Call of Duty Vanguard: a half-hearted WWII for the flagship license …

After the Cold War and the twisted blows of the CIA last year, the Call of Duty saga backpedals a little further in time by returning to the theaters of operations of the Second World War, as in 2017. For a result. mixed …

Call of duty vanguard: a half-hearted wwii for the flagship license...
SledgeHammer Games / Activision

Orchestrated by the studios Treyarch and Raven Software (with all the same the reinforcement of the battalions from the studios Beenox, Demonware, High Moon Studios, Activision Shanghai and Sledgehammer Games), the annual and multi-billionaire martingale ofActivision Call of Duty came back last year to the saga of Black Ops.

A 2020 vintage that plunged the player back into the throes of the CIA during the Cold War, with its string of missions behind enemy lines, hunt for Soviet sleeper cells in the heart of the United States, assassinations or captures of witnesses , terrorist threat size XXXL with atomic weapon in the key, reversal of more or less double agents … The result was rather nice, as we wrote it here.

The Second World War, matrix of the license

After considering for a while giving a follow-up to his opus Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the studio Sledgehammer Games had decided to back-pedal and even make a 180 ° turn in 2017, choosing to finally return to what was the matrix of the saga: the Second World War, with Call of Duty WWII. A return to the sources all the more welcome since the last opus of the franchise to have exploited the framework of the Second world war dates back to 2008 with Call of Duty: World at War. In other words, an eternity, or almost.

In the United States, we revere and show great respect to those who fought in this war. And this is not an empty formula. They are also part of those we call The Greatest Generation; those who sacrificed themselves in a war considered to be just and to the noble ideal: to put an end to Nazi barbarism. Taking World War II as the backdrop for Call of Duty was also a good pretext to pay tribute to these men and women in the shadows, anonymous or not.

Four years later, the same studio is trying to walk again in this already well-dug furrow with Call of Duty Vanguard, released on November 5. Where the previous opus placed the player in the skin of a young soldier incorporated into a unit forming part of the very prestigious First Infantry Division, nicknamed the Big Red One, COD Vanguard opts in its 5-hour single-player campaign for a story following 5 elite soldiers recruited into a brand new special forces unit, called Task Force One.

Balanced in the very heart of a Reich living its last days, its mission is to infiltrate priority sites and eliminate important enemy targets, and collect enemy military intelligence, in particular with regard to a certain and obscure project. Phoenix.

Below, the game’s trailer, largely made up of Cut Scenes.

Hot and cold

The campaign revolves around missions lived in the form of flashbacks, supposed to return to the background of each member of the commando. A pretext to obviously make the player travel to the four corners of the globe to different theaters of operation. From the return to the headquarters of Stalingrad for the Russian sniper and the only female member of the commando, to the unbreakable North African campaign for the group’s demolition expert, including the Normandy campaign beginning the day before June 6, 1944 , without forgetting of course the war in the Pacific, Vanguard tick all the boxes.

If the title spares us yet another remake of the Allied Landing sequence of Operation Overlord, we imagine that it was complicated to ignore, in this ultra-marked checklist, the battle of El-Alamein or the siege de Stalingrad, who however has the good taste not to seek to make an ersatz film by Jean-Jacques Annaud and its key sequences.

The very beginning of the campaign, placing the commando on board a hijacked train en route to Germany, gave us a lot of puffs of anguish … If we observe here and there some nice light effects, some textures are really coarse, the AI ​​of the enemies is completely strawberry, and above all a tenacious feeling of deja vu / deja vu a thousand times …

Throughout the game, moreover, the level design clearly blows hot and cold. The Tonga mission for example, during the Normandy campaign and which evokes the background of the leader of the commando, Arthur Kingsley, still has its small farms and their fenced backyards giving the feeling of moving in a corridor. Admittedly, the license has never been known to offer rather open levels, but it’s still hard to see in 2021.

Call of duty vanguard: a half-hearted wwii for the flagship license...
Sledgehammer Games

Besides that, by comparison and even if the scripts abound, the mission putting the player on board a plane remaking the battle of Midway in 1942 is really nice. Just like the character Wade Jackson’s mission in the jungle, in the theater of operations in the Pacific. In fine, the Sledgehammer studio seems less inspired than its 2017 model, which retains our preference on this point.

Visually, after a very weak start, we have to be honest: it is still improving quite a bit, thanks to a game engine using photogrammetry. We are also not up to a visual slap compared to other productions from competing studios; we must keep it right. That said, the contrast with the Cut Scenes of the game are clearly not to the advantage of sequences In Game. Visually fantastic, we feel that these Cut Scenes have been the subject of great care on the part of the studio. What a pity therefore that they bring so little to storytelling …

Sound Design is always excellent and immersive; and it is also a constant with regard to past productions. A quality to which we can gladly add the soundtrack signed by Bear McCreary, who, in addition to many soundtracks of films and series, composed the fabulous soundtrack of the last video game opus God of war.

So where does the shoe pinch in the end in this campaign? Mainly in the writing of it, catastrophic. To try to link the different missions on the theaters of operations, the studio imagined a story finally sewn with white threads and very artificial, where one never understands how this commando à la Inglourious Basterds was formed, why Arthur Kingsley finds himself at the head of this one, to go in the end in a delusional plot of 4th Reich eyeing a Wolfenstein, led by a villainous cartoonish to the possible, theOberst-Gruppenführer Hermann Wenzel Freisinger. And regularly hear punchlines of the style “By trying to fly too close to the sun, you end up burning your wings”, becomes as laughable as it is tensing by dint of caricature …

Despite these real reservations, but also the few qualities that dot the campaign to be honest in the exercise, it is a safe bet that fans of the franchise will largely ignore it; given the popularity of the multiplayer component on the license. Still, in its solo part, the title seemed sufficiently deceptive to us to prefer its elder released four years earlier.

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