Call of Duty Vanguard Alpha Impressions: Champion Hill Is Just Okay

by | Aug, 31st 2021

Call of Duty Vanguard releases later this year and will bring the next World War II-themed game in the annualized franchise. Before its release in November, though, there are some chances to check it out, like the Call of Duty Vanguard Champion Hill alpha test that recently happened

Call of Duty Vanguard Alpha Is Here

The Call of Duty Vanguard Champion Hill alpha test is the first of several weekends in which players in the community will have the chance to get their hands-on experience with the game. Unfortunately, though, Activision did make this one a limited experience to only some players.

Even though you do not need a beta code to enjoy the Call of Duty Vanguard Champion Hill, it is limited to only players on PS4 and PS5. Fortunately, everyone who has a console could have downloaded and played the alpha test, so at least, but Xbox and PC users were left in the dust. 

The Call of Duty Vanguard Champion Hill alpha test only happened for a single weekend and is already over by the time that we are posting this. It was live only for Friday, August 27, through Sunday, August 29, in the early morning for those on the western side of North America. 

It was not even a full weekend like the usual tests and events in Call of Duty that will last Monday. It was a short period of around 48 hours to check out the alpha test and get a feel for the brand new game mode known as Call of Duty Vanguard Champion Hill. 

Alpha Contains Only Champion Hill

Interestingly, the Call of Duty Vanguard Champion Hill alpha test is that this is all there was. Instead of focusing on the new multiplayer maps with the standard modes like Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed, Search & Destroy, and the like, it was just this one in the alpha. 

Champion Hill is a brand new game mode that Sledgehammer Games is introducing into Vanguard that will feature players participating in a highly competitive event like a mini-tournament of sorts. Given how intricate and deep the experience is, it is understandable that this alpha was only focused on Champion Hill.

Fortunately, it does look like the beta test will be a more open experience that encompasses the traditional multiplayer gameplay, so there is that for players who do not like Champion Hill. We also expect that the beta will include this game mode, so that players on Xbox and PC can check it out. 

With Champion Hill being the only part of the entire alpha test on PlayStation, there were limited features and settings that we could check out. There were no loadouts, Divisions, or really anything like outside of levels to see in the alpha test, as it solely focused on queueing up for this mode. 

Given that it was a Call of Duty Vanguard Champion Hill alpha test, it seems that the experience in the game was severely stripped down not to give away too much information this early. But we believe that the alpha test’s UI is likely to be very similar to the final one, if not the same. 

Here’s what we know about the Call of Duty Vanguard Champion Hill game mode from playing the alpha and my impressions of the new game mode, plus how the gameplay of World War II feels like in 2021. 

Champion Hill Explained

The new Call of Duty Vanguard Champion Hill is one of the most complicated game modes in a long time for the series. It is a blend of Gunfight Tournaments with some crazy arena mechanics. It is likely to be a star mode for the game, given how in-depth it is. 

In Champion Hill, you have a large arena of four individual maps and a buy station rest area in the middle. How it works is like a mini-game of Resurgence battle royale mixed with the gameplay style of the Gunfight game mode that has become popular across Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War. 

How it works is that there are different versions for solo players, duos, trios, and squads. In terms of duos, for instance, you have around 16 players in the match at once, with eight duos making up the lobby of players. In the alpha, though, only duos and trios were available. 

At the start of the match, you are given $500 in cash. You have the chance to buy some stuff from the buy station central area of the arena before the matches start. You only have so much money, so you could get a different secondary weapon, some equipment, a perk, or even a spy plane. 

Once the timer runs out, every duo is sent to one of the four maps and randomly chosen to fight against another duo in the lobby. This is where everything gets a bit weird as it follows the Gunfight feel in each round, but with some odd changes. 

For one, every duo starts with 12 lives in total. Die in a round and that number goes down. However, there are respawns in the different rounds that you do as there is simply a timer until the round stops. Until that timer goes off, you can get as many kills and deaths as you want. 

If a team reaches zero lives, and then both players die, it is game over for them. They can continue to spectate the other teams in the match and see how it ends, but that is the end of the line for them. Every three rounds or so, the money you’ve collected can be spent at the buy station. 

The rounds continue with the 30-second timer, then switching to fight against another team, with buy station breaks in between. The four maps themselves are vastly different and have different styles that they emphasize, but they are four new Gunfight maps. 

They are rather small. Even the longest one is still pretty small and can be covered in just a few seconds. Even though 30 seconds is not a long time, there are some crazy possibilities like teams losing six lives in that time that I’ve seen in the matches I’ve done. 

