A well-oiled machine.
World War II games have finally begun to make a comeback, and Wargaming.net is leading the charge with World of Tanks. This free-to-play tank warfare game puts players in control of over 150 types of rolling thunder from numerous nations on various WWII-era maps. Even though this explosive game has already been released on the PC and Xbox One, the PS4 version ups the ante with an advanced tutorial and a few exclusives. Are you ready to jump into a reinforced steel box and punch through the frontlines as you lead the charge to victory?
Instead of throwing players directly into battle and letting them learn the hard way, the PS4 version of this game introduces a full tutorial mode. Promising tank jockeys are introduced to the game via a single-player mode called Proving Grounds that offers extensive training and several different scenarios to try out. While the core mode consists of a 15v15 deathmatch-style combat with A.I. friendlies and enemies rounding out the roster, there are also several other modes like capture the flag and even an unusual tank race.
It's fun to play these modes as they're a great way to get your feet wet without being at the mercy of game veterans, but it's much more exhilarating to play against real people. Most of the A.I. tanks rush towards the goal firing at everything within range, but human opponents are much more cautious and tend to incorporate strategies that overwhelm lone-wolf players.
One of the biggest reasons for caution is that players only get one tank per match, which is the way it should be. Constant respawning in shooters tends to make players take bigger risks because they can just hop right back into battle, but having no respawns has the opposite effect. As a result, there's much more teamwork involved, such as sending light tanks out to recon the area and spot enemies for their heavily-armored teammates to blast into smithereens. In addition, hiding behind rocks and buildings is commonplace as it gives players a decent amount of cover. Tanks that roll out in the open without a care in the world will be quickly destroyed by coordinated attacks from the enemy.
Patient players will find it easy to destroy enemies thanks to the combination of user-friendly controls and developer decisions. All players have to do is line up their shot with the tank and wait for the reticle to turn red, and blam!, it's almost always a hit! This leads to my biggest gripe about this game—there's no bullet (shell) drop. Players can shoot tanks from close up or use their sniper scope to hit them from far away, and the shell will almost always hit the exact spot at which the reticle rests. This is very unrealistic and makes it too easy to win battles, especially when you factor in the ability to target weak spots like hitting tank treads to immobilize enemies.
Regardless, I still really enjoy the empowering feeling of rolling around guiding tons of steel as I crash through walls and trees and blast unsuspecting enemies. Thankfully, I still have to lead moving enemies in order to hit them, so keep in mind that this also applies to being hit by the enemy.
All players begin the game with a few light tanks, and they must win battles and earn silver to purchase medium and heavy tanks as well as tank destroyers and artillery. Light tanks move fast and don't inflict much damage, so they're best for scouting the enemy and capturing areas. Medium tanks move a bit slower and do more damage, so they're more versatile and can perform many functions. Heavy tanks have nearly impenetrable armor and inflict heavy damage on the enemy, which makes them ideal for hiding in the background, taking shots, and moving to a new location. Tank destroyers and artillery have light armor but inflict heavy damage, so it's best to keep them in the background and hit enemies from afar.
These last two classes fire differently than tanks, so the controls for them are different. Since they can't fire while moving, the screen changes to an overhead view and players select their enemy and then fire and forget. Once nice touch is that all tanks can be upgraded to improve their performance in a number of ways, and when all upgrades are acquired, a new tier of that particular tank becomes available.
I'm very impressed with how fantastic this game looks in action. Everything looks realistic, from the blades of grass to rolling hills to the sight of a round hitting an enemy tank. In addition, I love being able to crash through smaller structures and topple trees as I roll my ten-ton behemoth towards the enemy. I also appreciate small details, like seeing a partially destroyed building catch fire or a piece of a train take damage. This game also has great audio, and the sound of a tank shell falling to the floor of the tank as a new one is loaded is spot on. It's impressive that the only lag I've encountered during 15v15 online battles is a slight stutter at the beginning of some matches.
World of Tanks is a great free-to-play game, and I think the developers have created an ideal scenario for the pay-to-play aspect. Nearly everything that can be purchased with real money can be earned in the game; it just takes much longer. Players can buy tanks outright, obtain cosmetic features, or purchase gold that can be traded for silver, which is what players also earn during matches. Silver is used for buying new tanks, tank upgrades, and other useful items. The only thing I found that can be purchased with gold that can't be bought with silver is a 25% increase in the training for tank crews. This is more of a pay-to-have-a-slight-advantage than a pay-to-win feature. While it isn't necessary to spend a dime of real money to have a great time with this game, it certainly is tempting to buy a new tank rather than earn it.
I'm having a great time playing World of Tanks, and that's not solely due to my affinity for the era. I truly appreciate playing a game that not only encourages strategy and teamwork, but also requires it for victory. The sheer number of tanks and upgrades is practically overwhelming, and the large variety of modes keeps me busy without getting tiresome. With new content coming out on a regular basis, I foresee myself being a tank jockey for a long time!