Vanguard Zombies Revealed: It’s Not Broke, But They’re Still Fixing it


by in Call of Duty | Oct, 15th 2021

Another Call of Duty is coming in three weeks, and with such little time before the launch of the game, the Zombies mode for Vanguard has finally been announced. Sledgehammer isn’t going to be putting their full effort into the zombies, however, but the mode is going to be spearheaded by Treyarch, who were the developers behind the previous game, and its zombies mode. With Treyarch and Sledgehammer working together on the zombies mode, the mode hasn’t been properly revealed until today. With a 14 minute video and a blog post going through the game’s mechanics, story, and maps, there’s going to be a lot to cover with the reveal of Vanguard Zombies. 

How is Vanguard Zombies going to change the formula, does the formula even need to be changed? Sledgehammer and Treyarch think so, and this is how they’re going to do it.

How Sledgehammer & Treyarch are Changing Vanguard Zombies


When it comes to the zombies mode in Call of Duty, the developer that’s held the most prestige when it comes to the undead co-op mode from World at War. Many iterations of the game have been made for the series, with all of the developers trying their hand at the zombies mode. 

Infinity Ward attempted making their own mode with Extinction, and then Infinite Warfare Zombies. While they were successful and built their own communities, many of the die-hard fans of the Zombies mode were already accustomed to the mode from Treyarch. Sledgehammer attempted Zombies twice on their own as well. Advanced Warfare brought in EXO Zombies, which was a take on the game that was more in line with how zombies are now, with the player being able to upgrade their weapon over 20 times, and being able to hold more than 4 perks. However, players thought that the mode was more of an afterthought, and the mode was scrapped after the game finished its life cycle. Then, with their previous call of duty game, World War 2, they brought back Nazi Zombies and attempted to make a title that was more horror-focused. While this mode has significantly more effort put into it, it turned out that the mode was still lacking in its attempts at being more like Treyarch. Now, for their third outing for zombies, Treyarch has come back to help them attach their story to the one established in Cold War. So with that in mind, what’s the story about?

The Story


The story of Call of Duty Vanguard Zombies is a prequel to the events of Cold War Zombies. Being that the game takes place in WW2, the players are going to be an allied group of operators from the multiplayer, taking an unfortunate page out of the zombies mode from the previous game. 

While it was thought that Sledgehammer would have aimed to make the Zombies mode more in line with a title like Black Ops 3, while still implementing the mechanics of the last game into it, this doesn’t seem to be the case. However, there’s more to the story. Sledgehammer and Treyarch aren’t going to be putting the scientific spin on the zombies mode this year, instead, they’re going to aim for a more Occult-themed story, while still remaining canon to the rules set in the Cold War Dark Aether Plotline. However, just because it’s canon to the Cold War plotline, doesn’t mean it’s going to spend a lot of time referencing it, as Sledgehammer wants to make the story accessible to new players who want to jump into the Zombies world.

After the first use of the particle accelerator in Projekt Endstation, a place the characters visited in the first map of Cold War Zombies, a German Commander by the name of Wolfram Von List finds that the dimensional portal opened by Projekt Endstaion activated magic inside of 5 Artifacts that the Nazis were holding onto. Picking up the one that held the most power. List becomes bonded to the Dark Aether Entity called Kortifax the Deathless. This former ruler of the Dark Aether aids List with the power to raise the dead, and make them walk the earth in an effort to take over the world once and for all. This all starts in Stalingrad, where the playable operators will come to for the first time. Player’s will then be able to take one of the artifacts for themselves, bonding to one of the 4 entities that also reside within them. 

These entities are Norticus the Conquerer, who used to rule the armies in the dark aether for Kortifax, Saraxis the Shadow, who sees humans as nothing more than playthings, Inviktor the Destroyer, whose lust for bloodshed will be quenched by the undead, and Bellekar the Warlock, who’s interested in humanity now that the dimensional veil has been broken. While all of these entities are bonded to the characters, they are not possessed, the entities are able to lend the players their power while offering advice to the player through the artifacts. 

However, the 4 entities have one goal that aligns with the humans, destroy Kortifax once and for all. With all these artifacts now in the hands of the Allies, a distress message was sent to them by Professor Krafft, a demonologist who was blackmailed into working with List. Now he’s asking for help, and the players are going to come to Stalingrad to help Krafft figure out how to stop the undead horde. However, things are worse than they seem, as Stalingrad is enclosed by Kortrifax and his magic spell, that’s keeping the players inside, and unable to escape. Now, they’re going to have to complete trials to make their way through the city, and eventually, find a way to stop the zombies horde.

