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Call of Duty Vanguard release date, trailer, zombies, beta, warzone and more

Call of Duty Vanguard
(Image credit: Activision)

After months of speculation, this year’s entry in the best-selling shooter franchise has been officially confirmed as Call of Duty Vanguard. The game was unveiled as part of a special event in Warzone called the Battle of Verdansk, and is set to launch this November. 

Call of Duty Vanguard sees the series once again return to its roots with a WWII setting. This time period hasn’t been explored by the franchise since 2017’s Call of Duty WWII. Though developer Sledgehammer Games has claimed that Vanguard will be “rooted but not beholden” to real-world history — so expect a few inaccuracies in the name of fun. 

Call of Duty Vanguard is going to have a tough battle on its hands this year. With both Battlefield 2042 and Halo Infinite set to launch in the weeks after its debut, Vanguard will need to be a strong entry in the series in order for the franchise to continue its streak of online shooter dominance. But with three distinct modes already confirmed, plus Warzone integration, Vanguard is certainly looking like a compelling package.  

Launch is just around the corner, but there are still a few secrets that remain under wraps. For now, here's everything we know about Call of Duty Vanguard. 

Call of Duty Vanguard release date 

Call of Duty Vanguard will launch on November 5, 2021. It will arrive on PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and PC.

Similar to last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, players who wish to own the game on both PS4/PS5 and Xbox One/Xbox Series X will need to opt for the digital cross-gen bundle. The standard edition only gives you access to a single platform. 

Call of Duty Vanguard trailer 

The announcement of Call of Duty Vanguard included a cinematic three-minute trailer that introduces the game’s core cast and shows off some seriously bombastic set-piece moments.  

With launch day only a couple of weeks away, the Call of Duty Vanguard launch trailer was recently released. This short trailer showcases the game's three distinct gameplay modes and also confirms the exact time the game will be available to play on release day. 

Call of Duty Vanguard campaign 

Unlike Battlefield 2042, which is multiplayer only, Call of Duty Vanguard is confirmed to have a traditional single-player campaign. 

The campaign will follow four special ops soldiers who presumably form the titular vanguard: Sgt. Arthur Kingsley (British, 9th Parachute Battalion), Lt. Polina Petrova (Soviet, 138th Rifle Division), Captain Wade Jackson (American, Scouting Squadron Six) and 2nd Lt. Lucas Riggs (Australian, 20th Battalion).

Call of Duty Vanguard

(Image credit: Activision)

Missions will take place across four theatres of war: the Western Front, the Eastern Front, North Africa, and the South Pacific. Sledgehammer Games opting to include four unique theatres of war is quite noteworthy. The last major WWII shooter, Battlefield 5, neglected to include several prominent locations including the Western Front. 

Furthermore, Call of Duty Vanguard is being developed on the same engine that powered 2019’s Call of Duty Modern Warfare and will reportedly include some form of destructible environment.

At Gamescom 2021, we got an extended look at Vanguard's campaign in action. This nine-minute gameplay demo is set in Stalingrad and sees Lt. Polina Petrova (voiced by Laura Bailey) sneaking through the city, fending off German soldiers and even dodging a tank along the way. 

Expect the Vanguard campaign to be a highly cinematic experience, with big set-piece moments and plenty of intense firefights. There's even a very brief scripted platforming moment in the trailer as Petrova tries to escape a collapsing building

The footage looks highly polished, as you'd expect from a Call of Duty title. While it doesn't indicate that Vanguard will be taking the franchise in any new directions, it looks to be essentially a playable summer blockbuster — exactly what Call of Duty excels at delivering.

Call of Duty Vanguard multiplayer 

Call of Duty is beloved primarily for its multiplayer functionality, and Vanguard will of course be including a suite of online modes. The recent Call of Duty Vanguard multiplayer reveal gave us a proper look at what the game will have to offer when it comes to online play. 

During this live-streamed presentation, it was confirmed by the game's multiplayer creative director, Greg Reisdorf, that Vanguard will be taking "historical liberties and risks to deliver something fun" and will be centered around "untraditional, gritty, antiheroes from every front of the war". It definitely sounds like a more refreshing take on the global conflict than Sledgehammer's last stab at the series. 

At launch, there will be 20 maps available. There will be 16 regular maps, as well as four that are designed for the new Champion Hill mode. This new mode is described as a “series of tournament-style head-to-head matches, where players can play solo (1v1) or squad up in duos (2v2) and trios (3v3) to battle it out in an arena consisting of four maps to be the last squad standing.”

A recent PlayStation Blog post has further detailed the multiplayer modes and features that will be present in Call of Duty Vanguard. One of the more interesting details within this article is the announcement of Combat Pacing. 