It seems like six lives are given to each person; hence the 12 total team lives in a game of duos and 18 for trios. However, that is not six each, as I have had matches where I’m sniping from afar and not dying in the rounds. Yet, my team has burned through almost all of our lives. 

How to Earn Cash, What to Buy

When you earn cash in the rounds that you do, you will have to wisely choose how to use them, as they will determine whether or not you can win the match. With buy rounds happening every three rounds or so, that also means that you will have to wait a while to purchase more. 

It comes down to your playstyle, but I have some tips and tricks for you. I think that everything in the game is worth purchasing for the right person, but I think that everyone should completely avoid the equipment section (grenades and the like); it is just not worth it. 

The most important decision is when you decide what to do with your initial cash at the beginning of the match. I do not recommend saving it, as $500 is easy to get once you get your groove on in Champion Hill, but starting with nothing will hurt you. 

You could save that money to upgrade your weapon, which is fine, or you could use it to buy a spy plane, Double Time perk, or a new weapon. Those are the ones that I recommend. Since the starting weapon is chosen for you, you could use that as a factor to determine what you do at the beginning. 

Then I recommend surviving and saving up cash and then heading into the next buy round with some important decisions. If you have not bought a new weapon by this point, I would recommend doing so. A perk would likely also be a good purchase here if you have the cash. 

And then, if you have some money left over, be sure to upgrade your weapons just a couple of times (you do not need to do this more than a few times with each weapon). If you still have money, I recommend buying a spy plane to make the next round a lot easier. 

My Alpha Impressions

My impressions of the Call of Duty Vanguard Champion Hill alpha are a bit complicated, just like the game mode itself. I am interested in the gameplay that Vanguard offers (more on that in a moment), but I am not a fan at all of the new Champion Hill mode. 

In all honesty (sorry, Sledgehammer), I would prefer the traditional Gunfight mode over this. Champion Hill is just too gimmicky and not really in the good ways. Much of the problem with the mode comes down to the total lives that your team has in the matches. 

It is possible to take down a duo or even trio by yourself if your team has lost in the round in normal Gunfight. Those sorts of comebacks are nice and possible there and have helped me out a lot when dealing with random strangers, but that is just not possible here. 

If you’re like me, you may not enjoy Champion Hill that much. Your teammates can, and will, run into the line of fire over and over, dying multiple times instead of strategizing. This can be remedied by playing with friends who communicate, but that is not my style. 

Beyond that, the game lacks fun, as it feels like the maps are pretty boring to look at and play. They have no substance or style to them, which is what has made the Gunfight mode such a good one, in my opinion. 

Sure, they are varied in layout. There is only so much you can do set in World War II, but every single one of them is forgettable and boils down to who can shoot better from the spawn points in the end. Destructible environments, while cool in theory, contribute to this problem. 

There is only one arena map that I decently enjoy because it breaks this mold some, but the chances of getting it are only 25% each round, so that means putting up with three cruddy maps most of the time. This is a mode that I will ignore in the full release of the game.

How the Vanguard Gameplay Feels

On the other hand, we have the general Vanguard gameplay. There are still some questions in this department, given that I’ve only had the chance to play this one unique game mode, but I am much more positive in this regard. 

I was not a huge fan of Modern Warfare and World War II gameplay, but I am a bit more interested in Vanguard overall based on what I’ve played. It will take checking out the upcoming beta to nail down how I feel about it across other modes, but I am pretty positive I like it. 

I still prefer the Treyarch-style of gameplay in Call of Duty, but something is interesting about Vanguard. Once I realized this is a different game and tried not to play it how I usually play Call of Duty, I was able to enjoy it. 

For instance, I’m not normally a sniper, but I love sniping in this game and have a lot of confidence in it returning as a mainstay in the competitive scene. I never use sniper rifles in shooters, but I found myself using that as my main avenue of fighting and doing better than the usual ARs and SMGs. 

I think that the game does match the pacing well, with a good mix of thoughtful slowness and surprising speed at the same time, but this is one that I will have to see in other modes first. The time to kill is fine, but this is another one that I think I need to see in other modes to get an idea.

Perhaps the worst part of the gameplay for me is the tactical sprint return. I do not like this feature in Warzone/Modern Warfare. I am not a fan of its return here in Vanguard. This is something that I will have to get used to, as I prefer how Cold War handles movement, but for fans of tactical sprint, this is likely going to be a welcome return.


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