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Call of Duty Vanguard Preview: Special Forces in SP & MP

Lots for everyone.

Call of Duty Vanguard was today announced by Sledgehammer Games, Treyarch, Raven and Activision Blizzard. This year’s iteration of the popular shooter is set in World War II and will head to PC and consoles from 5 November.

Sledgehammer Games is developing Vanguard’s single-player and most multiplayer modes, while sister studio Treyarch is lending a hand with a new Zombies campaign. Finally, Raven will round out development with a new Vanguard-themed map for Call of Duty Warzone.

With a return to World War II comes a new take on the engagement: Vanguard will revolve around the Special Forces Operators who defined battles. A single-player campaign bolstered with new current-gen technology will ship at launch alongside 20 multiplayer maps (with 16 offering 6v6 core experiences) and new tactical gameplay with features like reactive environments and custom ballistics. New modes will also be on offer, including one that Sledgehammer has named Champion Hill.

Special Forces and the single-player campaign

“World War II… was the birth of we call Special Forces,” said Sledgehammer’s Josh Bridge. “Which is this idea of soldiers taking on more special missions, having to do things a little bit more outside the box — more ad hoc — and on the fly. That’s what campaign really focus on: the story and the origins and trying to focus on these characters in this birth of Special Forces. When you go off into online, it’s ‘be that Special Forces bad-ass’. Choose who you want to be and go have fun with friends online.”

Bridge also stressed that even though Vanguard‘s soldiers are called Special Forces, they’re quite different to modern troopers.

“The tone and feel of it is unique. This is World War II; this isn’t a modern day soldier that is super-trained and… more surgical, more scalpel-based,” Bridge continued. “This is you, soldier, immersed in this world, trying to figure out how to survive. It’s not like you’re a fully trained expert; it’s a lot more blunt and brute force, a lot more visceral.”

“It wasn’t until the very end of World War II that the Allied leadership — and specifically the SOE — had this idea of identifying individuals; special operators, special soldiers who had talents or skills that could be brought together in small units to to go in and do special missions,” added Creative Director David Swenson. “It gave us the idea to focus the campaign and focus our story on the birth of Special Forces.”

Rather than focusing on D-Day, Vanguard will instead highlight “tide-turning battles” around the globe that helped to determine the outcome of World War II. Swenson used the eastern front, the Pacific, the Solomon Islands and North Africa as examples.

“These battles were so important to the outcome of the war and the whole outcome of the war teetered on whether these battles were successful or not,” Swenson said. “We looked at those battles as being really important, something that we felt was exciting for us to to be a backdrop for our game.

“Of course, one of the one of the coolest parts about this is that made it [feel] like such a global experience. We were able to experience the diversity of battles across the entire globe. There’s also a diversity of people involved; it was really this human story. These individual people who were fighting World War II.

“One thing that really stood out was that they were often and almost always ordinary people who just did extraordinary things. It was like the war pulled extraordinary out of them.”

Players will be part of a Special Forces team comprised of operators from multiple nations that are asked to deal with a fictional Axis leader called Heinrich Freisinger and his nefarious Project Phoenix. The Allied team is lead by Sergeant Arthur Kingsley and is filled out by specialists named is Polina Petrova (below, a soldier inspired by Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko), pilot Wade Jackson, and Australian soldier Lucas Riggs.

Multiplayer action

The notion of the Special Forces carries over into multiplayer, MP Creative Director Greg Reisdorf asserted.

“Campaign is all about the birth of Special Forces and multiplayer is about playing those Special Forces and being those Special Forces bad-assess,” he said.

Players will seemingly have a lot of different opportunities to feel empowered, with a variety of maps and modes including Champion Hill, one Reisdorf described as “a mix of battle royale plus Gunfight with… weapon progression.”

A press release adds that Champion Hill is a “fast and frenetic… mode [that] features a series of tournament style head-to-head matches, where players can play solo (1v1) or squad up in duos (2v2) and trios (3v3) to battle it out in an arena consisting of four maps to be the last squad standing.”

“We have 20 maps right off the bat,” Reisdorf continued. “Sixteen of these are core 6v6 maps. They’re across all of the the fronts in the war — the western front, the eastern front, North Africa as well as the Pacific. Four of those 20 are 2v2 maps as well.”

Sledgehammer will offer up more information on Champion Hill and other experiences in the lead up to launch.

Zombies and Warzone

Studio Head Aaron Halon confirmed that Treyarch would be developing the Zombies portion of Vanguard.

“It’s the Call of Duty franchise’s first crossover, which tells the prologue of the Black Ops Cold War zombie story,” Halon said.

“While our historians were less helpful with this part of Vanguard,” he joked, “Treyarch has us covered, providing continuity with Zombies lore while innovating on core gameplay.”

Halon also asserted that Raven is hard at work on a new Vanguard-themed Warzone experience, and promised that more information on both portions will be shared by Sledgehammer, Treyarch and Raven ahead of their launches.

Improvements to the Call of Duty engine

“Our team at Sledgehammer Games has been working closely with Infinity Ward, Treyarch, and our other studios and teams to advance the Call of Duty engine that was first introduced with Modern Warfare,” Senior Principal Engineer Danny Chan told Stevivor.

“We’ve integrated and improved technology while building exciting and powerful new systems specifically for Vanguard. Our vision is first and foremost to support and enhance the gameplay experience, and the strength of our technology derives from our player-centric focus. All the tech is in pursuit of that mantra.”

New techniques will promise more realistic battles, be them on the ocean, in the air, upon beaches or in the jungles of the Pacific, Chan added. Players will also notice new fog, ash, ember, snow and other weather effects.

Chan finally confirmed that Vanguard would run at 60 frames-per-second on consoles, though didn’t elaborate what was compromised (or missing) between last- and current-gen systems to do this.

Call of Duty Vanguard heads to Windows PC, Xbox and PlayStation from 5 November 2021.

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Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for close to fifteen years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.