By now, if you haven’t heard of the Wargaming.net’s wildly popular World of Tanks, you are have probably been living under a rock or another, similarly disruptive object in nature. World of Tanks is the highly competitive tank combat game that pits two teams against each other in a race to wipe each other out or capture their opponent’s base before they can do the same. The game has a massive following on PC and has even spawned a few spin-offs, the appropriately named World of Warplanes and World of Warships. With all the hubbub about new consoles, most people probably forgot that Wargaming was bringing their game to the Xbox 360. Well, incase you forgot, the game is out now and is as fun on 360 as it has ever been.
Of course the first question on the mind of console and PC gamers alike is how well do the controls map on to a controller. Very. After completing the opening tutorial and learning the very basics of the game I was able to jump right into a match against other players and quickly get a grasp on how to handle my little Cunningham. Acceleration, reverse, and turning are mapped to the left stick, which at times can get a bit awkward as turning too hard will bring your tank to a standstill. This is especially apparent on rough terrain where you tank handling is all but crippled. However, aiming, firing, spotting, all of these features work without so much as a hiccup. Once you get the hang of things after your first few rounds you’ll be charging enemy lines and leading tactical retreats like the best of them. Wargaming clearly took care to ensure that the controls would feel natural and, so much so that you would think the game was designed for the 360 from the very beginning. If you have ever driven a vehicle in a game like Halo or Battlefield with a controller you already know how to play this game.
Though the game may not be particularly demanding on the PC, the translation to consoles hasn’t hurt how nice World of Tanks looks. Tank models look sharp and realistic, fences, trees, and small walls crumble beneath your treads while larger buildings shudder when struck by the force of your vehicle. Explosions are pretty and by the end of the fight there will be plenty of smoking rubble to revel in, unless said rubble if yours. Level design is also superb, offering plenty of tactical options for flanking, hiding, or laying down support fire at long distances. The actual look of the levels is also quite nice. You’ll find abandoned mountainside towns, a desert oasis, snowy cliffs, and many other exotic and sufficiently war stricken locales. Sound effects match the quality if the visuals. Whether from the barrel of your gun, the rumble of the engine, or clanking of your treads, World of Tanks quickly pulls you into its chaotic world at all angles. Surround sound users, or those using a good headset, are in for an especially big treat.
So now that we know that World of Tanks has made a successful transition to the Xbox 360, why should you care? Well, World of Tanks is about as much fun as you can have playing a competitive game. You can easily enjoy yourself by feeding your most basic urges of charging the enemy, demanding glory at any cost, crushing your enemies and hearing the lamentations of their women. However, for those looking for more than a quick fix, there is a tremendous amount of depth both in and out of combat. Your tanks, whether you know it or not, has various zones on which it can take damage. A common strategy is to attack the engine and treads of your potential victim, slowing them or even bringing them to a complete halt. Needless to say, your now paralyzed victim will be short work for you and your team. That isn’t necessarily the end though. Tank crews will eventually repair critical functions of the tank, at reduced effectiveness and without any health gain of course. As I myself have found time and time again, a living tank, not matter how damaged, is still a threat. Let me tell you, I have the scrappiest damn tank crew in the war. There are few things more thrilling than having your treads fixed just as your enemy closes in, expecting an easy kill, only to empty your loaded ammunition on them and ram them for the final blow, and then to go on and destroy the entire enemy artillery line from behind. Unfortunately, this outcome is rare, but it is worth the wait every single time.
Sometimes you may be surprised to find that despite taking a few shots, your tank is in surprisingly good health. This comes as a result of various ammo types, penetration chance, and point of impact. You can load your tank with a few varieties of armor-piercing and high explosive rounds. AP rounds have the highest chance of penetrating armor, but deal less explosive damage and ricochet damage. HE ammo is less likely to penetrate, but will do damage within a small radius and can still deal a fair amount of damage without piercing. Within these two ammo types there are different options with different effects, and it comes down to choosing which type with which stats suits your play style. When in battle is is important to remember positioning when attacking and when being attacked. Hitting a target head on is the best way to penetrate their armor, but a target who angles themselves will make it more difficult for shots to penetrate. Your penetration chance is reflected by the color of your reticle. Red means high, orange is medium, yellow is low, and just a heads up, white means you are out of range. The best plan of attack is to attack from the rear, when the opportunity presents itself that is. Most of the battle will be lines of tanks firing volleys back and forth, each side trying to whittle down the numbers of the other so they can make a game winning push. A small and fast group of tanks can normally make a decent push into enemy territory, if they don’t get spotted that is.
