Dying Too Fast: Call of Duty: Vanguard's Time-To-Kill, or TTK, Problem Explained

Vanguard promotional artwork
Credit: Activision

Vanguard promotional artwork
Credit: Activision

Call of Duty: Vanguard just recently launched on November 5th, 2021, kicking off the 2021 cycle for Call of Duty after last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Like Cold War before it and Modern Warfare before that, Vanguard has issues at launch. One of the biggest problems gamers are having, from casual fans to eSport legends, is with the game’s TTK, or time-to-kill. In this article we’ll tell you everything you need to know about why you die so fast in Call of Duty: Vanguard and what the TTK problem is in the game.

Vanguard promo image night
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Credit: Activision

First off, a little history lesson: In Call of Duty past, many of the classic games had time-to-kills below 200 milliseconds, which is exceptionally fast. The average human reaction time, i.e. the time it takes for a thing to happen and then a human being to be able to react to that thing, is around 250 milliseconds. In Modern Warfare 2 with the Stopping Power Perk, time-to-kills could be as low as 100 milliseconds.

In recent years, Call of Duty games have had increasingly slower time-to-kills, aside from Modern Warfare 2019, but Call of Duty has changed a lot since the old days, and there are many features of the older games that influence time-to-kill and change how the weapons actually feel as opposed to how guns work nowadays.

Related: Is Call of Duty: Vanguard Zombies Good?

In older Call of Duty games there was randomized recoil. This means that when you shot a weapon, its recoil pattern was random, so you couldn’t predict and control it. In effect, this meant that an SMG, for example, was never going to reliably be able to take on fights at range because there wasn’t a way to reliably control the gun’s recoil.

Peer-to-peer matchmaking was another feature of older Call of Duty games. This meant that as opposed to the dedicated servers set up across different regions we have today, older Call of Duty games had players connect directly to each other, giving hosting duties to one of the players in the lobby.

Vanguard Zombies promotional image
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Credit: Activision

This meant that hit detection was always going to be unreliable, or at least would always be significantly more unreliable than what it could have been with dedicated servers. With unreliable hit detection comes bullets not registering and players cheating death when they would otherwise have died.

Related: How to Fix Call of Duty: Vanguard Connection Issues, Crashing Problems, and Matchmaking Glitches

Combined, these factors made the time-to-kills of older Call of Duty games feel a lot more forgiving than they actually were. This is why while Modern Warfare 2019’s average time-to-kill was only a little below 200 milliseconds, it still felt faster than any Call of Duty before it because with dedicated servers and controllable recoil, dying was almost too easy.

Plus, this time-to-kill is still well below the average human reaction time, so it’s safe to say that if an enemy saw you first and managed to get the first bullet out that they would win the gunfight. That combined with porous, hidey-hole-filled maps and a minimap and Perk system that encouraged passivity led to gameplay where you would constantly get deleted by people you never even had a chance with.

Call of Duty: Vanguard has a very similar issue. Time-to-kill in Vanguard is a little bit slower than Modern Warfare, hanging around the 200-millisecond mark, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. Not only does Vanguard not have randomized recoil and does have dedicated servers and a skill-based matchmaking system, the gunplay in the game works differently than Modern Warfare, too.

Vanguard promo image
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Credit: Activision

Related: Call of Duty: Vanguard Changes From Alpha & Beta Explained

In Vanguard headshots are heavily rewarded more than they were in Modern Warfare (and flich is pretty substantial, making accidental headshots a thing), and also in Vanguard you can have up to ten attachments on a single weapon, meaning that there are many more ways to customize your loadout and kit weapons to do different things damage-wise. All of this combined has led to an experience where the practical time-to-kill can be even faster than Modern Warfare’s TTK or at the least as fast as Modern Warfare’s TTK.

When you contrast both Vanguard’s TTK problem and Modern Warfare’s TKK problem with Black Ops Cold War, the differences are substantial: Black Ops Cold War had a TTK in the 300 millisecond range which is about a third slower than Vanguard and Modern Warfare. This time-to-kill is still exceptionally fast for a shooter, but it’s actually a little slower than the average human’s reaction time, meaning that gunfights could feel dynamic and that you still had a shot even if someone saw you first.

Having such a fast TTK in a video game lowers the skill-ceiling, but it also makes the experience worse for casual players of the game, too. With games like Vanguard or Modern Warfare, since the TTK is so quick, casual gamers are encouraged to take things slow, camp, and lockdown unusual angles hidden away in shadow or behind some hard-to-see cover.

Related: Call of Duty: Vanguard and Warzone Integration Explained

These are bad habits in first-person shooter games that never will lead to wins, good in-game performance, or even an action-packed, exciting gameplay experience, but casual players are forced into these habits because otherwise they won’t be able to compete with more experienced players that can laser them in the blink of an eye.

Vanguard promo artwork
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Credit: Activision

With a larger pool of health available, both experienced gamers and casual players alike have flexibility in gunfights and can work on fundamental skills like tracking or centering. Players can try to outmaneuver their opponents, and they can have access to a much wider pool of weapons to try out and play with as opposed to being forced to use one or two meta guns. In short, a slower TTK is better for everyone: Maybe it makes it easier for a significantly better player to win a gunfight with a much worse player, but that’s only natural, and with a skill-based matchmaking system in place, gamers shouldn’t be matched up with other gamers of wildly different skill-levels anyways.

Black Ops Cold War has a very fast TTK compared to other shooters like Halo, for example, but its time-to-kill is slow enough to give everyone a chance, and Cold War, even with a slower time-to-kill, is a faster-paced game than either Vanguard or Modern Warfare precisely because of this fact: When you aren’t guaranteed to get deleted if you don’t see somebody first, you feel a lot more empowered to move around the map.

Related: Call of Duty's Anti-Cheat Ricochet in Warzone and Vanguard Explained

Even with the Modern Warfare engine’s fluid movement and amazing capacity for speed that outstrips Cold War’s movement, the gameplay design of the games that use this engine makes it so that running around and taking on gunfights aggressively is not the most effective playstyle. Plus, much of the problem with balance in Vanguard could be easily fixed with a slower TTK, because weapons that once killed people in two shots could then take three or four, giving people a chance to react.

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