The next Call of Duty feels a bit too familiar.

Call Of Duty Vanguard Multiplayer Preview | All Too Familiar

Call of Duty is once again preparing for another launch with its next title, Vanguard. This one is set during World War II, and features a globetrotting campaign that ties together multiple protagonists each with their own personal stakes in the war. We already know quite a bit about the campaign now, thanks to the slow trickle of gameplay videos and announcements that have surfaced in the last few weeks.

However, multiplayer details were still left pretty bare for the time being. There was a short alpha that ran on PlayStation last week that showed off one of Vanguard’s new modes, but there was very little else to go on. Last week, GameByte got to have a couple of hours with Call of Duty Vanguard’s multiplayer. Here’s what we thought of it.

Credit: Activision

NEW GAME MODE: PATROL

The Call of Duty Vanguard multiplayer beta begins this weekend for anyone who’s pre-ordered on PlayStation. It’ll take you through a few familiar game modes, including Kill Confirmed and Domination. If you’ve ever played a Call of Duty title in the past, you should know what to expect with these modes. Unsurprisingly, they behave pretty much the same as they always have.

We also got hands-on with Patrol, Call of Duty Vanguard’s brand new mode which encourages constant movement and hypervigilant awareness. It’s basically Hardpoint, a classic mode “King of the Hill” style mode, except it’s a single point that’s moving around the map in a continuous circle. You need to stay within the hardpoint to capture points for your team, and will never get more than a couple of seconds to stay still.

I always enjoyed Hardpoint in older Call of Duty games because it felt like Headquarters but with respawns, making the mode a bit more fast-paced as people leaped onto grenades to score points for their team. Patrol seeks to increase that intensity by having the defending team always on the move, making the important decision whether to move out of cover and be exposed to enemy fire, or lose the hardpoint as it travels across an open space.

Credit: Activision

Sizable Difference

Past Call of Duty titles have also toyed with different game modes that dramatically change the lobby sizes of each match. There was Ground War, which upped the player count to massive proportions, and Gunfight, which reduced it down to duos fighting it out in a tiny arena. 

We can already see traces of Gunfight in the new Champion Hill mode that was showcased in the PlayStation alpha last month. However, for players who want to sample the regular game modes and have grown tired of the traditional 6v6 formula, you can now select an option in Quick Play that allows you to adjust what size lobbies you’re put in. Want to play a 20v20 Domination? You sure can! Prefer a more tense 4v4 Search and Destroy? Vanguard will allow you to do that too!

Filtering lobbies into small, regular and large groups means there are brand new ways to enjoy your favourite modes. By simply increasing or reducing the number of players per game, the way you approach objectives changes too.

Credit: Activision

The maps

While this is a great way to customise your experience to a level you’re comfortable with, it also raises a few concerns. For one, the map sizes. During the preview session, we played a round of 20v20 Patrol on Red Star, a snow-covered urban centre that reminded me a bit of COD WWII’s Aachen map. It’s a large map that made good use of its size to accommodate the 40 players that were running around shooting at each other.

A bit later, we played a 6v6 Domination on the same map. It wasn’t as enjoyable. Red Star has tonnes of buildings to run through, with vertical levels, tunnels and a wide open courtyard in the centre. But with only 12 players on the map it felt a lot emptier than before. My main concern with these maps is, by not adjusting the outer limits of each map depending on the player count, a lot of matches will feel slow and boring.

This was also a problem I had with Modern Warfare, where many maps felt much larger than the players they were accommodating. Infinity Ward generously allowed us to play 10v10 on most of them, but even then some games could be drawn out far too long that most of them ended on the time limit rather than on score. With the larger lobby sizes allowing up to 40 players at once, this should be less of a problem, but I’m still concerned about what will happen with smaller lobbies. There are 20 maps included in the game at launch, so that at least means there should be some variety in size.

Credit: Activision

Does it all feel a bit too familiar?

If you’re watching footage of Call of Duty Vanguard and thinking this all looks too familiar, that might be because it is. It uses the new Modern Warfare engine, which many fans were pleased about back in 2019 due to the improved graphics, more fluid controls and versatile interface.

This is the thing though: it basically is Modern Warfare with a WW2 lick of paint. The movement, the shooting, the menus, the maps – it’s all too familiar. The Gunsmith feature returns and is practically identical. You even have reflex sights, which I find really funny to include in a World War II game. Sure, they might have existed in some experimental form back then. But Sledgehammer Games won’t convince me that the average soldier was running around with one of these bad boys. 

Modern Warfare’s multiplayer was certainly a step above some of its predecessors, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the yearly cycle for these games is taking its toll on the studios behind it. Budgets are only getting bigger while the timeframe for release remains the same, meaning more studios need to come in and work on it. Which is why we’re now seeing Activision put pretty much every single one of its studios to work on Call of Duty in some capacity. 

It feels unfeasible for this series to see any kind of strong innovation while it tries to keep to a new release every single year. When you also factor in that the company is currently being accused of fostering a “frat boy” workplace culture of harassment and unequal pay in a lawsuit, you can’t help but question why it didn’t sit out this release for just one year.

Call of Duty: Vanguard launches on 5th November, 2021 on PC, Xbox and PlayStation.

Featured Image: Activision