According to numerous reports, 2021’s Call of Duty will be called Vanguard. It’s said to be World War II-themed with heavy Warzone integration, just like Black Ops Cold War before it. This means Warzone will have to shift from a 1980s setting into the 1940s.
While this might sound exciting — and to an extent, it sort of is — it’s cause for concern, partially when we recall how the Cold War/Warzone integration was handled in December 2020. There are numerous reasons why this could cause problems, such as nonsensical narrative decisions that could feel shoehorned, or even disjointed aesthetics.
But the most crucial reason has to do with weapon balancing, which has long been one of Warzone’s biggest problems, even prior to adding the firearms from Cold War.
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A time period discrepancy
Since Vanguard will be set during World War II, its weapons will vastly differ from the ones that are in Warzone currently, from Modern Warfare and Cold War. Despite the balancing issues that plagued Warzone after the Cold War integration, developer Raven Software eventually found its footing and presented the community with a varied and balanced list of weapons to choose from. Cold War is set in the ‘80s, which isn’t too far off from the setting of Modern Warfare, leading to a mostly comparable lineup of weapons.
But the differences between that and weapons from the World War II era are much greater. From a technological standpoint, WWII weapons are slower, clunkier, and — in a competitive multiplayer sense — not as appealing as those from a current setting.
Why use a slow semi-auto rifle when you can dominate with a fully auto firearm that’s easier to control? Now, we’re assuming these WWII weapons will be slow and clunky because typically, Call of Duty games feature guns that function and feel similar to their real-world counterparts.
If you take a look at the weapons from 2017’s Call of Duty: WWII, many of them fit the descriptors mentioned above: slow, clunky, and not ideal compared to those from a modern setting. In the rifle category from WWII, four of the eight are semi-auto, which means you can’t hold down the trigger to fire a continuous stream of shots. Instead, you have to pull the trigger to fire each shot, just like a handgun.
One of the fully-auto weapons in this WWII rifle category, the BAR, is for all intents and purposes a light machinegun, which are typically underused due to very slow reload times. Even the WWII sub-machinegun category is lacking compared to those from the current setting.
For instance, the PPSh-41 from WWII has a rate of fire of 722rpm, while the same weapon from Cold War is up to 904rpm. This is just one example of modern weapons outclassing those from the WWII setting. And, outside of the context of the game, this makes sense. Our technology has evolved and we’re able to create better weapons because of it. But when you blend all of the time periods together like this, it seems like it’ll create a major issue.
All of this is to say that if the Vanguard weapons are true to their time period, they will inherently be inferior compared to modern firearms. How does anybody rectify that from a development standpoint?
Since many of the leading weapons from Vanguard will likely be semi-auto rifles, we should look at how these guns fit into the context of Warzone. History has shown that semi-auto weapons are almost always a problem in Warzone. Some, like the FAL, the FR 5.56, the EBR-14, or the crossbows are objectively worse than other assault rifles. There’s no reason to use those semi-auto rifles over any other long-range options due to their high recoil, slow rates of fire, or low ammo capacity.
However, a weapon like the DMR 14 is an exception, as it was grossly overpowered when it was first implemented. It got to the point where it was the most used weapon in the game by a huge margin, which shouldn’t be the case. The point is that Warzone’s semi-auto weapons have never felt balanced one way or the other.
It’s tough to see how the WWII weapons will be incorporated into a game alongside modern guns. One fear is that all of the Vanguard weapons will be overpowered to encourage players to use them. This has happened nearly every time Cold War weapons have been added to Warzone, such as with the FFAR 1, M16, AUG, and aforementioned DMR 14, along with Modern Warfare’s Sykov pistol.
These Vanguard weapons will need to be powerful enough to fit into the Warzone meta, while not immediately outclassing their counterparts from other games. Based on the time period they come from, this will likely be a challenge for Activision, Sledgehammer, and Raven to get them to mesh well with one another.