Activision Blizzard claim Call of Duty: Vanguard’s World War II setting “didn’t resonate with some of our community,” leading to poor sales.
In their 2021 annual report, Activision Blizzard stated, “While Call of Duty remains one of the most successful entertainment franchises of all time, our 2021 premium release didn’t meet our expectations, we believe primarily due to our own execution.”
“The game’s World War II setting didn’t resonate with some of our community and we didn’t deliver as much innovation in the premium game as we would have liked,” Activision Blizzard admits. “We are certainly addressing both of these issues with the 2022 launch.”
“Development on the 2022 premium and Warzone experiences is being led by Activision’s renowned Infinity Ward studio. We are working on the most ambitious plan in Call of Duty history,” Activision Blizzard insists, “with over 3,000 people now working on the franchise and a return to the Modern Warfare setting that delivered our most successful Call of Duty title ever.”
Activision Blizzard further cites a $464 million decrease in Activision net bookings as being driven by “lower net bookings from (1) Call of Duty: Vanguard as compared to Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, (2) Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War as compared to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,” and more.
While Call of Duty Vanguard was the best selling game of last year– recently pipped by Elden Ring– it’s UK launch figures were still 40% less than the prior game, and reportedly the worst UK launch for the Call of Duty series in 14 years.
GamesIndustry.biz‘ survey found out of those who had bought a Call of Duty title in the last five years, only 21% bought Vanguard. 55% of those who hadn’t bought the game said they were simply busy playing other games, followed by 34% who said they had grown tired of the series, or just needed a break from it.
On Metacritic, Call of Duty: Vanguard has an average reviewer score of 73 across PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X. However, the average user score is 3.8 out of 10- and 3.9 when also including last generation consoles.
OpenCritic notes the game has a “Fair” rating overall, with an average top critic score of 72, but only 50% recommending it. “Vanguard isn’t a bad Call of Duty game;” OpenCritic explains in its Critic Consensus, “it just doesn’t stand out. While the campaign and multiplayer meet expectations, zombies is a significant letdown due to a lack of content.”
Metacritic users complained of a nonsensical and short story, boring level and map design, brain-dead AI, and a general sense of the game being poorly made. YouTuber The Act Man opens his review of the game stating “The best way I would describe Vanguard is to call it ‘Apathy: The Video Game.'”
“A distinct lack of effort, creativity, and passion is all you will find in this recycled wasteland,” The Act Man warns. “Bare minimum amount of content, a game with no identity, the campaign designers phoned it in, the multiplayer team clearly didn’t care, and zombies? What a joke!!”
The issue with the Zombies mode, as noted by VG247, is that it attempts to blend round-based survival with open exploration. Neither elements are used to their full potential, and managed to both overly simplify the experience, and drag it out with far too many objectives.
Another major factor against Call of Duty: Vanguard is its historical inaccuracy. Apart from erroneous vehicles and uniforms, many claimed there was a push for a woke agenda, as do a multitude of YouTube videos.
Polygon — typically characterized as being on board with diversity and progressive games — stated Call of Duty: Vanguard “continues the trend of mythmaking and tokenization” in its review, stating every stereotype bucked felt disingenuous, yet doesn’t go far enough either.
They also cite Activision Blizzard’s sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits (which also featured allegations from women of color) as further undercutting their attempts. “Activision Blizzard’s workforce hovers at around 80% male and remains majority white,” Polygon lament. “It feels strange to play a game like Vanguard, which wears the diversity of its cast proudly on its sleeve, with this in mind.”
Even Kotaku — another usually pro-woke gaming news outlet — went as far as to call Vanguard’s campaign “an Insult To World War II.”
“What was once a series about the brutal, tragic reality for the war’s infantry has become a bizarro-world power fantasy about its greatest imaginary heroes. And with this, ironically, it has lost all its power, all its ability to say anything of worth,” Kotaku explained.
“This latest entry’s narrative is only about how desperately it wants to ride the zeitgeist of progressive representation, without ever giving a moment’s thought to just how poorly it rewrites the reality of marginalized people involved in the war,” the site added.
“Call Of Duty: Vanguard is all about a time-travelling group of six elite soldiers, sent back to the 1940s to save the war effort. Now, I should say this is not explicitly stated,” Kotaku clarifies, “but there’s no other workable explanation for this wokest group of sensitivity-trained, progressive millennials to exist in the time period.”
“In its desperate attempts to avoid controversy, the game grabs at armfuls of it, and then defies reality in response,” Kotaku expound, later adding “The whole game reeks of ‘even though’ism. ‘Even though she’s a woman…’ ‘Even though he’s a Black man…'”
“Rather than saying anything honest, its painful attempts to be right-on, to do everything short of punching a fist in the air and shouting ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER!’ or ‘GIRL POWER!’, make it all far more offensive. There’s no truth here, but instead an attempt to wokewash history, make it feel palatable and progressive, thereby denying the reality of those it so grimly patronizes,” the review asserted.
While other factors are relevant — not the least including the aforementioned lawsuits giving gamers another reason to grind their axes — the borderline offensive attempt at diversity seems to be the most prevalent.
Rather than the issue being set in World War II, as the prior Call of Duty title to Vanguard was, the problem is a story bordering on farce, failing to motivate players to trudge through lackluster gameplay.
Activision Blizzard and King’s recently unveiled “Diversity Space Tool,” used to literally measure character diversity in video games, was also admitted to have been used by “developer teams working on Call of Duty: Vanguard.”
“We used [the Diversity Space Tool] to figure out what ‘more diversity’ looks like across all of our characters in both campaign multiplayer and Live seasons,” Sledgehammer Games’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager Alayna Cole boasted. “And now we’re going to use that data going forward into the next games that we’re working on.”
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