Gameplay Changes


Moving onto the gameplay, it seems that the players are going to be given the same kind of loadout system from the previous game. Each of the artifacts, while being characters themselves, are also the same abilities that the players use in Cold War Zombies. Ring of Fire, Aether Shroud, Frost Blast, and Energy Mine, are all going to be available to use in the game. Whether or not they’re going to be upgraded hasn’t been revealed, but looking at Cold War, it seems that this is going to be the case.

Perks also return in this game as well, however, they’re not going to be the glass bottles players grew accustomed to when playing World at War. Instead, Demonic Goblets are going to be the main way that players are going to equip perks in the game. They’re still drinkable elixirs, but they’ve been stylized to look more in line with something like the chaos story. However, what perks are going to be coming to Call of Duty Vanguard zombies isn’t known yet, as the perk fountains shown in the gameplay video for cold war zombies show perks that haven’t been seen yet or previous perks that have gotten a different coat of paint. However, the main gameplay changes to the mode might have some long-time fans of the series worried about the future of zombies. 

Explained in the 14 Minute video posed by Treyarch and Sledgehammer, Zombies is going to take the best of Outbreak, and put it into Call of Duty Vanguard Zombies, while still being reminiscent of the normal zombies mode.

This is concerning, as Outbreak was one of the most divisive Zombies modes ever in Call of Duty. Many players explained their distaste for the maps saying that the mode was too easy, and the objectives were too simple and got old quickly.

Now it seems like this is going to be the fate of Call of Duty Vanguard Zombies, as the developers explain how the game is going to work.

For the first map of the game Der AnFang, Players will start in the ruins of Stalingrad, as the city has been overtaken by List and his army of the undead. Players are going to have access to the Pack-a-Punch, mystery box, and Crafting table from the beginning, but they’re going to have to make their way through 4 portals to perform objectives stylized after outbreak to make their way through the main hub area which is Stalingrad. 

From the video shown it seems that the Objectives are going to be the rounds for the game. As “The World Grows Harder” shows when players are returning from an objective. This doesn’t look like the zombies mode that players have come to know, seeing that the outbreak mechanics that players had the most problems with are becoming the main focus of the gameplay loop for zombies. 

There are also 4 smaller locales included in the game, from Shi No Numa in World at War, to the rooftops of Nazi-Occupied France, there’s going to be other maps that players are going to go to in this pseudo-Mario 64 styled FPS, with worlds attached to a hub area. 

Another thing to mention is that the game is going to include a new way to power up the special abilities in the title. In Cold War Player’s special abilities like Ring of Fire, Aether Shroud, and Energy Mine were charged up for use when players killed hordes of the undead. Now, the new way that this is going to be achieved is through the introduction of a new drop, Dark Aether Runes. Being that this new story is going to be a take on the occult, there’s going to be Dark Aether Runes spawning after killing zombies, this is how players are going to be powering up their runes, and getting the help of the Entities inside of the Dark Aether to help them through their journey. 

On top of this, there’s also going to be another way to increase the power of the Arsenal for players in Call of Duty Vanguard. This is through the Shrine of Covenants. This shrine functions similarly to the Pack-a-Punch and will give players abilities that they didn’t have at the start of the game. However, there’s a catch. The payment for this is a Sacrificial Heart. This heart can only be acquired if players complete an objective. Although, completing an objective isn’t the only thing that players are going to want to do. Another thing is that interacting with the Shrine will show the player three options for their abilities, but coming back after the completion of an objective will randomize what’s available through the shrine, if players aren’t happy with the Shrine’s offerings, they can always hold onto the heart from the get-go, and then come back later for another look at the shine and possibly walk away with more than one. 

There are also different Tiers of upgrades for the shrine, but it’s not explicitly stated that they’re going to cost more than one heart, however, it would make more sense for players to be able to pay more than one heart for some of the bigger upgrades in the shrine and would encourage players to perform more objectives on the maps.

Speaking of Objectives, there are three objectives mentioned in the video posted by Treyarch and Sledgehammer. The first objective is called Blitz. According to the developers in the video, the objective takes the idea of surviving, like a normal zombies game, but puts players in the position of “taking the fight to the zombies”. The second objective is called Harvest, Players will be tasked with hunting zombies which will drop Dark Aether Runes, similar to the ones that players will pick up to replenish their special ability. They will then be able to deposit these into an obelisk called “the sin eater”. The last objective mentioned is called Transit. This objective sees players escorting a floating zombie head that’s looking for breaches in the dimensional veil. This will most likely be similar to the escort mission from Outbreak since Sledgehammer is taking the best of the mode, and putting it into Call of Duty Vanguard Zombies.

There are also two new enemies coming to Call of Duty Vanguard Zombies within its new map. These two enemies are the main special zombies that players are going to be seeing throughout their journey on the new map. The first enemy is one from the previous Cold War game, The Boom Schriers. While they’re not named exactly the same, they function almost identically to the Tormentor Zombies in Cold War. The Boom Schriers will scream at the player and then run towards them in a blind fury, exploding when they get close. 

