'World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition' from Wargaming.
World of Tanks is taking the PC world by storn, with roughly sixty million registered users around the globe, and now that game is coming to the Xbox 360. I've never played the PC version before, but this weekend I got some hands-on time with the beta version of the Xbox 360 Edition. The game is still being tweaked in a few places, but quite frankly, if I hadn't been told the game was in beta I would have never guessed. This fun free-to-play MMO is shaping up to be quite a lot of fun.
World of Tanks is, unsurprisingly, built around tanks. You take control of one of several kinds of tanks and charge into a team deathmatch with 29 other players, making two teams of fifteen. Your team wins by either destroying all of the enemy tanks, or by capturing the enemy base by staying around it for long enough. Depending on what sort of tank you've chosen, your style of play can vary by a good deal. I was initially charging into the fray with lighter tanks and getting quickly destroyed, but I quickly settled into a support role with artillery vehicles, where I was able to provide more assistance and actually get a few kills.
You can use parts of your environment for cover, which makes your tank harder for enemies to spot; be careful, though, as many elements of each map, including trees and buildings, are destructable. Though you have a radar, you won't be able to see enemies until they get within range of your team; any player from your team can "spot" a given tank, which points out its location to everyone else until the enemy tanks manages to successfully hide for a spell. Players are able to draw attention to certain sectors if they need help, as well, though this is something I never quite figured out how to do. Also, if you're unfortunate enough to have your tank destroyed before the end of the match, you can follow other teammates around as they continue playing, with free control over the rotation of the camera.
While I normally can't get into these team deathmatch styles of games, I honestly had trouble putting this one down. It has that addicting "just one more round" quality to it, where each match is competitive and each kill is incredibly satisfying. The game subtly encourages you to stop being a lone wolf and play a more team-focused game, and when the various team members are working together like a well-oiled machine, it's a great feeling. This is a game I'll probably be returning to, especially since it's a free-to-play title.
One thing I did notice about the gameplay was that there was about a half-second of button delay for whenever you wanted to move your tank. This delay didn't exist for moving the camera or firing your guns, so I assume that it was introduced intentionally. It takes some time getting used to, though, especially if you're negotiating curves; it's easy to overturn because the tank will continue changing direction until shortly after you stop tilting the stick. Once you adapt to it it's not so troublesome, but it makes fine movements difficult sometimes. The fairly slow tanks will also have some trouble backing up accurately, or making their way up hills; you'll need to be careful with the route you take, lest you leave yourself exposed for too long.
As you play and win matches, you'll gain more money and the tank you chose will obtain more experience. These things can be used to upgrade your current tanks, or to unlock and purchase new ones. The game includes a tank upgrade hierarchy, so in order to obtain better tanks, you'll have to make sure you're properly decking out tanks at lower levels. It's important to note that experience doesn't belong to you, but to the specific tank that you fought a given battle in; when a certain tank needs so much experience to be unlocked, that experience must be assigned to the tank that comes before it in the overall hierarchy. This forces you to use different styles of tanks if you want to collect lots of new tanks; this is something I appreciated, as it introduced me to my now-preferred artillery style of tank. Overall, the research system is well done.In addition to experience and money, you will also have gold, which is the more-powerful unit of currency that you will actually pay real money to obtain. Gold allows you access to special tanks, as well as periods of increased XP and more slots for buying additional tanks; by default, you're restricted to about five different tanks that you can purchase. When I was playing the beta, gold purchasing had been turned off, and it's not clear if there is any other way to obtain gold, though I assume they are difficult if they even exist.
So the gameplay is solid, but how is the presentation? That's also solid, as it turns out. Graphically, the game is quite impressive; the tanks look excellent, especially when the lighting elements are applied to them, and the maps look plenty good on their own, though the appearance of bushes leaves something to be desired. The more hilly regions of each map boast some nice textures, and any atructures the map might have also look pretty good, though destroying them isn't much more than watching them disappear into a cloud of dust. The menu music is good, though forgettable, and during a match there's no music at all. You instead get to be serenaded by the sound of tank treads and gunfire, which are all nice and crisp, as well as whoever happens to be talking over Xbox Live.
Right now, there are no connection, latency, or wait time issues to be found. Whenever I entered a match, I would end up waiting less than ten seconds to find a group of 29 other people to play with; the number of people in the queue was generally between 90 and 100, even late at night. While playing multiplayer matches, I never had any issues with framerate, lag, or players appearing out-of-sync; all the server operations appear to be nice and strong, though I suspect the real test will be when the game is made available to the public at large.
As it stands, World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition is shaping up to be an excellent addition to one's gaming library, and I'm finding myself with very few criticisms to level at this title. It's unclear how much paying for premium equipment is going to have an effect on the game's progression or fun factor, but for right now the title still offers lots of fun even if you're stuck with lower-level tanks for the time being. At the comparatively low price of free, there's no reason not to keep an eye on this game.
- by Jim Avery for News10's Game Guys