Call Of Duty: Vanguard/Warzone Season One Impressions — Back to the Gulag

After all that grinding, it’s time to jump back into warfare with a new season of Call Of Duty. If you haven’t been present for recent ones, here’s how it works. The majority of the new content hits right at the beginning, with some saved to bring you back midseason. While there is definitely some good stuff for us, including a holiday event that looks rather fun and festive but riddled with Krampus issues, we’ve got plenty of things to talk about. Season One has brought a ton of new content, with two maps, two guns, a new mode among others. Of course, the biggest addition is Caldera, the new Warzone map that has wiped away the remnants of poor Verdansk, which survived a previous new title with a makeover. While I apologize that it’s taken a little extra time to talk about what we think about everything, I wanted some time to digest what’s going on in the world of Vanguard and Warzone. That and Caldera is a big update to cover. It’s important to bring you everything- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

As for the ugly, I might as well start with it. Activision is in the midst of a lot of scrutiny right now, and deservedly so. The abuse and harassment that has been reported is not anything that we think is okay, and we’ve said as much right here. It needs to stop, and that starts at the top. We’re still covering all things Call Of Duty, but that’s because there are wonderful developers who deserve to have their blood, sweat, and tears seen via the work they do.

Call Of Duty: Vanguard - Search & Destroy on Shipment [PC] - [Gaming Trend]

Now that that’s said, on to Vanguard. Let me be honest, there’s a lot of work still to be done. The game launched alright, and with what I played we awarded it a great score. But under the surface we’ve seen some cracks. Now, I say that in hopes they will be fixed, and I don’t want to begrudge any of the team at Sledgehammer the time needed to do it right. I’m not a developer, so I don’t know what’s as simple as turning on a switch or as difficult as tearing down a wall of code. There is a lot that needs repair; from bugs, to glitches, to balancing, to things that are straight up broken, but I hope in time it’ll be corrected.

So, one of the biggest things I loved in my time with Vanguard during review was the huge quantity of maps. Yes, some aren’t necessarily my favorites, but I don’t know of any (besides Shipment *shudder*) that I don’t want to play. I may not like some as much, but that’s about it. With this new season of Vanguard comes two new maps: Radar, and Paradise. Both have their pros and cons, but unfortunately I can’t say much about them. I’ll do my best to explain the layout, but they simply don’t pop in rotation, and the only time I played a match on one that wasn’t versus bots was a terrible game of Hardpoint on Radar versus a bunch of hackers. The playlist for each map didn’t hang around long, and while improved the map rotation needs to be tweaked so we’re playing newer maps a lot more often.

Paradise is the brand new one that kind of reminds me of Caldera, in the sense it’s a Pacific map. This bunker built right into a hill next to the ocean features a much more open layout, akin to Red Star or Berlin. It’s also about as big as they are as well, so you’re probably better off running with an assault rifle as submachine guns aren’t going to be as effective with the long sight lines. Seriously, if I had a qualm with this one it would be the lack of true flanking lanes, besides maybe the underground tunnel (which is oddly open), with so many headys present it’s an AR player’s dream. It does follow the classic three lane design, but it’s another I’ll need time with in order to figure out the flow.

Call Of Duty: Vanguard - Control on Paradise [PC] - [Gaming Trend]

With Radar, this one is based loosely on Modern Warfare 3’s Dome. The flow of the map is kept, with a nearly one-for-one layout after looking at some comparison videos. While Paradise is wide open, Radar certainly allows for SMG’s to get involved, with plenty of cover and flanks to go on. My only thing with this one is the odd nooks and crannies; if you don’t know where you’re going you may end up going in a circle. The good news is that the top catwalk that is infamously remembered from Dome doesn’t seem nearly as messy as it was previously. Again, I need more time with this one, but I think it’s smaller design will work well.

