Now first up, I will have to admit I may be slightly biased thanks to the fine representatives of Wargaming.net at PAX Australia introducing me to the game… well, you might say that after seeing my Facebook photos anyway… but until I sat down to play I honestly would not have even considered this game.
World of Tanks is an aberration in the gaming landscape. It offers gameplay reminiscent of games from more than a decade ago yet is backed by a thoroughly modern pricing model that has been sharpened to a knife’s edge. And somehow, it could just be the most important Xbox 360 game of the year.
Starting off is not the most pleasant experience. First up is the lengthy install which then throws you into the deep end of a UI that does little to explain its purpose and finally pushes you into a game with an ill equipped tank that will be lucky to last minutes in any game.
Yet somehow after you play a couple of games to accrue enough credit to upgrade your tank the clouds start to part and the game begins to shine. What you end up with is an old school arcade game with huge maps, a lot of players and just enough incentive to keep you interested.
The controls map nicely to the controller with the sticks controlling movement and aiming, triggers with aiming and firing and bumpers for commands and targeting. If you didn’t know better you’d think you were playing Call of Duty.
But that’s where the comparisons end. Tank movement and aiming is a slow and deliberate process and they rarely atop and turn on a dime so if you want to charge head first into battle you better know what you are doing or have a big team behind you. This factor encourages teamwork as the vehicles at your disposal have very clear strengths and weaknesses.
Visually the game is serviceable but works. Tanks are well modelled but where it pays off is in the maps which are huge and offer an amazing amount of terrain variety, sometimes in just a single map alone. An experienced player with knowledge of both the terrain and their vehicle could be an effective force. Audio is not competing with Battlefield 4 but has enough in it to make shots sound worthy.
But it is in the play where you see the potential. Your tank doesn’t have the luxury of perks or weapon drops or killstreaks; you only have what you and your team mates start with. And when you die, that’s it for the round though you can start another game if you have another tank in your garage (a neat touch).
As a result of the quick deaths, you tend to see players grouping together in a bid to extend their lifespan and take on more enemies. It’s the same thing you see in the Battlefield franchise but accomplished with much simpler concepts.
What you get is a free game that’ll keep you occupied for maybe four to ten hours at which point you’ll decide whether you will invest in it for the long term. That has to be the best deal in gaming right now on the 360 and I hope we see more of it in the future. Message to Microsoft: keep these guys happy!
And for those thinking of packing up their 360s in favor of a new console, check this out. You may find that your old console still has a lot of life in it yet.