The current world record holder for having the Most Players Online Simultaneously on one multiplayer online-game server (190,541 players at a go), World Of Tanks has been a huge hit in the PC realm. With World Of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition (WOT), the game treads into the console realm. We’ve had our hands on the preview version of this free-to-play (F2P) game, and here’s what we think.
In WOT, you are, well, a tank. Starting off with a German Leichtraktor or US T1 Cunningham (both similar in terms of capabilities) you’re quickly thrown into a map where you take on an opposing team of tanks. If you’ve done some FPS shooting on the console before, controls for WOT are simple enough to get into – you aim with your right analog stick and control motion with your left, while you fire with the right trigger. But that’s where any similarities with your usual shooter ends – after all, you’re playing a tank.
If you imagine your tank playing as loosely as what you might have experienced in games like Battlefield 4, you’re wrong – in WOT you really feel the part of the tank, plodding around the landscape. Your starter tank, from 1927, will move forward at what feels like a snail’s pace – hills are particularly challenging, with speeds dipping to almost zero.
While that might feel like a game killer, what you have instead is a more tactical, meditative experience. Your choice of route becomes very important, as does your decision to leave the base – be caught too far away from it and the race back to defend it becomes a nail-biting time. The slower pace also allows teams to decide on their move – having two tanks against one definitely comes with benefits (as I would attest). Being a tank your ability to absorb damage is also higher – no more single shot kills (except on rare occasions), making the gameplay more forgiving as you attempt to find a way to outflank your enemy.
For the slow-ish pace, each game is actually a very short 15 minutes (and even shorter if the base is captured or the enemy tanks are annihilated), making it easy to jump in and out of games. Entering games is quick too, and they do try to balance the game so that you don’t end up taking on modern tanks with your ancient vehicle. However, due to the smaller player base in beta, this also means you can end up with 2v1 battles which can end pretty quickly. Also, if you die, you don’t regenerate, so you do have to be careful with your options.
A surprising highlight of the WOT experience is how good and detailed the sound is, from when your tracks are dragging on sand or ice, to the sounds of wildlife as your tank trundles through an European village. All this helps to lend detail to the game (play it in surround sound if you can), and destroying an enemy brings a satisfying explosion. On the other hand, graphics aren’t much to shout about. It is an Xbox 360 game after all, optimised for multiplayer, and while you won’t see villagers running from their homes as you crush them under your tracks (you can tell how bad a person is at controlling their tank by how many buildings they inadvertedly demolish), the focus is on tank versus tank battles after all. So yes, that means no story mode (thank goodness, really, I’ve had enough of developers shoe-horning a story into a game just because).
World Of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition is still in beta, so it remains to be seen how the servers will be like once you have the full load of players having a go at it. And with it being on Xbox 360 this means that you will need an Xbox Live Gold account to play – not so free-to-play anymore. Still, if you already have an account, there’s where the freemium bits come in – you can pay to upgrade tanks and buy newer, better ones. All this is accessible through a menu that sadly feels undercooked – I’m never really sure what I’m buying. Maybe it’s because I’m no tank expert, but you will get a whole lot of numbers and letters signifying somesort of upgrade you can pay for. Feeling stingy? You can always run more missions – there’s enough there to unlock to keep you busy for a while.
Belarusian developers Wargaming.Net definitely have huge dreams for this new version, hitting both E3 in LA and Tokyo Game Show in Japan with some of the largest booths. Back then I have to admit to not having heard much about the game, but its apparent that the game’s launch on Xbox 360 will be pretty big and popular. There’s no next-gen version of it yet, but with the Xbox 360′s huge installed base, I doubt the developers will have to look elsewhere for now.
So if you love tanks, or would like to try a great shooter that’s not like most of the others, World Of Tanks might just scratch that itch. The menu system definitely needs more work, but the gameplay itself is great fun and deserves a look, especially if you haven’t given the PC version a go before. After all it’s free – if you’re an Xbox Live Gold member.
World Of Tanks for Xbox 360 is currently in beta.