Call Of Duty Vanguard review in progress – why publishers withhold review copies

GameCentral doesn’t have a review of Call Of Duty: Vanguard today, and neither do most other sites, but what has Activision got to hide?

The new Call Of Duty is out today and, as usual, Activision doesn’t really want anyone to review it. Looking on Metacritic there are currently only 10 scored reviews online, limited to just one or two from each country.

We, like seemingly most outlets, only got our review copies late last night and so have only been able to scratch the surface in terms of the story campaign and multiplayer.

Back in September, we got to play the multiplayer during a preview event, where we described it as a game lacking an obvious hook and one that ‘doesn’t feel like it’s quite found its own voice yet’.

That seems to marry with the general consensus amongst fans, many of whom were disappointed by the Second World War setting from the moment it was announced (or before, given how early it was leaked).

It’s certainly an unexpected choice as, from what we’ve seen so far, the game doesn’t seem to do anything new with the setting, other than the virtue of having so many different locations.

Looking at the few reviews that are up already, Eurogamer, the only UK site to have a review today, describes it as a ‘decent stop-gap for those waiting for Modern Warfare’s return’.

Gamespot give it a 7/10 and tells readers that ‘you pretty much know what you’re getting’. Meanwhile, IGN only has a review in progress and describes the game as ‘a fun, truly cinematic campaign that lacks variety’.

All of which is probably exactly what you would have guessed, given the marketing and previews so far. Even the most controversial Call Of Duty games, like 2016’s Infinite Warfare, are still competently made shooters and there was clearly never any danger of Vanguard being an actively bad game.

The obvious question, then, is why don’t Activision want the game to be reviewed? The most straightforward answer to that is that a good review will help the game relatively little, while a bad one would have a much more significant effect – especially if it was published before launch.

That does demonstrate a cowardly lack of confidence in their own game, especially when it seems its worst sins are merely that it’s unremarkable and overfamiliar, but it’s a simple marketing calculation that all publishers make.

Activision is certainly not the only company to purposefully withhold review copies until the last minute but the reasons for doing so are complicated, with many having confidence in the game in general but desperate not to let anyone play it until the day one patch is ready.

So while it used to be a rule of thumb that the closer a review embargo is to the release date the less confidence the publisher has in the game, there are far more factors involved nowadays.

Although if Vanguard was an unplayable, buggy mess before the application of the day one patch that’s not evident from anything we’ve seen of it.

There is of course also the fact that Activision is embroiled in several lawsuits about its toxic work conditions, and could do with as little bad publicity as possible, but given the last few years it’s always been late with review copies that’s probably not a factor.

We’ll try and get a review up as soon as possible – which will involve us playing it all weekend – but we can’t say anything definitive about the game yet, except it’s neither an instant classic or a complete disaster.

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