is essential and carefully balancing it so that you’re aware of your enemies and teammates can be challenging. Sadly, it’s not very well balanced in Call of Duty: Vanguard based on the recent beta so you’re hard-pressed to know if any enemy is close by. This combined with everything else just makes it that much easier to be killed out of nowhere.
Similar to Modern Warfare (2019)
When Call of Duty: Modern Warfare saw its reboot in 2019, it offered a number of big changes like weapon mounting, which reduced the recoil when mounting a weapon on a barrier or flat surface, and Tactical Sprint which is essentially a faster way to sprint and quickly get around the map. It also took the Stim Shot from Black Ops 4 and made it an insta-heal tool which also refreshes the stamina needed for Tactical Sprint.
Of course, the map design tended to favor campers which, among other things, drew plenty of criticism. So if you enjoyed Modern Warfare (2019), then good news – Vanguard appears to be very much the same, warts and all. But if you didn’t, then it might be tough to get into compared to previous Call of Duty titles.