Spotting enemies is one of the game’s important team tasks. Even if you cannot hit an enemy, aiming at them and pressing LB will spot them, alerting the entire team of their position for as long as they are exposed. Spotting that small contingent of tanks trying to flank allows your team to concentrate fire on them. More often than not this results in their destruction and a huge burst of momentum for your team. Spotting is equally important when winning since it can take only a few seconds for the enemy team to get just the right positioning to get themselves right back into the game with some key attacks. Great victories have turned into embarrassing defeats in the past and World of Tanks can handily illustrate this fact. LB is, for all intents and purposes, the team communication button. The game supports voice chat, but beyond that, holding down LB gives you a wheel of preset commands and calls to ask for help, signal attacks, concentrate fire, or acknowledge other’s commands. Good communication can put your team at an immediate advantage and is an important tool for long term success in the game.
Like all other competitive games, you win some and you lose some. While winning is thrilling, a loss isn’t actually the end of the world, or really that big of a deal. Certainly you can stay and watch your team fight on without you, but most players will benefit from the fact that leaving the game after death does not penalize you. Rather, once the match has finished you will receive all rewards earned during the match. The only downside to this is the fact that your tank will remain in battle until the match is over. Luckily, your garage has plenty of tank slots, so simply choose another tank and jump right into another game. World of Tanks is about getting into battle as quickly as possible and puts no real obstacles in your way to do that. Tank repairs and resupply cost silver, the in-game earned currency, but the game will handle that for you, unless you tell it not to. Some players may never even visit the store and spend their money there.
There are five different types of tanks, each, for the most part, capable of filling several roles and based on real tanks deployed, or at the very least tested, by the United States, Great Britain, and Germany. Light tanks are fast and agile while also being capable of dishing decent amounts of damage. They excell at scouting, supporting, and charging enemy lines, with the support of bigger tanks of course. Medium tanks and more or less bigger light tanks, filling many of the same roles, just being a bit beefier about it. Heavy tanks are all about pressing the enemy and laying down heavy fire. These tanks are more than capable of pushing back the enemy and, when supported properly, dealing massive amounts of damage. Tank destroyers and artillery both excel at supporting fire, with the tank destroyer also acting as a capable sniper. No one role is more important than the others and matchmaking does a surprisingly good job of making well rounded teams on both sides. Some games certainly go better than others, but never did I feel as though I was playing people far superior to me in skill. In fact, due to the nature of the vehicles themselves, intelligence is much more of an asset than skill. There is no drop shotting or quick scoping, the tanks themselves keep things fairly tame, avoiding many of the annoyances of many popular competitive shooters.
Within each vehicle type there are several Tiers of that vehicle, 1-10 (specifically the roman numeral equivalent of each number). By upgrading a Tier I tank enough you can turn it into a Tier II of the same type, or of one different type. Fully upgrading the previous tank, will make that tank elite which grants elite bonuses and rewards, giving you a good reason to go back and keep playing as that model. To unlock upgrades and new models you spend XP, of which there are two types. Free XP is earned in battle and can be applied to any tank, while that specific tank also receives XP in battle that can only be applied to itself. After unlocking them, those upgrades and tanks must be purchased with silver, the earned currency. This currency can also be used in the store to purchase basic consumables and add-ons. Gold, the real money currency, is used on better consumables, permanent visual upgrades, additional silver and on premium access which grants bonus XP and silver after each battle. Other than the boosted income and XP, no game breaking bonuses are applied to tanks, this is free to play, not a pay to win game. Well, in order to even play to win you have to have Xbox Live Gold, a sad circumstance for a free to play game. Yes, that is just how Xbox Live works, but it is hard to really swallow the “free to play” side of things when the moment Gold expires I “cannot play”.
Aside from the annoyance of requiring a Gold account, World of Tanks is among the very best competitive games you can play on Xbox Live. If you are looking for an endearing tale of the scrappy tank crew who changes the tide of war, that game still doesn’t exist. Only those looking to duke it out with others need apply. There are deep mechanics behind some mostly tight controls and a lot of fun to be had. Again, unless you absolutely despise competitive play or tanks just aren’t your thing, you really have no excuse not to give this game a shot.