Nearly half of all maps played last season in the Call of Duty League were on Hardpoint, so it’s kind of crazy to think the mode could be replaced for 2022 in Call of Duty: Vanguard.
Granted, the competitive settings for next season are not set, nor do we have a complete list of the maps and modes coming to Vanguard when it’s released on Nov. 5.
But the highlight from the game’s beta period that ended on Wednesday was the inclusion of two new modes -- Champion Hill and Patrol -- the latter immediately drawing comparisons to Hardpoint.
The key difference between Hardpoint and Patrol are, rather than capture and defend a series of rotating hills on a map, there is one hill perpetually moving along a defined path across the map.
If this also sounds similar to the payload modes in many other first-person shooters, prior CODs included, well ... it is! Except you’re not escorting persons or items to a defined goal, which is strange when you stop to really think about it, but not a terribly important detail, I suppose.
Essentially, you’re just doing laps around the map, capturing or defending a tiny (maybe too tiny?), ever-shifting plot of land.
Casual players are likely to get more mileage out of Patrol, as the objective is a bit more straightforward than Hardpoint if you or your teammates don’t already know the hill rotations. There is one hill and it’s always readily identifiable.
As play sessions wore on, though, some of the strategy and nuance became evident. One key-yet-subtle difference is the hill can usually be approached from all sides and, often, from above as well. Imagine the variety of ways COD pros might attack or defend a moving target as opposed to rotating to stations on a map, especially in a less frenetic, more tactical 4v4 environment where bullets aren’t flying haphazardly in every direction.
Again, there has been no announcement indicating Patrol will be played in the CDL for 2022, nor have Activision Blizzard or Vanguard developer Sledgehammer Games revealed whether Hardpoint will return at all.
Should the beta wind up signaling a pivot to Patrol, however, it seems the mode could be a perfectly suitable addition, with a few minor tweaks -- even if there’s nothing about it that’s particularly groundbreaking.
You can’t see me
Aside from the new game modes, probably the most hotly debated topic in Call of Duty: Vanguard thus far has been the issue of visibility.
For being in beta, Vanguard looks nice, albeit not markedly different or better than other recent CODs. Graphics-wise, you know what you’re getting from the franchise by now, which are incremental improvements from one year to the next.
Yet, two frequent criticisms are how it can be difficult to see enemy combatants seemingly from even relatively short distances apart, but also and especially when firing your weapon.
The first complaint is tied to the game’s overall aesthetic. Vanguard is based around World War II, and the drab soldiers’ uniforms of the era tend to blend in with dimly lit rooms, shadowy areas and other naturally occurring formations. This is something players will get used to and improves as you acquire better gun attachments.
Complaint No. 2 stems from what most players believe is a straight-up design flaw, and that is how blurry and distorted the screen gets while firing. Now, I’ve never shot a round from a nearly 100-year-old automatic weapon, so I can’t speak to how realistic it is for a person’s vision to become obscured when you pull the trigger -- but literally being unable to see an object in your gun’s sight doesn’t make for intuitive or fun gameplay!
At this point, it’s worth reminding readers that the game is still in beta, not to mention will undergo various patches after release, so this is not to suggest Vanguard’s visibility is broken forever.
As it stands now, though, that is by far the biggest problem for COD pros and casual fans alike, as it transforms a lot of gunfights from tests of skill and twitch into fuzzy, spray-and-pray messes.
Shoot through the windows, shoot through the walls
Only four of the 16 planned maps for the core multiplayer experience were available in the beta, but one of them in particular -- Eagle’s Nest -- really showcases the new destructible environments.
For better or worse.
We’re not just talking about shooting through doors and busting down boarded-up windows. A large portion of the walls inside the building that comprises the bulk of middle-map on Eagle’s Nest can be broken down or will wind up getting shredded by gunfire over the course of battle.
While this definitely adds a touch of realism and is certainly welcome to some extent, the execution feels a little off.
Players can run through barriers that wouldn’t be easily destroyed as if they’re tissue paper and even create openings in walls as if they’re construction workers on a demolition job. And as the walls inside Eagle’s Nest disintegrate from bullet fire, their protection disappears as well, rendering a large portion of the map practically impassable, lest you long for a bloodbath and care not for your life. Oh, and the visual effect doesn’t always look that great, either.
Some of the maps also contained so many pathways and so many combatants -- games ran as large as 24v24 -- it seemed impossible to find any meaningful cover, though that’s probably less of an issue for CDL pros playing 4v4.
It’s tough to judge a limited number of maps that may or may not even be part of competitive play, but reactive environments, while being something many players wanted, could use some work. There’s already plenty of speculation whether they’ll even be turned on for CDL action.
Shoot first, ask questions later
For casual COD players, there will be no shortage of customization in terms of modes, maps, weapons, attachments and even game sizes.
For pros, Call of Duty: Vanguard might be shaping up to be as much a cerebral test as it is one of quick twitch movement, aiming and shooting.
That’s due in part to the low TTK (time-to-kill) players experienced in the beta. Because it only takes a few well-placed bullets to drop your foe, there’s a higher premium than ever on being able to fire the first accurate shots then engaging with an enemy.
This is something that certainly could be and arguably should be nerfed when Vanguard releases as a finished product in November.
If the TTK is taken to be a design decision, however, it would seem to only increase the emphasis on tactics, teamwork and communications in the CDL.
Only time will tell. The Vanguard beta was exactly that, a beta, so exercise caution when drawing any sweeping conclusions about the game.
About the only thing that’s safe to say at this point is Vanguard looks and, for the most part, plays like a Call of Duty game through and through, and that means it will appeal to some players more than others.
Lead photo credit: Activision Blizzard / Sledgehammer Games