The four heroes of Call of Duty: Vanguard's upcoming return to WW2 may not explicitly be real people. But they're pretty closely based on real people, tracking as closely as possible to the famous fighters they draw inspiration from.
Which is why it's somewhat baffling that New Zealander Charles Upham, one of the rare few men to ever be awarded two Victoria crosses, has been turned Australian in his reimagination as Vanguard's Lucas Riggs.
"It’s like turning Sir Edmund Hillary into an Australian, or Lorde, or Jonah Lomu," New Zealand outlet Newshub explained (via Kotaku). "It’s an insult. At best, it’s ignorance; at worst, it’s a giant middle finger to us all."
"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."
Vanguard's other protagonists (Polina Petrova, Arthur Kingsley, and Wade Jackson) all get to come from their real-world counterparts' home countries of Russia, Britain, and the US respectively. So what's the deal with Riggs? In a response to Newshub, Sledgehammer reasserted that it drew a lot of inspiration from Upham when creating Riggs, writing:
"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.”
The claim that he represents every Commonwealth nation is likely to ring a little flat, mind. The Commonwealth was (and still is) composed of different nations with vastly differing cultures—and outside of rare instances like Umurangi Generation, New Zealand doesn't often get a spotlight in games.
Call of Duty: Vanguard launches on November 5th, though you'll be able to try the game's new "Champion Hill" mode in a multiplayer beta later this month.