Call of Duty: Vanguard Turns Kiwi War Hero Into An Australian

Call of Duty: Vanguard Turns Kiwi War Hero Into An Australian
Call of Duty: Vanguard's Lucas Riggs (Image: Call of Duty: Vanguard)

The upcoming Call of Duty: Vanguard returns to the Second World War, and in doing so its singleplayer campaign follows the exploits of four soldiers from across the world. Each is technically fictional, but each is also based heavily on an actual veteran from the conflict.

The four soldiers you play as are Russian sniper Polina Petrova, British paratrooper Arthur Kingsley, American pilot Wade Jackson and Australian infantryman Lucas Riggs. Each of those characters is intended to be as slight a deviation as possible from a historical figure from the war.

Petrova is modelled on Lyudmila Pavlichenko, aka Lady Death. Kingsley is Sidney Cornell, the first black man to land on D-Day. Jackson is Vernon Micheel, a hero of the Battle of Midway. And Riggs is supposed to be Charles Upham, the only man in history to be awarded two Victoria Crosses.

The problem I’m getting to here is that Petrova, Kingsley and Jackson are all represented as coming from the same nations as their historical inspiration. For some reason, however, Riggs is an Australian in Call of Duty: Vanguard, while the real Charles Upham was actually from New Zealand.

As New Zealand site Newshub says, “Charles Upham’s significance cannot be overstated. No other combat soldier has ever been awarded two Victoria Crosses in all of history. That incredible achievement belongs to our country alone, Aotearoa New Zealand.”

“It’s like turning Sir Edmund Hillary into an Australian, or Lorde, or Jonah Lomu. It’s an insult. At best, it’s ignorance; at worst, it’s a giant middle finger to us all.”

Let me explain why their hackles are up. New Zealand is a tiny country by global standards, with a population of just under five million people. But it has long punched above its weight on the world stage, from sport to its contributions to popular culture, something New Zealanders are justifiably proud of. That pride extends to the nation’s efforts in both World Wars.

To have one of their national heroes represented in this game, and then turned into someone from Australia, sucks! And I say that as an Australian. If the other three characters from the game’s singleplayer campaign were modelled so closely on their real-life counterparts, why make such a move for the fourth?

Bizarrely, Sledgehammer actually responded to Newshub’s questions on the matter, with Creative Director David Swenson saying “As with all the main characters in the campaign, we drew a lot of inspiration from real life soldiers. With Lucas Riggs, we drew a lot of that inspiration from Charles Upham, whose exploits embodied the spirit of all the Commonwealth forces serving in North Africa.”

So…yeah, except you made him an Australian! And you didn’t even need to! I honestly can’t think of a single good reason to do this. Swenson’s comments show it clearly wasn’t a mistake, as unlikely that explanation may have been. Australia is itself a tiny market — with a population of around 25 million — and is rarely represented in games like this, so it’s not like it’ll make a difference in terms of sales.

And when it comes to optics, Australians aren’t exactly going to beam with pride over the inclusion/switcheroo of a Kiwi hero either, when if Sledgehammer wanted to honour an Aussie soldier they could have just picked someone from…Australia. I know for people elsewhere in the world this likely won’t be a big deal, if it’s a deal at all, but I’m just floored by the pointlessness of this snub.

Thanks Jon!

Image: Call of Duty: Vanguard Image: Call of Duty: Vanguard


  • “Australians aren’t exactly going to beam with pride over the inclusion/switcheroo of a Kiwi hero”

    ANZAC spirit, I have pride a Kiwi hero story is being told… going to read up on him tonight.

    I am insulted that would change him because if some bizarre design choice, our NZ brothers and sisters are honoured on Australian soil for who they are and the sacrifices they made fighting side by side under the ANZAC emblem beside our grandparents and great grand parents.

    • ‘Honoured’ might be a bit of a stretch, considering they make up half of our deportations under the current legislation, irrespective of their circumstances in Australia or even if they’ve lived in Australia for most their life.

        • “..our NZ brothers and sisters are honoured on Australian soil for who they are and the sacrifices they made fighting side by side under the ANZAC emblem beside our grandparents and great grand parents.”

          I get our education standards have been slipping, but c’mon mate, basic reading comprehension.

          • Sisters and brothers I am talking about are ANZAC service men and women past, present and future, for we on ANZAC day and Remembrance day honour them. They are the NZ in Anzac. Lest We Forget

            I know what I wrote and meant, and I was talking about the ANZAC spirit… you seem to have read it to mean something completely different and interjected your own tangent on an unrelated topic which I showed no opinion on or what relationships I have with New Zealanders.

            Which is why I want to read up on Charles, and came back to this page to find his full name… to end up seeing your interjection, was personally insulting.

            (P.S. I don’t agree with Australia’s deportation policy in that it is unduly harsh cause its not a mutual agreement with NZ which is leaner)

          • You brought up something completely unrelated in a vain attempt to be xenophobic, Therefore I assume you were mentally unwell.

            Your further comments have only reinforced that opinion.

  • Yeah, not cool bro. It’s one of those things where no-one can hurt your little brother except you.

    It’s only OK to appropriate kiwi legends when Aussies do it, because we’re (usually, hopefully) fully-aware that they aren’t ours and it’s a kind of compliment saying we wish they were ours, and everyone knows it. Like when we say that Sam Neill is an Australian legend. And that Russell Crowe was until he fell out of favour and now the Kiwis can have him back. It’s an immature compliment, but a compliment.

    Note this doesn’t apply to pavlova or the flat white, which we definitely invented and will fight to the death over.

  • Whilst I agree with the point that this article is making, it feels disingenuous when only a few years ago the same author and this site as a whole was arguing for the opposite side with quotes like:

    “To truly present something “accurate” to the time period would probably result in a game you wouldn’t really enjoy playing. What we often see in a “historical” FPS action game is just the visual trappings. And that’s OK – it’s a mass-market action game, not a history lesson.”

    Now obviously there was the added nuance back then that some arguing for accuracy were thinly-veiled sexists, but when the plethora of articles were also ignoring legitimate outcries for proper representation of the actual heroes, trying to do so now rings hollow.

    • It’s really not the same argument as simply letting people choose their gender in a game. The outrage back then was clearly sexist and exclusionary, whether intentional or not. I don’t know how that renders this article hollow. This article is similarly about representation in a game. And the quote you used still holds up in that context.

  • As a kiwi ex-soldier,( although NOT a combat veteran) I suppose it does p*** me off a bit , Capt Upham being someone we all looked up to with profound admiration, pride and indeed AWE , to be portrayed as being from another country ( albeit our greatest friend and ally), it makes me wonder ( I’m assuming the game developers are American ), if they had a character based on the US’s greatest war hero
    Audie Murphy ( look him up , he was amazing ),
    how would they feel if he was portrayed as being say……….Mexican ?? ????

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!