The Call of Duty: Vanguard alpha has begun (August 27 at the time of writing). We’ll be providing full coverage over the weekend for those who are either on Xbox, PC or didn’t prepare an excuse for their loved ones. Right. Let’s start with how this Champion Hill mode works.
This is available to all PlayStation users right now, provided they are PlayStation Plus subscribers. It will be playable until Sunday, August 29 at 10:00 PT (13:00 ET 18:00 BST 19:00 CEST), so if you're eligible then get it on the download, it's about 20GB.
Champion Hill is a mode for 8 teams of 2, so there are 16 of you fighting in total. The alpha only gives us access to this one mode, the store (which is basically a link to the Call of Duty: Vanguard pre-order page on the PS Store), and the settings menu. We’ll follow up on the settings in greater detail, but for now - let’s load up a game of Champion Hill and discover what we’ll actually be doing this weekend.
Vanguard Alpha - How Does Champion Hill Work?
The only available version of Champion Hill that we could play was for teams of 2 but we know that teams of 3 will be possible on-release. Here’s how it works:
- You do not have loadouts but instead, begin with an MP-40 (an SMG) by default.
- When you first load in, you’ll be standing in a circle facing the other 15 players, all of you positioned like numbers on a clock.
- In the middle of the hub are four buy stations, one for perks, one for weapons, one for equipment, and one for killstreaks.
- The game begins with a buying round so you can’t hurt anyone - don’t waste your bullets. What you can do is rush forward and spend money on equipment, you start with 500 and this is about enough for a basic weapon, but many items cost thousands.
- From this point, you’re going to leave the hub to play 2v2 matches and then (if you haven’t run out of lives) return to the hub to spend the money you earned.
- When the first proper round begins you’ll realize you’re playing on a gunfight-sized map that has the same theme as the hub - a North African military camp. There's about 500 in cash dotted around and one life point that can be grabbed to win your team an extra life. The life point always spawns equidistant between both teams, but sometimes at the edge rather than the center of the map.
- Your team starts with 12 lives and every time you die in one of these gunfight-style matches you lose a life. The matches last for exactly 1 minute. It’s basically about preserving your lives until the final round if you make it.
Pro Tip: I've been grinding since the alpha went live and so far my duos partner and I have found the spotter plane to be OP in this mode, as is the STG-44 with a red dot. Also - do not forget that life point in the center of the map - if you have an opportunity to safely grab it then do so.
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The Verdict On Champion Hill
Sledgehammer is like the baby brother or sister to the older Infinity Ward and Treyarch. They aren’t taken as seriously as the smallest development studio, and they have a hard time really getting into the competition. This mode is clearly an attempt by Sledgehammer to be known for something unique to them. Back in CoD: WWII they achieved this quite well with ‘War’ - a great mode that sadly hasn’t returned to Call of Duty in the intervening years. But here, I’m afraid their attempt at something new is hit and miss.
You can see the kernel of a good idea here; the beloved gunfight tournaments made into a permanent mode with opportunities to armor up between rounds. What made gunfight tournaments of 2v2 so exhilarating is lost though:
- The equipment buying makes the whole thing less competitive - you might get lucky and find more cash than others. In gunfight, everyone starts every round on an even playing field.
- Because this mode is won through attrition it encourages camping. Preserving lives is really the key, not making kills.
- Champion Hill has a strange losing system that isn’t quite knockout. That’s a big mistake, it should simply be a knockout tournament if they want it to have the ‘showdown’ atmosphere they’re clearly aiming for.
- Gunfight Tourney’s were exciting because they were temporary. I have a hard time imagining why you would play this if it was a permanent fixture over the standard gunfight mode.
I will say, far more positively, that while I didn’t enjoy this particular mode, I did enjoy the feel of the weapons and the movement in Vanguard. I’ll be going into this in greater depth throughout the alpha so keep an eye on our Call of Duty section.