I think we can all agree the first Modern Warfare had the best single-player campaign? It was a bit on the shorter side at a 6 – 8 hour playthrough time. Black Ops III had the longest single-player campaign which lasted between 8 – 10 hours. 2021 brings us back to World Ward II in Call of Duty: Vanguard developed by Sledgehammer Games, Treyarch, Raven, High Moon, Beenox, and Demonware priced at $59.99. What will the latest and greatest technology get us with a budget like Activision’s?
In the entirety of Call of Duty’s history Activision has struggled on the subject of what to do with the single-player campaign. In recent years they have dialed it back putting more emphasis on its multiplayer. One thing that has been consistent since 2003 is a yearly release schedule. Now more than ever this makes sense because it brings a new season to the Call of Duty League every year. So, the struggle is, I am a gamer I totally enjoy story-driven single-player games but if I am going to spend $60 on them, they need to last 20 hours plus. Activision can’t decide whether they want to cater to this audience or not. At 6 – 8 hours all they are really doing is adding some fluff for the multiplayer crowd. I get it, but I think there is some missed opportunity here.
Before we get into the story itself, I want to touch on the production quality of the campaign. I have played most of the recent triple-A single-player campaign games and the 3D modeling in Vanguard is second to none. So incredibly life-like. I did notice some inconsistencies with the cinematics from playing on an ultrawide. When the cinematic cut scenes were built into gameplay transitions, they would extend the entire monitor looking beautiful and consistent. Cinematics that were cut in chapter transitions would display in inconsistent sizes which was mad annoying. Even with this inconsistency I still believe the quality of production was top tier. Bear McCreary the composer did a phenomenal job with the music. It’s a vibe that takes you through, tragedy, despair, heroism, and triumph. A quality sound kit to compliment the music, every part of the production was “LIT”.
By now we expect Activision to create quality gameplay experiences at launch which in this case they executed at a high level. I do have two lingering questions though. Why on earth would you lock input devices in a single-player campaign? There comes a time where you will need to fly a plane, can I please just pick up my controller and use it? Why are you forcing me to fly with a mouse?!?! A serious development error, I don’t care what the excuse is. It ruined that entire part of the story. I also am trying to understand why dogs one-shot you. Literally, if a dog touches you death immediately follows. Not a fan of this mechanic. Have them grab your arm or take you down and make you shake them loose. Other than these two main issues we noticed small graphical errors like dogs teleporting, bodies disappearing, an NPC prone through barbed wire, and ammo dropping in unreachable places which occurred very rarely. Keep in mind this is set in World War II, nothing fancy to see gameplay-wise, just some good ole’ fash’ gun shooting, and grenade chucking. Aside from the input locking, it was a very smooth playthrough experience.
I felt the story was delivered as it should have been. It’s a loose portrayal of war heroes in World War II times. If you are expecting a game of thrones style plot twist you are looking in the wrong place. It’s a deep story that goes back into the darkest corners of the operators’ minds. Seriously if you don’t find Polina Petrova’s story engaging, you have no soul. “I shoot Nazis, they die” – Polina Petrova. She is by far the most intriguing character from both story and gameplay perspectives. Her story was an absolute banger! Arthur Kingsley’s voice actor really nailed it; he has a future in this for sure. All the rest of the cast stories were just a notch down but did keep me engaged until the very end. We lose sight of what things are sometimes when set our expectations to a certain place. Call of Duty: Vanguard’s Single Player Campaign is a great story of valor and triumph in times where no one knew if they would wake up the next day. It’s one of those stories where you can almost predict what is going to happen but you can’t set it down because it’s so good.