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

I’m about halfway through the campaign in Call of Duty: Vanguard, and so far it’s been a well-made but riskless foray through the various theaters of World War II. But one mission stood head and shoulders above the rest. Titled Stalingrad Summer, it sees you as Russian sniper Polina Petrova in a completely different confrontation in the bloodiest battle of World War II.

The summer of Stalingrad does not begin with a crossing of the Volga glacier, or a nail-biting attack on Pavlov’s house. Instead, you start with a cup of coffee, probably the best cup of coffee you’ve seen in a video game. Stalingrad Summer opens at Paulina’s father’s apartment, where Paulina’s brother joins them for a quick drink before she heads off to her deployment to the Red Army Medical Corps.

The atmosphere is nice and local, as if the Wehrmacht is on the other side of the world and not a few miles from the outskirts of the city. Residents of Stalingrad are confident in the ability of the Red Army to repel any attack, and therefore life continues as usual. We get a better sense of this natural state when Polina leaves the apartment, and goes out to see the brightly colored facades of the city’s buildings illuminated by the sun. The women hang their clothes to dry in the dorm corridors, while the man tries unsuccessfully to push a brightly colored sofa up a staircase.

(Image credit: Activision)

As someone who has only seen Stalingrad depicted as a gray, mound of rubble battlefield, it is fascinating to see the city cast such colour, for a glimpse into (almost) everyday civilian life before the fighting that turned the tide in the war. I have no idea how authentic Vanguard’s depiction of urban life in 1940s Russia was – I imagine it came with a huge dollhouse of artistic license. But the reality of the game depicts the Russian people as PersonsGiving distinct voices and personalities rather than treating them as fuel for the Red Army’s war machine cannons is important in and of itself.

The game depicts the Russian people as a people, with distinct voices and characters rather than treating them as fuel for the cannons of the Red Army’s war machine.


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