Call of Duty: Vanguard multiplayer creators on killstreaks replacing scorestreaks, quick-scoping and lessons learned from WWII

This year's annual Call of Duty game was released today, so fans in New Zealand and all around the world are currently neck-deep in an intense flurry of trying out the new title's multiplayer modes, as they do every November.

But Call of Duty: Vanguard has garnered controversy ahead of its release as well as all the usual eager anticipation.

The game's single-player campaign has a character inspired by New Zealand war hero Charles Upham but has made him Australian, while early access to multiplayer modes triggered various complaints from some journalists and players, along with praise.

Some of the multiplayer criticisms have been directed at the game's return to a 'killstreak' system, which the last few Call of Duty titles have done away with in favour of 'scorestreaks'.

With scorestreaks, players are rewarded with in-game bonuses for completing the objectives of a match they're playing - be it capturing a flag, defending a hardpoint and so on - along with other actions that help their team like disabling enemy equipment. The killstreak system awards the bonuses solely for kills and nothing else, regardless of what the match's objectives are.

This has caused concern about people playing in a way that maximises the number of kills they get individually at the expense of everything else, which will frustrate their teammates if it means they're losing matches as a result.

"Killstreaks are a pure reward for going after enemies and having fun within the game. It's about the fantasy of being a Special Forces Operator, going to these maps and just tearing them up," Vanguard multiplayer creative director Greg Reisdorf told Newshub.

"We've haven't really found any evidence to state one way or the other that scorestreaks are going to stop people from eliminating enemies or killstreaks are going to stop people from playing the objective," Reisdorf continued.

"Objectives can be seen as really just a way to know where the enemies are going to be and a way to know where to go get your kills."

Reisdorf's colleague, Vanguard's senior development director Adam Iscove, also denied the killstreak system discourages playing for one's team in game modes other than Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed.

"Playing the objective is the way you get the most kills, for example in Domination or Hardpoint or Patrol," said Iscove.

"If you want to rack up kills, you're going to the control point because that's where the enemy is concentrated. You can get three, four, five kills in a row and then get your killstreaks that way."

Newshub's Daniel Rutledge interview with Call of Duty:Vanguard multiplayer creators.
Photo credit: Sledgehammer Games / Activision

The reintroduction of killstreaks could also be seen as part of a wider push to emphasise where Call of Duty multiplayer is being positioned in the market.

The brand's standalone battle royale mode Warzone is a slower-paced experience in which a player could potentially not die once in a 30-minute match and only score a few kills along the way. In contrast, classic multiplayer modes like Team Deathmatch and Domination are generally around 10 minutes-long, and in that time players can rack up dozens of kills.

Somewhat in between these two experiences are rivals like the Battlefield franchise which feature longer, generally slower-paced multiplayer matches with a stronger focus on team objectives, but still offer the classic kill/die/respawn excitement that battle royale modes do not.

"Vanguard is very, very fast-paced; a high-risk, high-reward environment. It's almost the opposite of what we're seeing in the battle royale genre, where it's an experience focused around exploring and looting," said Reisdorf.

"With the combat pacing system and our take on the maps, we've really amped up the action in a lot of ways where it does become super high-risk, high-reward. There's so many players in these maps that just to get those high-end killstreaks, you're laying everybody out and you're doing it very, very quickly."

"We've spent a really long time tuning our game so that not only is time-to-action really quick, but the fairness and flow of those engagements feels really good," Vanguard lead designer Zach Hodson told Newshub.

"You might get a triple kill, but you might get killed two times in a row. You'll likely have somewhere in between that experience pretty consistently and we just really focused on getting every moment to feel really good."

Getting Vanguard's pace right was a major priority for Sledgehammer Games. It is the studio's follow-up to Call of Duty: WWII, which was released in 2017 to mixed reviews.

"We got a lot of feedback, even internally, about what World War II combat meant to players. We found that it was slower, more regimented - what a lot of people term 'tactical pace'," said Hodson.

"[With Vanguard] we took a lot of inspiration from smaller skirmish battles and tried to put a lot of attitude into the combat that wasn't there with the previous WWII game. This really helped when we started to develop more of the mechanics and doing things that are a little bit extraordinary - like running through walls - that are really fun."

Japanese World War II soldier in Call of Duty: Vanguard multiplayer.
Photo credit: Sledgehammer Games / Activision

Another element of Call of Duty that differentiates it from some other first-person shooter games is the ability to 'quick-scope' or 'no-scope', which allows a player to quickdraw a powerful sniper rifle and fire it off instantly yet accurately.

In other games, using a sniper rifle is a slower process in which players have to carefully aim an unwieldy weapon that's much more different to alternatives like a submachine gun or pistol.

Hodson said the level at which players can quick-scope in Vanguard is "competitive" with other Call of Duty games.

"We do have the 'flinch' mechanic, which some recent Call of Duty games have not had. We also have iron sights sniper builds that are specifically for quick-scoping that do have trade-offs associated with them, so that they don't get overpowered in other areas," said Hodson.

"Our builds across the board are a little bit more varied than any other games. We've done our best to try to balance the fast, quick-scope snipers against the other quickdraw weapons."

It's always tricky getting the balance right with this sort of gameplay and whether or not Sledgehammer Games has nailed it with Vanguard is now up to the players.

The game launched today on Windows, PlayStation and Xbox platforms.