The Alpha for Call of Duty: Vanguard has just taken place over the weekend, featuring the new mode Champion Hill. The mode is a lot of fun to play and builds upon what came before. However, there are quite a few things that detract from the experience. Many of them are just because it is an Alpha after all, but it’s worth pointing them out so that the developers are aware.
So this is a rundown of the good things and the annoying things about the mode and the game in general. This should help the game be in a better state for the Beta in a couple of weeks and for launch. For more details about what to expect for the full game, check out everything from the reveal from last week.
Call of Duty: Vanguard releases on November 5th for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
Overall, the game feels very solid to play. The movement speed is just about right, with each weapon having an appropriate weight to them while still allowing aggressive plays if you want. If there was anything that could use a little attention is the movement between crouch and prone. It can be a tad cumbersome and takes a little too long to get down into cover when in a gunfight.
Even at the Alpha stage of the Champion Hill mode, Vanguard has a good variety of weapons, equipment and killstreaks. This provides a good amount of replayability and undoubtedly there will be more at launch, with even more added later. It’s worth being aware that a balance between the Allies and Axis weapon options must be maintained. This goes without saying for modern competitive first-person shooters, but there can’t be a better selection of weapons for one side considering you have no choice which side you’re put on (unless this changes).
Champion Hill, Specifically
Champion Hill builds off of previous COD modes to create something better. Of course, it is an evolution of Gunfight which was introduced in 2019’s Modern Warfare. Rather than a simplistic 2v2 over and over, Champion Hill adds more depth and variety. It has a much faster pace, thanks to the respawning and the short time between rounds. You still have close-quarters competitive gunplay but now there is more room for strategy. In the same way that Warzone is a great battle royale in the style of Call of Duty, Champion Hill elevates Gunfight to be more in-line with makes make COD what it is.
The money mechanic is really what adds to the complexity. The ways that you must manage your funds forces you to plan ahead and devise a tactic to work towards. This can be very rewarding as you clutch that last kill to make it to the buy round and can go on a spending spree and go into the next fight fully equipped. This new mode has the potential to be very competitive with the even playing field, and it even has the potential to feature in eSports competitions.
More maps, however, are a must. Even after playing for just a few hours this weekend, the four small arenas became too repetitive. There will be four Champion Hill maps at launch, but it’s not completely clear if this is the four that we’re getting, or if there will be three more at launch, consisting of four arenas each. There’s also plenty of room for additional sub-modes to spice things up, perhaps for a limited time. For example, different team sizes, weapon pools, and others that change the structure of the tournaments.
On the other hand, the game isn’t without some things that can be very frustrating. Most of which are just small nit-picks that stem from the unfinished nature of the Alpha.
First up, a big feature for this year’s game is destructible environments in the form of wooden boards and panels that can be destroyed to shoot through; this is on full display in the Alpha. However, being new to the game it can be difficult to distinguish what can or cannot be shot through, sometimes a seemingly solid surface is as weak as tissue paper. While this may be just a learning curve, the visual cues could be a little more obvious in certain cases. Related to this aspect is that on one map the two teams will start the round in each other’s line of sight after a wall is destroyed. This seems a little silly when you get killed without even moving.
A normal scoreboard will be useful. Being able to see how many kills and deaths each player has and how much damage they’ve done (like with Gunfight currently) will allow you to see how well you’re doing and who isn’t pulling their weight. Currently, all you can see is how many teams remain and how many lives they’ve got left.
Visibility in general is currently pretty poor. At a certain distance, everything goes a little blurry, which seems intentional, but I can’t imagine it’s needed for performance (at least not on PS5 where I was playing). Also, the colour scheme means that enemies blend in with all the dull browns and greys. Also on the topic of awareness, enemy footstep audio could be a little higher, but this is always a topic of debate for Call of Duty.
The feedback you get when you’re shot can be distracting and annoying. Specifically, your screen goes very dark. This is annoying because it obviously makes it hard to see and defend yourself. Combined with this is a very loud thumping sound as the bullets hit you. This is just too loud and is like a horror jump-scare – my heart rate is already high enough in a competitive gunfight.
A small thing that annoyed me is that at the start of every round when you switch weapons a small animation plays to ready your weapon. This can get you killed in the heat of battle. I’m sure this is more of a bug, so a small quality of life update could fix this.
Another thing is that the announcer talks way too much. As each match takes place at the same time you get constant updates about what’s going on in your game and others. This makes it difficult to focus when someone’s constantly shouting in your ear.
Finally, the pre-game timer is too long. You have to sit doing nothing for like 10 seconds then the game explains how the mode works for another 10 seconds. After a few games, this gets boring, especially when playing for an hour or so. The tutorial is important for new players to understand but it would be nice to allow players to move so they can ignore the message and use the buy stations rather than having to sit doing nothing while waiting for the game to start.
I think it would be great if there was more of a fanfare for the final. Currently, you get one more buy round to prepare while fireworks go off. However, this isn’t really noticeable. A way to hype up the final showdown will add to the spectacle of it and get both teams in the zone. Essentially, I want to feel the same level of nervousness that you get in the final 1v1 of a battle royale, but for now, it just feels like one more round. A little epic music could go a long way to make the ending better.