World of Tanks has been around for awhile now, arriving on the PC back in 2011 for most regions, before moving to the Xbox 360 a few years later. Whilst there will always be some scepticism concerning free-to-play games featuring micro-transactions, the game garnered generally positive reviews, including our own, and our community even voted it 2014's Best Vehicular Combat Title. The game has always had something; constant title updates have brought more content, more tanks, more battles, and more improvements. Now those same tanks are rumbling onto the Xbox One and happily for those tank fans out there, the title just got even better again.
Despite those many title updates and transitions across different platforms, the essence of the game has remained the same. Players engage in PvP battles featuring tanks of various size and class, trying to defeat the opposition by destroying all of their tanks, or capturing their base. Battle efforts are rewarded with credits and XP which can then be used to upgrade existing tanks by adding new packages or to research and purchase new and more advanced tanks. Additionally, there is the Ops mode which presents player with in-game challenges, providing XP multipliers and additional in-game rewards. On the surface, it's all very simple but underneath there is so much more to this game.
There are five classes of tanks from which to choose from light tanks all of the way up to tank destroyers and artillery, and all are sourced from different nations. Additionally the tanks come from the mechanical age, so there are no modern warfare weapons to be found. The most modern come from the early post-war/cold-war period in history, whereas the earliest would have been seen attacking the trenches in WWI. There are over 400 tanks available in the game which the player can research and progress to through a development tree which mimics the real life development of the various vehicles beginning with Mk I's and moving through the different refinements and improvements, including better engines, tracks, and weaponry. Whilst few tanks are available at the start being able to scroll through the tree from left to right allows the player to plot their development path. All that is needed is get into battle, earn XP and credits, start researching and developing, and that illusive level X tank could be yours.
Essentially, that is how the game works and keeps the players engaged. Players will earn medals, XP, and credits which can then be spent on tanks, modifications, and training crews; all of which are aimed at improving your chance of survival on what can be at times a very intense and extremely busy battlefield. Some of the items are purely cosmetic, but some can make a big difference to your survival rate. Packages can improve the durability of a tank and improve the speed or weaponry. Crews can be trained in one particular skill at a time, improving the time for repairs, or spotting the enemy quicker or at a greater distance. There are even perks that can be purchased for use in single battle, similar to burn cards in BF4. This all costs time and money, and while you can level up fairly quickly through those early tank levels, hitting those higher echelons will demand increasingly more time and effort, but that's not entirely a bad thing as the battlefields are a joy to behold.
Naturally, the graphics have been improved and make use of the additional power in the new console. The tanks have been given a visual upgrade and show finer details. Exhaust fumes spew from the engines and heat waves wash from hotter exhausts. Dust clouds erupt around the tracks as the tanks are violently jolted from the recoil of their guns and in the rain the metalwork glistens. Whilst this is all available on the Xbox 360 version too, it just looks so much better on the Xbox One. The battlefields seem more vibrant and, somewhat ironically, more alive. Blades of grass flutter, trees sway in the breeze, water glistens, insects chatter, all idyllic although offset by clouds of flak exploding in skies around you, and burning buildings nearby. You can enjoy the ambiance and scenery for about thirty seconds at the start of each battle before all hell breaks loose.
In a new addition to the game, players can prepare for the battlefield experience offline by entering into the training grounds. This allows the player to select a tank and take it for a spin on one of the many maps against bots. It's useful for beginners to get to grips with basics, controlling the tank, using the communication menu-wheel, and learning how to use the environments. Players still earn rewards from these missions but it's not a patch on the real thing. The battlefield is where the real fun begins.
There are numerous maps, ranging from desert, to arctic, forests, and bombed out cities. You never know what you're going to get, and take into account that they can be in daylight, night, or in the rain, it brings a large level of diversity. Initially, the battlefield might seem quite large but once there are 29 other players in the arena, it suddenly feels a lot more cramped, and just a little busier.
Coming to the Xbox One version, players might have expected to find that the battlefields had been enlarged or contained more elements or obstacles, and might be disappointed to see that they are not. There is a very good and solid reason behind this. The team over at Wargaming.net took the radical decision to make the game compatible across both Xbox platforms, meaning that for the first time ever, players on the Xbox 360 could seamlessly play alongside and battle against players on the Xbox One. During the battle it is impossible to tell which platform the player is on. Such a bold decision might seem strange, but it means that the player base is extended meaning fuller servers. The only concession for this is that the framerate has been capped at 30 fps so that players on the new console don't have an advantage over those playing on the Xbox 360 version. However, as the title is not quite the twitch-based firefight seen in other games, the framerate is not an issue.