There’s one other zombie included in the new map that players are going to see when they get farther in the match. This last zombie is called the Sturmkreiger. This zombie is an 8-foot tall monstrosity that will trudge towards the player, and if they’re not close enough for a melee attack, they’ll deploy their minigun, and shoot through the horde to take out the player. This is going to be one of the tougher zombies for the players to face, however, it seems like this is also going to be a nice change of pace for players to have instead of fighting altered versions of enemies from previous games, like the Kransy Soldat or the Mangler.

The game also includes an exfil section for the map as well, which will have players fighting their way through the horde to escape. However, this is only going to be done after a certain amount of objectives are complete, which lends to the theory that the new zombie mode isn’t going to be round-based. Even though Treyarch hasn’t outright said that rounds aren’t going to be a thing. 

What This Could Mean for the Future of Zombies


There are a few ways that this could be a good thing for the zombies mode in Call of Duty Vanguard. The new mode could introduce players to the zombies story, as well as giving them a fresh twist on the zombies formula. However, there are still some things that the developers haven’t mentioned in the video that’s got player’s confused.

There are Perk Machines inside of the Hub area, and Perks inside of the other parts of the map, how is this going to change where player’s go first? Is there a possibility that players are going to be able to make their way to different areas through portals, so players can split up and work on objectives? Or is the map going to lock players in specific parts of the map until they complete an objective? Is the goal of the map to open up an easter egg at the end of the Stalingrad hub area? Or are they going to have players work through easter eggs in a similar fashion to something like their previous maps? The maps have become more segmented in previous games, with Forsaken being the most segmented map in the series. This wouldn’t be an issue except the map was considerably small. How big is the Vanguard map going to be?

The biggest question, however, is. What is the future of zombies going to look like with Call of Duty Vanguard?

The consensus among fans is that Black Ops 3 was the best iteration of zombies, and the most well respected by Treyarch, enough to give it its own Zombies Only DLC Pack. Now, it seems that Treyarch is going to take the reigns for all the other Zombies experiences if they’re planning on keeping the story through the other Call of Duty titles. However, they’re doing the one thing that the series shouldn’t have done, and this is changing the core gameplay mechanics of the title. 

This isn’t the first time they’ve tried to do this, however, as this happened previously with the release of Black Ops 4. Treyarch decided to change the entire gameplay loop of Zombies by changing the entire perk system. By removing all the perks fans know and love for other perks, and then attempting to work the old perks into the base loadout made the game feel less like the game that players used to know. This on top of the elixirs changed the entire aspect of zombies for the worse. This was salvageable by adding more perks to the game that players could enjoy, however, what Treyarch is doing for Zombies is removing the one thing that kept players invested in Cold War Zombies. Removing the rounds from the maps. Instead, players will have to fight through objectives to progress the game, much like Outbreak, which was one of the main concerns of the game. It’s assumed that players would have been more invested in the title if they had focused on making the larger worlds more like the ground-based maps. 

However, if they’re attempting to change the mode, by putting the outbreak features in more smaller, compact maps that are akin to the round-based forms of the mode, it’s possible that this could also be the remedy that players are looking for, due to the fact that a lot of the maps are considered to be “empty”.

The addition of the entities inside of the special weapons for the game could also give a voice to the characters the player is taking control of, by having constant characters throughout the story that are going to be with the player, seeing what the player sees, it’s possible that this could fill the void of the 4 voiced protagonists of World at War up to Black Ops 4. 

However, the issue with this comes from the fact that players are going to be spending their time with the special weapons that are more powerful, as the three special weapons in Cold War that were most commonly used were Aether Shroud, Ring of Fire, and Healing Aura. Now, they’re going to have to ensure that dialogue can be done with one character or at least 2 characters if a squad only uses two of the special weapons. 

If this doesn’t make the cut, there’s a chance that Call of Duty is going to have to rework zombies once more, seeing that they’re changing the one thing from the game that players have dubbed important from Cold War, the Round-Based Maps. Now in Call of Duty Vanguard, Round Based isn’t going to be a thing for the mainline zombies experiences in the game. 

The phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” hasn’t rung truer in this situation, as the innovation on the formula feels more to the detriment of the game, rather than the improvement of the mode that longtime fans have been playing since the early days of the shooter’s life. Now, they’re attempting to fix what isn’t broken, which could backfire as it not only confuses new players but alienates old players who have been accustomed to the mechanics of the series that have remained relatively unchanged since the mode’s inception. What this could mean for the future of Zombies is up to the reception of the mode when it launches in 3 weeks on November 5th, 2021. Until then, all players are going to be able to do is cross their fingers, and hope that the title can prove that a new change of pace for the series is warranted.

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