The modes you’ll be playing on these haven’t changed too much, but the long awaited arrival of Control is here. I think this one was brought into play largely because of the Call Of Duty League, with the players enjoying that mode, but I’m curious as to its place in a different style of Call Of Duty than the Treyarch games. The reason I say that is because of the squad spawning system where you tend to spawn with your team. This doesn’t work for Control because the attacking team generally has the disadvantage of having to trudge across the map to capture one of two points (both are required to be taken within 30 lives, or the other team eliminated of their 30, in order for the attacking team to win). With this spawn system, the attacking team could be awarded players right next to said point of capture, which isn’t at all fair to the defending team who has worked hard for that map position. I must say, I didn’t see a lot of that in the matches I played, but the ones grinding it have. Hopefully this can be cleaned up, because the last thing anyone wants to see is a broken game mode.

While Control probably needs a lot of tuning, the new weapons available at launch don’t in the slightest. The newest arrivals in the Vanguard armory are the Cooper Carbine assault rifle and the Gorenko Anti-Tank sniper rifle. Both of these pack a punch, and while I haven’t found a big reason to run a sniper since Modern Warfare 2019, I like the feel of the Gorenko. Let’s start there.

The Gorenko is the definition of a heavy sniper rifle. You move decently slow with it, the reload takes awhile, and aiming down sights is going to take a second unless you pimp it out with specific attachments. That being said, it’s not a bolt action, so firing it quickly is easy once you’re aiming in the direction of a hostile. Besides that, it also seems to have a bit of a hair trigger, with a near immediate explosion of force as soon as you pull the trigger. I play a lot of hardcore (which you know if you have been keeping up with these), and this sniper is an instant kill on the mode. I assume it’s mostly the same elsewhere, but in any case it’s a fantastic new gun and fits well on the maps available, even though I wouldn’t use it on Shipment.

As for the Cooper Carbine, it’s another win for the game. I’m having a hard time putting my finger on exactly what the Cooper is most similar to, but in function I’d like to compare it to the Groza from Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. It’s an extremely quick AR, with the ability to hit long range shots or be used to breach a hill. I love dual purpose weapons, and the versatility of the Cooper Carbine is exactly what my loadouts were missing. Not only does it slap in Vanguard, but it’s also one of the most killer setups you can use in the new update to Warzone as well.

Which brings us to the tropical island of Caldera. So, Warzone. This is a huge update the likes of which we’ve never seen for Warzone. Yes, Rebirth Island was a great addition (and it’s still there), sure, Verdansk ‘84 was a fun update to the one of the biggest BR’s in the world, but it was time for something new. Caldera is a fun take on the Warzone idea because it’s set in the Pacific, and drops a lot of color into the brown landscape we used to traverse. To be real with you, Verdansk wasn’t exactly a pretty map, I mean, Modern Warfare 2019 had a very drab look to it. But it was a lot of fun, even if I didn’t get into it as much. With Caldera being inserted into the equation, I’ve taken a bit more time to mess with Warzone, and being a late bloomer, I’m really enjoying it, even with the flaws.

Getting a win on Caldera in Vanguard Royale - Call Of Duty: Warzone [PC] - [Gaming Trend]

The main flaw is that even with a big new map, I’m not sure it feels a lot different than Verdansk. I played a lot of Fortnite back in the day, and new seasons were big events given the changes the maps endured. I don’t really know how the team at Epic pulls it off, but even amidst the familiar terrain there are a lot of new things to find, and it’s better for it. For all it brings to the table, Caldera doesn’t feel as fresh as I thought it might. Maybe it’s just playing smaller maps in multiplayer that changes things up every fifteen or so minutes, but Caldera feels more or less like a new map with the same sightlines. That’s not to say it’s a simple reskin of Verdansk, but I’m not sure it accomplishes the mission Raven was looking for. I feel like I’m just playing more Warzone when I’m on it, as opposed to the big event/reveal that Fortnite has created every time they drop something new. I don’t want to swing around like Spider-Man or have a Goku costume on when I’m in Caldera, it doesn’t fit, but maybe if we can keep finding what does, like what they did with Die Hard and Rambo. Those were perfect additions, and I still remember getting Nakatomi Plaza in Verdansk. They can figure these things out, I know they can.

Something I like apparently more than a lot of the streamers has been the Vanguard Royale mode. Running this strips all of the original Warzone and Black Ops Cold War weaponry and equipment from the game, forcing you to use only what exists from Vanguard, and I like it a lot. It probably started badly with bloom coming in from Vanguard (which has since been removed from Warzone, and probably will be stripped fully soon from Vanguard), but now with everything set you can build some great classes. I myself have searched around and found some great loadouts, with the Bren LMG and Cooper Carbine leading the pack (thanks @ModernWarzone). Playing this mode feels like it calms everything down for someone like me, a casual who just wants to mess around and learn the ins and outs of what Warzone is.