Whilst tank battles might not be as frantic or frenetic as some other forms of combat, do not be fooled into thinking that these are slow lumbering vehicles. Once the battle starts, it's as intense as any you will find. Artillery will generally move to the back of the area, tank destroyers - effectively the snipers of the tank world - will take up hidden positions ready to take down opposition tanks with single shots. The medium and heavy tanks will start rolling out to find tactical positions, and the light tanks will zoom off acting as the scouts, locating enemy tanks for their teammates and giving the artillery a target to aim at, buzzing about the battlefield like angry armor-plated hornets.
It's this mixture of classes and the encounters that they create that make the battles so intense and so intriguing. The light tanks may occasionally feel like tin cans armed with pea-shooters, but they can still disable a larger tank by hitting its tracks leaving it vulnerable. Whilst those larger tanks have tougher armor and more firepower, if it takes ten seconds or more to load a shell, the last thing a heavy tank wants to see is a small swarm of light tanks hurtling towards it.
The battlefield environment itself can become friend of foe and there can be some tough lessons during combat. Whilst the tanks can move rapidly across flat terrain, hitting even the slightest of gradients will slow them to a crawl. Trying to escape an encounter by crossing a train embankment or a small hill will usually be fatal, and you certainly don't want to try and cross any of the marshes. On the positive side, the environment can also help, in one particular battle, a wounded enemy disappeared out of sight on a hilltop trying to escape. Although I couldn't see him, watching the trees being felled as drove through them gave a clear indication of his path, and led to his downfall.
The game's roots has always been online right from the start, with the title never having a single-player campaign, the wealth of experience in creating the multiplayer experience really shines through the title, something some of the bigger triple-A boys could learn from. During the many battles that I had, I never once suffered serious lag, got disconnected, or had to while away minutes sitting in a lobby waiting for the server to fill. Generally, it took longer to load the battlefield than it did to get connected, and with the benefit of cross-compatibility between the Xbox consoles, the battles were nearly always an evenly matched 15 vs 15 fight with a good balance of vehicles on both sides. It all seems very fair and the player within a team never feels or is outgunned; a crucial point as there are no respawns on the battlefield. Once your tank is destroyed, you're out until the next game.
Fortunately, players are also not forced to sit around watching or waiting for the battle to finish. They can jump back to their garage, select another tank, and join another battle, leaving the burning hull of their last tank smouldering on the previous battlefield. Most importantly, even though a player has left the battlefield, the rewards gained are not lost, and still trickle into the account between rounds.
Taking into account the way all of these mechanics work together, this is probably the smoothest and most stable multiplayer experience that I have encountered. This was so reliable that you could have been forgiven for thinking that you were playing a single-player game against bots.
Admittedly, World of Tanks is geared towards keeping the player in the game, so that they will part with some real life money for the in-game gold to purchase elite tanks, or speed progress towards the higher level vehicles. Here too, the title is not aggressive in pushing this towards the player. Fans and hardcore players will no doubt take advantage of this, but the game remains perfectly playable even with the lower tier tanks. It has to be said though, trying to obtain those higher level tanks without splashing out a little will probably take an extremely long time.
At the time of writing there are 81 achievements listed for the title with more generally being added with each title update. The achievements range from heroics in battle, to researching and collecting specific tanks, through to a few for which you'll need to perform specific actions on the battlefield. Achievement hunters might be interested to know that the two sets of achievements are duplicated across the consoles, so once you've unlocked an achievement on one, you only have to start the game on the other console and the achievement unlocks on that one too.
The folks over at Wargaming.net are not resting on their laurels either, the title is constantly evolving and changing with regular title updates bringing more improvements, more tanks being added and some being decommissioned. The Ops list too is continually changing, all of which means there is always something new to encourage players to carry on playing.
To be honest, it's very difficult to fault WoT. The capped framerate was done for a good reason, complaining about loading times feels churlish when the multiplayer experience is so good, and the micro-transaction economy is not pervasive or aggressive as it could be so players can genuinely play for free if they want to. The only real issue for some will be the subject matter itself; not many people are into tanks.
SummaryWhilst World of Tanks might not be everyone, the title is flawless in its execution. The battlefield experience is as intense and as nerve wracking as any multiplayer game even though it might not be the twitch fest of some of the more popular online shooter titles. Improved visuals and a great soundscape add to the all round experience. The game is as welcoming to newcomers as it is to veterans. Battles are always evenly balanced, and everyone has a chance of earning rewards from the combat and with the title being free-to-play, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn't download it and give it a try.
- Upgraded visuals
- Stunning environments and battlefields
- Brilliant multiplayer mechanics
- Cross-console play
- Free to play
- Loading times between battles
- Potential time-sink whilst trying to reach the highest level tanks
EthicsThe reviewer spent approximately fifteen hours roaming the battlefields in various mechanized armor enjoying glorious victories and unceremonious defeats, unlocking 27 of the 81 achievements. The game was free to download, and Wargaming.net provided extra credits to open up some of the higher level tanks in the game for the purpose of this review.
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