Call of Duty: Vanguard’s standout mission shows a different side to Stalingrad


I’m about midway through the campaign in Call of Duty: Vanguard, and so far it’s been a well-made but unadventurous foray through the various theatres of World War II. But one mission has stood out head and shoulders above the rest. Titled Stalingrad Summer, it sees you play as Russian sniper Polina Petrova in a very different take on World War II’s bloodiest battle.

Stalingrad Summer doesn’t begin with an icy crossing of the River Volga, or a nail-biting assault on Pavlov’s House. Instead, it kicks off with a cup of coffee, quite possibly the best-looking cup of coffee I’ve ever seen in a videogame. Stalingrad Summer opens in the apartment of Polina’s father, where they are joined for a quick brew by Polina’s brother before she heads off to her deployment in the Red Army’s medical corps.

The atmosphere is genial and domestic, as if the Wehrmacht were on the other side of the world rather than a few miles beyond the city’s outskirts. The people of Stalingrad are confident in the Red Army’s ability to fend off any attack, and so life carries on almost as normal. We get a better sense of that normality as Polina leaves the apartment, stepping outside to see the brightly coloured facades of the city buildings illuminated by the sun. Women hang out their washing to dry in tenement corridors, while a man futilely tries to push a brightly coloured sofa up a flight of stairs.

(Image credit: Activision)

As someone who’s only seen Stalingrad portrayed as a grey and rubble-strewn battlefield, it’s striking to see the city lent such colour, to get a glimpse of (almost) everyday civilian life before the fight that turned the tide in the war. I’ve no idea how authentic Vanguard’s portrayal of urban living in 1940s Russia is—I imagine it comes with a hefty dollop of artistic license. But the fact the game portrays the Russian people as people, given voices and distinctive personalities rather than treating them as cannon fodder for the Red Army’s war machine, is significant in and of itself.

The game portrays the Russian people as people, given voices and distinctive personalities rather than treating them as cannon fodder for the Red Army’s war machine



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