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Call of Duty: Vanguard, our test

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How to return to a setting and a historical context abused in video games such as that of Second World War without being trivial for this? The simplest, and theoretically painless, solution is to work with imagination, possibly remaining with one foot in the likely. And this is precisely the formula chosen by Sledgehammer Games and Activision with the new chapter of the shooter saga Call of Duty, that is called Vanguard and is available on old and new generation computers and consoles.

From a chronological point of view, it is set in the last moments of the conflict, the crucial ones for its conclusion. Those marked by the desperation of Adolf Hitler who, aware of having failed in the insane plan of conquest, decides to prevent his opponents from humiliating him, shooting himself a bullet in the head. The plot revolves around the Phoenix Project, an elusive plan B to be activated in case something had gone wrong in the Führer’s plans, a narrative tool which, however, in the general economy, in the end, is not so fundamental or worthy of further study.

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Call of Duty: Vanguard, the campaign
And that’s not the only problem with the single-player campaign Call of Duty: Vanguard. His strength, on paper, should have been in the personal stories of the protagonists, the members of Task Force One: a group of super-trained soldiers, from various regiments and nations of the Grand Alliance, made up of real soldiers, but according to of the development studio itself, “never celebrated enough”. Unfortunately, however, between a characterization filtered by the American lens (the study is Californian) that flattens and distorts the personalities, and one little depth in reconstruction of their stories (reworked through fleeting flashbacks during their imprisonment), he runs into the usual problem of the saga, which seems to fail to offer a truly convincing and captivating story for a few years now. There are some interesting ideas in the various stories, placed on 4 different war fronts, but overall little remains for the player while the credits roll.

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And the involvement of a Hollywood cast did little, which lent voices and in some cases features to key characters, both the good and the bad: if there is no good story to support everything, not even the talented is enough. Dominic Monaghan (noto per Lost e The Lord of the Rings, interviewed by Italian.Tech shortly before the game’s release), who plays the paranoid right hand of the villain on duty, to save the fate of the single player. All the more so when in the Italian version of the game it is impossible to set the audio to enjoy the original voices, contenting oneself with a more modest dubbing.

Call of Duty: Vanguard, il multiplayer
To avoid defeat thinks the flagship of each Call of Duty self-respecting, the multiplayer sector, in which to challenge online players from all corners of the globe. It remains the most played and appreciated component among those offered by Vanguard (and from the series in general), thanks to a well-tried and unbreakable play formula, perfected over the years and able to achieve success even when trying to change the cards on the table (the huge success of Warzone is a great example). Not surprisingly, Sledgehammer asked his colleagues at Infinity Ward, teammates specialized in online gaming, for a hand.

Filters with which find the match that best suits your needs (being able to choose the pace of the game, preferring a slower and more reasoned experience or a more frenetic and chaotic one), modes between old and new that encourage team play, everything is in its place as it should (except, perhaps, a time to kill, which is the rate at which you kill, or get killed, a little slower than normal). It ranges from the immortal Deathmatch to the Dominion, in which points are accumulated by garrisoning certain areas; from the Confirmed Kill, in which it is necessary to recover the opponents’ platelets before receiving a point (if you spend time hiding, it is not valid) to modes in which the defense of the position becomes more dynamic and whirlwind, up to All against All, in which communication and support between fellow soldiers vanishes in a cloud of gunpowder. New modes and maps are also periodically proposed, which refresh the experience even for the most assiduous players. And for the undecided there are also some Playlists, sequences of modes and maps created by the developers themselves in which to enter and be overwhelmed by chance.

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In addition to the sheer fun of taking to the battlefield, it’s the sense of progression that keeps you glued: each new level, general (of your soldier) or of the individual weapons to be mastered with the sound of a kill, gives access to new elements, aesthetic and otherwise, for your equipment, such as viewfinders, camouflage, extra chargers and so on. A progression however shared with the other online mode included, once again totally devoted to the fantastic element. It is perfectly consistent with the much rumored esoteric fascination of the Nazis.

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Call of Duty: Vanguard, the Zombie mode
Now inevitable in practically every Call of Duty, the Zombie mode has gained an ever-growing number of admirers, to the point of deserving a plot of its own, complete with ad hoc cinematics and maps. In The beginning, the player finds himself in a Stalingrad station teeming with portals to demonic worlds and hordes of undead to be eliminated, summoned by the evil Oberführer Wolfram Von List after a proverbial deal with the devil (or rather, with the spirit of Kortifex the Immortal).

The strong point of this edition, the mechanics borrowed from the roguelites: each portal sends the team of 4 players in flesh and blood into small areas where a different challenge is proposed (from collecting stones to surviving a horde), which changes from time to time, and returning to the main square, the level of the opponents increases. With kills and collecting various items, you get currency to invest in buying and upgrading weapons and armor, or in improving speed, health or stamina, by drinking from special sources. At the Altar of Covenants, investing sacrificial hearts, you get special random boosts, also different from game to game. In addition, each class of soldier enjoys supernatural power, such as a powerful mine of energy or the ability to become invisible for a few seconds.

When you die, or manage to escape from the nightmare, you start from scratch. There isn’t too much variety at the moment, but played with 3 other friends this mode can still be fun; as if that were not enough, it guarantees experience points to be invested even in standard multiplayer. Those who have a problem facing other players who are tougher to beat can therefore cut their teeth with the zombies.

In conclusion, to save Call of Duty is once again the most social component: solo, the experience alone cannot justify the cost of the ticket, but the modalities most devoted to competition, if not cooperation, make it essential for lovers of the saga.

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