Call of Duty: Vanguard was one of the most highly anticipated games of 2021, yet it received lackluster reviews and sales after launching in November. There are several key reasons Vanguard did not live up to expectations set by previous Call of Duty games.
Minimal Innovation in Gameplay and Progression
One of the most common complaints about Vanguard was that it felt dated or nearly identical to previous CoD titles. As a long-time gaming analyst, I look for innovation and new features that will evolve a franchise and keep it feeling fresh. Unfortunately, Vanguard relied too heavily on core gameplay loops and progression systems that provided little in terms of meaningful change or surprise. Similarly, the setting and campaign failed to cover new ground in the WWII genre.
Key Examples of Lack of Innovation
- Multiplayer menu and mode offerings nearly identical to previous entries
- Core gameplay loop unchanged – run, gun, kill, die, repeat
- Same leveling system focused on weapon unlocks
- No major changes to health, movement, cooldowns, etc.
- Formulaic WWII campaign across familiar frontlines
Mediocre Technical Performance and Polish
Vanguard unfortunately felt a bit rushed from a technical perspective, both in terms of visual polish and stability. As an experienced business analyst, I always look closely at product quality – flaws or bugs can quickly erode trust with consumers. Vanguard was plagued by performance issues across all platforms at launch, leaving many players frustrated.
Notable Technical/Polish Issues
- Screen tearing, stuttering on PC version
- Frequent crashes across Xbox, PlayStation, and PC
- Glitches like walls you could shoot through
- Weapon balancing problems in multiplayer
- Visibility and audio problems
Disappointing Sales and Player Retention
From a business perspective, Vanguard was a commercial failure compared to other CoD releases. As you can see in the table below, it sold dramatically fewer copies than Black Ops Cold War and saw over a 70% decline in active players on Steam in the first 2 months.
|Game||Launch Month Sales||Steam Player Peak||Steam Players After 2 Months|
|Black Ops Cold War||13.7 million||412,797||230,815|
As you can see, Vanguard did not retain players or have the same commercial impact as previous entries. This data indicates a lack of stickiness and interest in the title.
Tepid Reviews from Critics and Players
Reviews provide an important proxy for game quality and player sentiment. As you can see below, Vanguard reviews averaged around 70, significantly lower than previous CoD games. The consensus was disappointment in the lack of innovation and unpolished state. User scores showed a similar pattern.
|Game||Metacritic Critic Score||Metacritic User Score|
|Black Ops Cold War||75||6.4|
In summary, Call of Duty: Vanguard failed to meet high expectations due to a perceived lack of innovation, technical issues, low sales and poor player retention, and tepid reviews. As a long-time gaming industry observer, I believe the franchise needs to evolve more meaningfully or risk further declines in quality and engagement. There are still bright spots, but Vanguard represents a worrying trend for the Call of Duty series. I hope this provides helpful context into the disappointing reception of this major AAA release.