The COD community has been vocal about the issues and problems that Call Of Duty: Vanguard and Warzone has endured, and for good reason. A lot with both games has been messed up, buggy, or outright broken. The devs did delay Season 2 for those reasons, to put together patches for the most atrocious issues, and in a sit down with some of the bigger names in the community they “fessed” up. They really screwed up with where they went in Vanguard and Warzone, and it was hurting the brand. Thankfully, this season has been a step in the right direction (see the tagline above), and we’re going to discuss what it brings to the table.
So, in the middle of the rush of February this one fell in my lap, so that’s why it took a bit longer than usual. Besides having Dying Light 2, Horizon Forbidden West, and Elden Ring on our plates over here at Gaming Trend, Sledgehammer and Treyarch packed this season with a glut of content. There are new multiplayer maps and new guns as per usual, but those have been joined by a new Zombie map and the most exciting drop of all: Ranked Play, along with a bunch of quality of life fixes. This came out 3-4 days after the season launched, so extra time was certainly needed. You know, that and wanting to play a bunch of ranked. Warzone also received a few updates, but most revolved around QoL, with a few extras mixed in. There are several things hitting, like Iron Trials, but those won’t be available until the mid-season update. For now, let’s just say that from all the talk around social media, Warzone is in the best state it has been since the Caldera drop, and the redeploy balloons have been an excellent addition.
As for Vanguard, we’ve got a lot to go over. Starting with the maps, we saw two new ones in Casablanca and Gondola. In Casablanca you have the classic three lane build in the African desert, with a medium size that should make it one of the better maps of the game. What doesn’t go right in this one is the volume of random windows and positions littering the map due to the city block of buildings. It feels like if you get shot, you have no clue where you’re being hit from. There are so many headys in this map that it can be an absolute nightmare, and there are so many random corners you’re just as likely to get caught on the flank if you try and aggressively push a team out of them. That’s not to say it’s an awful map, I like the design and the brightness of it, but from a competitive standpoint I might not expect it in any Ranked Play, especially not in Hardpoint.
For Gondola, this one isn’t ever going to make it into any mode in Ranked, but it’s a ton of fun to play. Set on a snowy mountainside, the deep slope on one side, matched with the fight inside a power plant to the left leaves few options for how to play it. You’re either going to bunker up in power positions around the slope or try your hardest to flank with SMGs through the power plant. The one thing that does change this one is a moving gondola on a line that goes through the middle of the map. It’s not an impenetrable power position; in fact, you’re more likely to die up there than kill anyone, but if you play it right you might just sneak in and be able to get a few kills on some unsuspecting opponents. That definitely happened to me during a few rounds of Search and Destroy, which made me much more cautious when one of those gondolas came by.
On to the weapons, the KG-M40 is a really well balanced assault rifle, and even if it’s not better than the Automaton or STG-44, you can see it fitting well as a mid-range AR. It’s fast enough to maneuver with if you have the right attachments on (see below for my setup), and it’s got a good enough range to use it in a power position. It also packs a punch, hitting with precision, and if you’re rocking my loadout you’ll see almost no recoil. Honestly, it doesn’t have much recoil to begin with, and that accuracy can land you plenty of multi-kills. I’ve seen a couple of good setups for it in Warzone, but I don’t think it’s replaced the tried and tested ones yet.
As for the Whitley LMG, it certainly has a nice place in the meta. Even without any attachments, it kills relatively quickly, has a large magazine, and the iron sights are actually pretty good. It doesn’t move much faster than any other light machine gun, but you expect a more plodding pace with LMGs anyway. I don’t think it will replace the Bren as the gun to use in Warzone, but I also think it could have more value than say the Type 11 or DP27- at least as ground loot. It’s a good all around light machine gun, and if you utilize those a lot it should be in your arsenal.
