By: Justin Redmon
I’ve never been the biggest supporter of tanks in war games. Far too often I find myself getting absolutely hammered by one-shot kill shells fired from across the map, or to have my chance of driving said war machine snatched away by someone who will immediately send it off a cliff. I tend to keep my distance when at all possible. World of Tanks always seemed to win me over somehow, bolstering the standard shell-for-shell combat with team-play dynamics, and revealing an underbelly of strategy and tactics I wouldn’t have thought possible. Now with the PC hit coming to the console space, just how smooth was the transition?
World of Tanks eases you in quite nicely when it comes to learning the ins and outs of your tank, with a training level that teaches you the basics, as well as a ton of videos that make some of the more intricate matters of different tank types and game mechanics pretty clear. Still, some things go unmentioned, and you can’t help but feel like World of Tanks has a trial-by-fire approach to getting new players rolling. All and all though, World of Tanks makes a nice transition to controller, with an easy and straightforward control scheme that doesn’t leave much to complain about.
It’s the graphics department where things get a little iffy. Maps themselves are impressive in scale, with long lines of sight, rolling hills, and other touches that make each a treat to roll across in your machine of war. Tanks are meticulously crafted and detailed, and those who choose to can dole out a bit extra to personalize your craft how you choose, with select images and text or full blown camouflage paint jobs.
The sound design adds a lot of punch to the gameplay as well, where every shot fired is like a kick to the chest, while shots bouncing off the side of your tank add a tension to battles few could expect.
Ultimately, however, World of Tanks just feels lacking in the visuals department, with many textures and effects feeling somewhat sub-par amidst the high quality tanks. Though probably not as good looking as it could be, World of Tanks definitely delivers a satisfying experience, and makes every shot sent or received a moment of impact to be feared or relished.
After getting acquainted with the tutorial, jumping into your first fight will most likely end just as quickly as it began, with an unceremonious death. World of Tanks sort of kicks the chair out from under you in this aspect, and the tutorial doesn’t really scratch the surface of how you actually battle other tanks.
Tanks are mostly slow, hulking monsters, and you’ll be quick to learn the importance of things like positioning and waiting for the perfect shot. It may come as a surprise to most how slow and methodical most matches play out, and with 15 tanks cruising around on each team, the name of the game here is teamwork, and knowing your tank’s strengths and weaknesses.
Here, tanks come in one of five flavors: Light, Medium, Heavy, Artillery, and Tank Destroyers. Each has their own role in matches, ranging from fast and nimble scouts to long range snipers and artillery tanks. Matches boil down to good scouting and better map management, using natural chokepoints to force enemies into your cannon fire, or just plain out firing your opponents.
When firing down range, it helps to take proper aim into effect, as tanks have multiple weak points to exploit during battle. An expertly aimed shot can ignite enemy ammo, halt movement, or disable crew members in their tank, severely crippling their fighting ability. If the odds in a straight out battle seem to tilt in the enemy’s favor, those who aren’t looking for a fight can also win a match by capturing the enemy base, so extra care has to be taken when considering who goes to fight and who stays behind to protect.
Being taken out early isn’t as bad as it may sound, either, as you can still back out to the main menu and jump into one of your other tanks straight into another battle, getting the spoils from your fight as soon as the previous match reaches its conclusion. It’s possible some might find the sameness of tank battling between matches to be somewhat boring, but there’s a satisfying edge to every shot fired and enemy destroyed that’s likely to keep you coming back for more. The team play with your allies is almost a reward in and of itself.
All the fighting has to have a purpose though, and good performances will find you rewarded with Tank XP and silver, World of Tanks’ version of currency. Tank XP itself actually comes in two versions, tank-specific XP and free XP. XP is used to research new tanks and upgrades, with free XP letting you use it to research upgrades for any tank you want, not just the one you earned it on. Silver is used to purchase said upgrades and new tanks. Although it can take some time to gather up resources for your next purchase, there are daily first-win bonuses for every tank you own to help, encouraging you to switch around the tank you go into battle with. Seeing as there are 10 tiers of tanks for each category, you probably won’t run out of things to look forward to unlocking for quite a while.
Being a free-to-play title, monetization makes an appearance as well, handled with an in-game currency much like silver: gold. Gold is purchased with real-world money, letting you gain access to things like premium time and special tanks.
Premium time is probably the most useful, letting you earn more silver and XP per game, cutting down possible grind without any in-game benefit. Special tanks might be the closest the game gets to pay to win, although they require previous research like any other you want to unlock. These tanks come fully upgraded upon purchase and have other bonuses special to them, like earning free XP every match.
Purchasing these tanks seems sort of pointless though, as with so many tiers to choose from, there are many that outclass their specific strengths right around the corner, so those who put up the money for these vehicles aren’t exactly getting a leg up on the competition.
World of Tanks 360 Edition is a definite winner in the free-to-play space, offering satisfyingly tense tank battles that value teamwork over being a one man army.