This is a new feature of the Call of Duty franchise and will allow players to finetune how the game plays to best suit their own playstyle. There will be three pacing categories to choose from: Tactical, Assault, and Blitz. Tactical will offer the traditional Call of Duty multiplayer experience but Assualt and Blitz will both increase the pace of multiplayer matches, the latter will even increase the player count for an even more frenetic experience.

Call of Duty Vanguard - multiplayer

(Image credit: Activision)

Expect the arsenal of weapons at your disposal to be (mostly) period-accurate and there will also be plenty of customization options. Don’t be surprised if some cosmetic items are a little eccentric though. Expect at least a few to be only available to those willing to pay a little extra as well. 

A section of players will be disappointed to hear that rumors indicate the series’ highly controversial skill-based matchmaking will make a return in Vanguard. This function aims to group players with others of a similar skill level, but many argue it spoils the fun and should be saved for rank play. 

Call of Duty Vanguard zombies

Call of Duty’s iconic Zombies mode will be present in Vanguard. Sledgehammer Games isn’t taking the lead on this portion of the game, it’ll be Treyarch working on the mode instead. 

Treyarch is the studio that first created Call of Duty Zombies way back in 2008, and most recently developed the mode for last year’s Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War. So Zombies is in good hands. 

Earlier this month we got our first look at the mode courtesy of the above Zombies trailer, which features plenty of the undead monsters as well as some Billie Eilish music — which doesn't quite fit the time period!

Call of Duty Vanguard beta 

Call of Duty Vanguard

(Image credit: Activision)

A Call of Duty Vanguard beta was held in September. It ran for two weekends giving players a chance to experience the game's intense online multiplayer on a small handful of maps. 

The beta is now over, and as we're so close to launch it's extremely unlikely that another early-access multiplayer preview will be held. If you're desperate to play Vanguard, you're going to have to wait until the November 5 release date, unfortunately. 

Call of Duty Vanguard Warzone 

Warzone, Call of Duty’s free-to-play battle royale mode, will again be integrated with the latest mainline installment in the franchise. 

Vanguard-inspired items are almost guaranteed to make their way into the game. Plus, Raven Studios is developing a completely new Warzone map that is set in the Pacific and will tie into Vanguard in some form. This map won't be ready to launch in November but will instead be coming at a later (currently unknown) date. 

Call of Duty Vanguard PS5 features

Call of Duty Vanguard - multiplayer

(Image credit: Activision)

Sledgehammer has recently detailed some PS5 exclusive features that take full advantage of the console's DualSense controller. In a PlayStation Blog post, the developer explained that the tech-stuffed controller will "elevate the sense of immersion and bring an array of tactile experiences to different weapons in the game."

This will be primarily achieved thanks to the Dualsense adaptive triggers, which make the feeling of firing each weapon noticeably different. "Our goal in Call of Duty: Vanguard was to simulate the trigger weight of real-world weapons, and to give the player the opportunity to find the trigger pull that works for them in the game," the blog post reads. 

The gameplay experience will be further enhanced by the DualSense haptic feedback which can simulate enemy fire destroying your cover or an airplane performing a bombing run on your location. According to Sledgehammer, “you will feel the action happening around you pulse through your hands and traverse up your arms.” It all sounds very next-gen.  

These features could theoretically come to PC as well, as the DualSense is computable with gaming PCs. However, Xbox Series X players will, unfortunately, miss out. One benefit that will come to both consoles (and PC) is the game's significantly reduced install size, which has also been confirmed via Twitter

Call of Duty Vanguard outlook 

Call of Duty Vanguard

(Image credit: Activision)

It’s been rumored for months that behind the scenes the development of Call of Duty Vanguard has been troubled. You wouldn’t know that judging by the slick reveal presentation, the highly cinematic trailers, and the generally very polished beta. 

Vanguard has the advantage of being the sole high-profile historical shooter releasing this year, whereas the competition is more futuristic in tone. However, Battlefield 2042 is promising to really push next-gen hardware with the inclusion of 128-player matches. Sledgehammer has yet to show off anything as impressive. Hopefully, there are still a few surprises to come on launch day.  

Regardless, there are several reasons to be excited about Call of Duty Vanguard but also some potential issues that have us a little concerned about the game's prospects. We'll have to wait until next month to definitively call this one. 

Rory is a staff writer at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics including tech news, deals, gaming, streaming and more. When he’s not writing hot takes on the latest gaming hardware and streaming shows, he can be found watching a borderline unhealthy amount of movies and being thoroughly disappointed by his terrible football team.