Besides these main additions, there are a few new perks, another lethal, and a new killstreak. The perks you’ll be able to use are Armory, which allows you to use your equipment faster, and will keep them from being hackable or noticed by the Engineer perk. This is definitely useful, but I’m not sure it makes more sense to use in place of Fortified (reduced damage from fire or explosives), or Ninja (moving silently). Mechanic charges your field equipment faster, and while I’m sure plenty of people would love to get their armor plates or jammer faster, it is another that probably isn’t worth giving up Double Time or Lightweight’s movement speeds, or Overkill’s double primary weapon.
The Sticky Bomb is an interesting idea, but largely I don’t know that I’d replace my gammon in regular play with it. It was in Call Of Duty: WW2, and it functions the same as a Semtex (besides the beeping), but it doesn’t seem like it packs the same oomph that the Semtex did. Even though it may be a bit more effective than some of the other lethals (looking at you incendiary), it isn’t as practical as the frag grenade or gammon bomb. The killstreak, on the other hand, is ridiculous, a ball turret gunner that wrecks the battlefield. The addition of destructible cover gives so many new openings to hit people, and this allows this killstreak to be overpowered. It at least has a cost reasonable to its effectiveness, with a 12 killstreak needed to achieve it, as well as being decently vulnerable to being taken down if your team focuses on it when it’s flying overhead. In Hardcore though, it’s a menace.
So, let’s talk about Ranked Play. We’ve been begging for this for quite some time, and even more so we’ve been begging for something not as barebones as last year’s League Play in Cold War. It’s somewhat inexplicable that we’ve come to this juncture at all, especially given Activision has Blizzard in the fold, and while Overwatch’s core gameplay might be stale at this point (I mean, you try being fresh with no new content for two years), it has a terrific system for competitive play Call Of Duty could copy paste. Not to mention the Call Of Duty League, specifically the best pro players, to rely on to build the best competitive mode possible. It’s been a long time coming, and there’s a long way to go, but we may have finally seen the start of the new normal of Ranked Play.
I really like that Treyarch launched this in beta form. This gives them the opportunity to tweak things constantly, evaluate feedback, and talk to that feedback quickly, and people understand this isn’t the finished product. After all, Fortnite was in beta for what seems like forever, and it still dominates the free to play charts. You can certainly tell it’s a beta, with certain items being restricted but not showing as restricted, or issues with Skill Ranking distribution, but I’ve had a stellar time playing this new version.
The restrictions are being handled much differently than we’ve seen in the past. For example, there is an official ruleset Call Of Duty releases for the League, and from there the pros play and decide between themselves not only what works for maps, but if they decide to make a gentleman’s agreement and not use certain attachments or weapons. In the past a lot of those things still existed in Ranked formats, but from the get go we’ve seen many of the GA’s followed in the Ranked Play beta. This is already miles ahead of what we’ve seen previously, and it’s certainly making my experience better because I feel like I’m on a much more even playing field. I prefer sticking to what the pros are using, and in that I’m not abusing things available to me, where others could in Cold War. Seeing the dev team act on these GA’s faster is making for a better mode, and I’m ecstatic about it.
Ranked Play pits you in four versus four in a very different format, where playing the objectives matter, and getting all the kills doesn’t always turn the tide in your favor. For instance, I saw someone get 63 kills in a Bocage Hardpoint against my team, but because we played the objective right we won nearly 50 points ahead. Playing the likes of Hardpoint, Search and Destroy, and Control foster teamwork, and it’s enjoyable because your loadouts are being forced into playing the most effective tactics available (meta). I’m not losing a game because Timmy decided to use the overpowered shotgun, if I’m losing it’s because the other guy outgunned me with a nearly identical setup. The easiest descriptor here is that it doesn’t feel cheap, it feels like I’m having to engage and up my gunskill rather than just chuck a gammon bomb in a random direction.
Where this mode is really starting to make itself different is implementing SR (Skill Ranking). This number you get after playing five placement matches allows you to grow in your lane, gaining or losing ground depending on the other guy. Treyarch is working on a lot of balancing here, both with who you play with (currently you aren’t able to play with some people once you pass specific thresholds of rank), who you play against, and how much you earn depending on your skill level in the matches. You’ll always gain the most with wins, which is how it should be, and no matter how good you did on the map you’ll lose SR if you don’t clutch up. As much as it sucks, 100 kills doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win. It’s the same in pro sports, just because a QB has a ridiculously good game doesn’t always mean he wins. If you aren’t influencing your team to a win, you won’t get SR, and I like it.
