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Sledgehammer Games launched the first public beta tests of the multiplayer for this fall’s Call of Duty: Vanguard game over the weekend. I played it on the PlayStation 5 along with others in the first large-scale beta test from Friday through Sunday. You can see videos of some of my matches below.
The multiplayer mode is always key to keeping the fans in the game for a long time, and Vanguard’s version will be different from the more modern fighting and weapons that we saw in the past couple of years with Modern Warfare and Cold War. The game will have a single-player campaign, and we got a taste of that earlier: a World War II story covering the rise of special forces. And the multiplayer combat will feature multinational special forces characters from the story fighting across maps set around the world.
Vanguard is scheduled for release on PC via Battle.net and PlayStation and Xbox consoles starting November 5. I’m starting to like it the more I get used to the new modes, maps, and guns.
As I noted in my press preview, I still haven’t seen enough yet to come to some bigger conclusions about this game in comparison to rivals such as Battlefield 2042 and other big games coming this fall. Call of Duty has sold more than 400 million copies to date, and it’s always the biggest game of the year, but we’ll see how this one goes in a unique competitive year where Electronic Arts is launching its new Battlefield game and Activision Blizzard itself is under investigation for sexual discrimination.
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But this time, I did get to the point where I could really enjoy the maps in the beta and feel like I could level up and do my part in matches.
On launch day, the game will have 20 multiplayer maps including 16 core maps. The battle types include tactical with 6v6 human players, assault with 20 to 48 players, and Blitz with lots of (unspecified) players. One of the features is “tactical destruction,” where you can destroy wooden barriers or shoot through them, much like you have been able to do in the rival Battlefield series.
In addition to classic game modes such as Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed, Domination, Search & Destroy, Vanguard will introduce Patrol, an new objective-based mode featuring a scoring zone in constant motion. I played that mode in my play session.
Also new to Vanguard is Champion Hill, a mode that features a series of tournament-style head-to-head matches. Gunsmith, which lets you customize your guns and loadout, will now feature unrestricted attachments, allowing up to 10 on certain weapons. This can lead to thousands of additional possibilities for every combat scenario and playstyle.
As you can see from these videos, I had some reasonably good rounds. I managed to level up to 19, just shy of the top level of 20, with the assault rifle and the Commando kit. I didn’t get around to playing the 10 other kits over the weekend. Once I leveled up, I had an easier time hitting targets with more stable weapon upgrades.
Here’s a sample of a battle on Gavutu, which features a very fun mode with a moving Hardpoint. A Hardpoint is a small section of a map that you must take and hold while the enemy is trying to take it for themselves. In this case, the Hardpoint moves around the map, pulling defenders out of cover into the open as they try to stop others from taking it. It took me a while to figure out how to fight in this mode, as you have to sprint from your spawn point to a place on the map where you can have an edge on enemies as they converge on the Hardpoint.
I also fought a lot of battles on the Red Star map, which features a snowy and ruined section of Stalingrad in Russia. You can snipe from a couple of perches in the upper stories of destroyed buildings, and some well-trod pathways through the buildings allow you to set up ambushes or grab cover.
I took advantage of the new gun mounting at the sniping points. When you go up to an edge barrier, like a doorway or a table, you can mount your gun and start firing with a stable foundation that makes your shots more accurate. But you can swivel back and forth on that mount.
And I played a lot of rounds in the Hotel Royal, which is a nonstop battle of shattering glass and splintering wood in the middle of a luxury hotel. You can run through the middle can stake out a spot at the bar, shoot through glass tiles to surprise enemies as you take advantage of environmental destruction, run over the roof to the other side and ambush enemies from behind, or stay on the outside sniping paths.
The bar is a great place to seamlessly shift to blind fire, where you duck below the cover and keep firing at targets, spraying bullets in a blind fashion over the edge. I didn’t really remember to do that.
More betas to come
The multiplayer beta comes after the company unveiled a new multiplayer mode dubbed Champion Hill. In that mode, you played in 2v2 or 3v3 matches against other players in a series of mini-tournaments where eight teams could compete against each other until just one team was left standing. We will see upcoming beta tests for the Xbox consoles and the PC as well as more PS5 tests.
Xbox and PC players can play on September 18 to September 20, as PS5 players will join them.
For some reason, the Eagle’s Nest map wasn’t in the rotation. When I played that map earlier, I had trouble with the MG42 light machine gun, which produced so much smoke it obscured my visibility. But this time, I played with a STG44 assault rifle that didn’t throw off nearly as much smoke or debris.
I did experience some glitches in leveling up weapons, but hopefully they will fix that by the next beta test.
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