Another variation that’s been around awhile and is helping me to get better at the game is Resurgence, and I implore anyone working on Warzone to please leave that in. The ability to respawn on your partner or squad as soon as a timer runs down until you get into the final circle as well as the faster circle start and lower player count is fantastic, leading to less camping and faster matches. I played Vanguard Resurgence Quads for a few hours yesterday, and I just wanted to play more.

Where Caldera gets a big win is with the inclusion of Ricochet, it’s anti-cheat that now includes a kernel-level driver. Even though things were a bit rocky at first, especially with it launching in Asia-Pacific regions first without any announcement on when it was dropping worldwide, it’s finally here and seems to be working. I follow a lot of the bigger Call Of Duty accounts on Twitter, and they’re either constantly making fun of all the hackers that are having issues getting on Warzone, or the official account is dropping the bomb of 48,000 cheaters being banned right before Christmas. In the end, anti-cheat is a deterrent, not an end all be all, but at least this seems to be making things incredibly tough on hackers so we’re seeing less of them. Now to get that into Vanguard already.

Something that feels like a big gaping hole in this season is the absence of almost anything Zombies related. There are new things, an objective, covenants, challenges, and I know some stuff is coming midseason, but it really feels like Zombies enthusiasts are getting left behind. I spoke on it in our review, while it’s a fun new variant for the mode, Zombies is lacking in content, and it doesn’t look like we’re getting anything else in Season One. Season Two could have a major blowout for all we know, but that doesn’t matter in this moment- there isn’t much of a reason to play Vanguard for Zombies as it is right now.

We always finish these bad boys out talking about the battle pass itself, so let’s do that. It’s yet again a fun ride, with blueprints, calling cards, XP tokens, and enough COD points to buy the next one and pocket a few towards that next bundle in the store. But I’m at a loss as to why we needed some of the newer additions. Like, why do I need a frame on my killcam? What use is this new “player title” thing, where I can attach “RELENTLESS” to my profile? These come off as new monetization ideas rather than important player features, and not only that, it deprives us of a slot where a cool custom item could reside. There’s still some nice stuff, but these extras get a thumbs down from me.

Even though the battle pass was supposed to be the last thing, I want to interject one last thing on the holiday event, given we took so long to talk about our seasonal thoughts due to the holidays and sickness. I for one love festive in game stuff, and I like a lot of the ideas for Festive Fervor. However, whoever came up with the Krampus idea should have relegated him to Armageddon, or at least a specific playlist. His showing up in any game and absolutely wrecking people sucks, especially for the competitive side where Call Of Duty League teams were in PRIVATE matches and still had to deal with Krampus until someone finally shut it off. I don’t get how Sledgehammer is missing all of this stuff, and while I understand there’s a lot of crap going on upstairs, and they’re still trying to fix other issues with the game, you’ve still gotta have someone taking a look at the repercussions of certain additions. There’s missing oversight in more than just this, and I hope that gets corrected soon.

Overall, this season wins some gunfights, but it’s been sent back to the gulag pretty early on. I really hope it can eek it out so it can drop back in for a dub during midseason, because we’re in a spotty at best situation right now. I’m still playing, I’m still grinding, and I’m still having a lot of fun with Vanguard, and now Warzone. But I’m wondering if the rose colored glasses may lose their sheen sooner or later given the communities overall disdain for Vanguard, and I don’t want to see this one lose support. Perhaps midseason will really wow us, and I’m excited to use the incoming Welgun SMG, the new mode, and the mysterious new map. There’s a great foundation here for a good game, but bugs, issues, and Krampus are doing their best to bring the house crashing down.

Lead Video Game Editor | [email protected]

David Burdette is a gamer/writer/content creator from TN and Lead Editor for Gaming Trend. He loves Playstation, Star Wars, Marvel, and many other fandoms. He also plays way too much Call Of Duty. You can chat with him on Twitter @SplitEnd89.

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