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Sledgehammer addresses Activision Blizzard allegations as it announces Call of Duty: Vanguard

"The stories and the pain people have shared are simply devastating."

Sledgehammer Games addressed the recent Activision Blizzard allegations while announcing Call of Duty: Vanguard.

In a virtual preview of the upcoming shooter attended by Eurogamer, Sledgehammer Games studio head Aaron Halon addressed the allegations before revealing game details.

"The stories and the pain people have shared are simply devastating," Halon said.

"We love making games. That's what we do. It's our life's work, and we love it. But more importantly than that, we're all humans, we're here for each other, working side by side, and looking out for one another in good times and bad times.

"So on behalf of Sledgehammer Games, and all of the teams supporting Call of Duty Vanguard, harassment of any kind goes against everything we stand for as a studio. Everyone, regardless of title, role, gender, orientation, ethnicity, should be treated always with dignity, respect, and equality.

"While we cannot comment on the lawsuit, what I can say is that as a team, we are committed to making sure all team members feel safe, welcome, and respected. So please know as we start our presentation that these thoughts and actions are at the top of our minds, and will be going forward. They speak to the core values of who we are and who we wish to be. On behalf of everyone on the team, thank you.

"There's no easy way to switch gears talking about our game. So please pardon me for the awkward transition. The teams across the studio have been looking forward to this day for quite some time. And they've done amazing work. And it's my honour to be here to share this with you."

The State of California sued Activision Blizzard over what it alleges to be a "frat boy" culture that created "a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women".

The lawsuit alleges a culture of "constant sexual harassment", mainly at Blizzard Entertainment, the maker of World of Warcraft, Diablo and Overwatch. However, allegations have also been made relating to a number of Activision offices.

A coalition of workers from across multiple Activision Blizzard studios, collectively called the ABK Workers Alliance, has criticised the decision to hire WilmerHale - the same law firm helping Amazon keep its workers from unionising - to review the company.

Activision Blizzard executives such as boss Bobby Kotick have insisted "we will be the company that sets the example for this in our industry".

But the ABK Workers Alliance said last week Activision Blizzard has "yet to embrace significant change".

"With thousands of ABK employees on our side, we're hard at work building a movement that will continue to take action until real, tangible change is enacted," the organisation said.

Activision Blizzard has now announced Call of Duty: Vanguard, which is due out on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One and PC via on 5th November.

Vanguard returns to WW2 - the setting for Sledgehammer's Call of Duty: WW2, and tells the origin story of the Special Forces.

The campaign tells a fictional story "rooted in history" that revolves around a group of four soldiers collectively called Task Force One who go into the heart of Germany at the end of WW2 to foil what's called Project Phoenix, an attempt to keep the Nazi party going following Hitler's demise.

You get to play missions set in pivotal WW2 battles across the world, including The Battle of Midway and a night-time paratrooper assault behind enemy lines the night before D-Day.

In multiplayer, you play as the original Special Forces operators. At launch, multiplayer has 20 maps, including 16 core 6v6 maps and four 2v2 maps. These are set across all of the WW2 fronts Vanguard takes in: the western front, the eastern front, north Africa and the Pacific. The focus is on smaller, tighter maps, Sledgehammer said.

Gunsmith returns, this time with custom ballistics and ammo types. You can move along surfaces while mounted as well as blindfire over cover and other elements in the maps. There are reactive gameplay environments that let you break through boards and blow holes through walls to open new pathways.

A new mode, called Champion Hill, lets players play 1v1, 2v2 or 3v3 in a battle royale-type experience to be the last squad standing set in a four-map arena.

Vanguard Zombies is Call of Duty's first ever Zombies-crossover. It's developed by Black Ops Cold War studio Treyarch, and is designed as a WW2-set prequel to that game's Zombies experience. This provides continuity from a lore standpoint, Sledgehammer said.

Meanwhile, battle royale Warzone is getting a brand new, WW2-themed map later this year, as well as full integration with Vanguard. The new map is developed by Raven Studios, current Warzone custodian. Activision promised "a multi-faceted, new anti-cheat system" across Warzone, too.

Vanguard is built upon the engine Infinity Ward used to create 2019's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. This means Warzone shares the same tech as Vanguard, which will hopefully make for seamless weapon and operator integration after a number of issues with last year's Black Ops Cold War.

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