This month has been good for shooter fans wanting a taste of what’s to come soon with live tests of both Call of Duty Vanguard, Halo Infinite and Battlefield 2042 making the rounds. All games are within a month if each other with Vanguard and Halo bookending Battlefield so it could be anyone’s guess as to which will be the game to play at the end of the year. At least with what I’ve seen so far there is a lot of think about.
Call of Duty Vanguard
First up is Call of Duty Vanguard once again puts players back into World War 2… or at least a version with red dot sights and remote control tanks bombs. The sight thing exposes one aspect of modern Call of Duty that doesn’t fit well into the setting and that’s a huge list of weapon customisations. I doubt in WW2 soldiers had that much variety in choice of weapon or configuration. But that’s how the gameplay loop works in CoD (level up, get more stuff for your gun, etc) so these gaps were filled in. The maps on offer where interesting from a Pacific beach to a winter city to a rooftop bar and finally a Nazi chateau. All have a number of destructible walls to add more strategy to fights however that wasn’t where the weaknesses were in the beta.
Impressions from the start was that some of the game modes just weren’t a good fit for the maps. The new Patrol mode which works as a domination or capture/hold game but with a constantly moving location has promise but some of the maps are just too small for it and just turned some games into a chaotic mess. Secondly respawns were VERY badly implemented, especially within those smaller maps. Far too often could I spawn and die again from the same player who just killed me. Lastly and most frustratingly there’s still cheaters playing and I got not impression at all that it’s been improved with a number of matches against people who are clearly getting help in their games. I know that part alone has already turned a lot of people off from the game. There is some promise in the game though and when you start leveling up your gear it does start to feel like its predecessors again which will keep fans happy. The Cold War beta left me unsure if the game would be good enough and it did turn out well but it does feel like this beta is on shakier ground and I wonder if it will be enough.
With Halo Infinite the franchise is an much a known quantity with multiplayer as Call of Duty but it’s been a long time since a new entry has been in player hands, if you don’t take into account Halo MCC. Additionally it’s now running on a new engine and received a graphical face lift since its debut showing a year ago so a lot has changed. The first preview focused mostly on bot play with PvP arriving at the end but this time PvP was first as foremost in the game with bits being a training mode accessible to players in their own time. So far my time with it has been more limited than before due to multiplayer only being accessible between a small window each day but it’s encouraging to see how quickly you can jump in and play. The gunplay felt a little tighter this time around which I did enjoy though it sounds like there is also some opposition to the changes to aim assist so there may be further work on that front. I think I might find the grapple one of the “go to” items in games because of how easy it is to use effectively. Though not as comfortable with it as some players are I do enjoy the extra level of mobility and utility it provides.
When we were finally able to give Halo‘s Big Team Battle mode a try in the beta and it really showcases just how much more complex Halo Infinite‘s levels are over previous entries. I’ve seen the BTB map Fragmentation described as a cross between classic maps Blood Gulch and Valhalla and it’s a fair comparison but there’s also a lot more verticality here which can be leveraged with the grapple. Call of Duty players may respond nicely to the multiplayer as movement and firing feel similar enough for players to dive in but here you don’t have to worry about figuring out weapon attachments or killstreaks – the guns and equipment work the same for everyone and you can always pick up something different on the map if your loadout doesn’t work. And unlikeVanguard there weren’t many signs of cheating but my time to play was much more limited in comparison so that could be a factor. Apart from that the game runs really well and I could see it being the dark horse in this race as going free to play will give it a massive opportunity to impress fans of the other games.
Last up is Battlefield 2042. I will say right up front that my feeling towards the Battlefield franchise is mixed. Battlefield 1 might be the only recent entry where I enjoyed both the campaign and multiplayer – so jumping into 2042 I had a lot of trepidation seeing as it was the first modern game in the series since Battlefield 4. The one thing that jumped out to me right away was the aiming (to me) felt a lot tighter and I was more competitive than expected. Battlefield 4‘s shooting mechanics combined with the leveling and attachments always made me feel like I was always playing, and losing, against a better equipped player. Here I think it feels like everyone is on a much more level playing field. It’s closer now to a Halo or Call of Duty than the series has been in a long time. Not everyone might like that but I don’t mind it. A really good feature that’s new to the series is that you can tweak the loadout of your chosen weapons in game – for example if you’re out in the open you can swap in a better scope or add armour piercing rounds. Being able to make those kinds of adjustments during the game is awesome and I think this might be something we see translated to CoD soon enough because it’s a great concept that works well.
The downside for me playing it has been that beta is not showing anything particularly new. If you like the conquest game type which involves securing territory over a massive map then this is more of the same and you’ll be fine but it’s not something has gelled for me as I’ve found I either respawn in the middle of a fight and get killed or respawn some distance away only to spend the next couple of minutes running to where the action is and get killed again. When jumping into the middle of a game on the losing side this make the problem worse and a lot of first time players could get burner this way. If the game balances this out more through assigning players to bot lobbies early this might help (there were plenty to shoot when I first started) but my interest waned quickly when the shooting dropped off but the deaths increased. This was the perfect opportunity to show off the Portal mode with its customised game types but we missed it unfortunately.
It’s going to be interesting to see what the response will be to all threads games at the end of the year. With Vanguard‘s early impressions making it feel like a weaker entry in the franchise and Battlefield giving up on campaign and going all-in on multiplayer there is that chance that for Xbox players Halo could have a bit of a resurgence. With its multiplayer going free to play, shooting that feels much more in line with its competitors and modes that could appeal to players from both with their varieties of scale (except for Battle Royale) most players will have their needs covered. And the campaign being included with Game Pass is a massive bonus too. Odds are still against Halo Infinite being the dominant shooter as it’s only on two of the three platforms the others will release on (ie. not PlayStation) but with developer 343’s course correction from last year’s troubles now behind them they’re putting the game in a great position to give it the best chance possible. It could certainly make a dent in cross play numbers on Xbox and that alone might be more than enough to make an impact.
Call of Duty Vanguard and Battlefield 2042 will be out soon on PC, Xbox and PlayStation. Halo Infinite will be out soon on PC and Xbox.