While I haven’t reached them yet, I also like that there is a separate rank for competing and growing in your Skill Division, along with rewards for growing there as well. It’s nice to see plenty of systems in place to not only allow players to grind away to get a better Skill Rank, but to feel like they accomplish something even if they aren’t as good as everyone else. If we only had Skill Rankings my time would feel less valuable than yours, and seeing another ranking rewarding me for at least putting in the effort is definitely satisfying.
Moving on to Zombies, we’ve finally moved past the Red Star inspired Der Anfang in a trip to the Egyptian desert. Terra Maledicta is sticking with the objective based opening of the map, and while that might not appeal to the hardcore OG Zombies community, I have to say it’s a lot of fun for a casual like myself. Running around in circles shooting zombies until I had enough money to open new areas is cool, but the objective based stuff breaks it up for me and keeps my interest better with the variations.
I apparently missed the memo, especially given Zombies isn’t my main thing, but as of last season we had a Purge objective added via Der Anfang, and it’s a major part of the new map. In this, you run to rune circles in an area to capture them. You’ll sit on it for a few seconds, and then it’s off to the next one, with a total of around 9-10 per encounter and a timer to beat. I didn’t get what I was supposed to do at first, and I actually lost my first Purge mission because of it, but it’s super easy to complete once you get it down. What’s funny is that you can grab 2-3 of them by the time the first zombies spawn up, so if you’re on your toes this mode will be a cinch.
The Sacrifice objective is the newest entry to Zombies, and it’s an interesting take on defending a point. There are three points, A, B, and C, and they are represented as weird gooey mounds of skulls that the zombies are drawn too. Your goal is simple, the red glowing zombies are the ones being pulled in, kill them, and move to the next point to defend it once they stop spawning. I had a tough time keeping up with the points switching sometimes. The timer isn’t always in your peripheral, and since non-glowing zombies are around too, it sometimes gives you the idea you’re not done. It is still a really good mode, and it doesn’t feel like a repeated objective, which is something the team at Treyarch has done a really good job with.
As for the map itself, it’s a fun jaunt. It reminds me of the Oasis map from multiplayer if it were a bit more ruinous and an abandoned archeological dig site. There isn’t any greenery, all that stuff is dead, which makes sense given all the death around you. One thing it does lack is the spookiness of Der Anfang, which was set up as a very bloody and gory map. I don’t think that hurts it though, because I wouldn’t want a copy and paste of the same thing. The objective maps also feel a lot more fresh, mostly in that they aren’t just sections of existing multiplayer maps. This was a big deal for me, because Treyarch seemed really rushed with Der Anfang, so it’s nice to see what this version of Zombies can look like if they have more proper time to put something together.
One thing I love is the little quest available to get the Decimator shield Wonder weapon. Maybe it’s just my inexperience with Zombies, but this mission, while not telegraphed, made this mode feel like something I haven’t experienced in Zombies before. Doing objectives and hearing the dialogue coupled with them was a great experience, and I’m glad this is the route Treyarch is either continuing on or going towards. Zombies has largely been the same formula, and I’d love to see it be able to flourish and grow past being a third game mode in the Call Of Duty series. Maybe we’ll get a standalone Zombies in the future? Who knows, but this is in my mind a step towards a reality that could include it.
So, after saying all these bunches of different things… I think Call Of Duty: Vanguard and Warzone are both on the upswing. Will they ever transcend Modern Warfare or Cold War and their integrations? Probably not. But will the lows we experienced return? I highly doubt it. We’re seeing so much more transparency and communication on the timeline, and that leads me to believe we won’t see the game return to the dark ages, even if it goes down as one of the lesser Call Of Duty’s the franchise has seen.