When it comes to gaming, the World War 2 era is a setting that provides a combination of nostalgia and excitement. Pilots did not have the advantage of beyond visual range combat because modern technologies such as missiles or radar did not exist. They had to depend on their skill, their aircraft, their teammates, and in some cases prayer or luck. Combat was an assembly of aircraft, ships, and AAA (Anti-aircraft artillery) all maintaining a wall of bullets to keep one another at bay.
Re-creating a realistic combat experience from this era can prove to be a challenge to modern video game developers. They may design airplanes that exhibit physics closer to modern jets or ammunition that give off more of a Hollywood missile effect than perform like actual bullets.
Gaijin entertainment has created a world that is not only realistic, but also entertaining, adventurous and informative. The various game modes (aircraft battle, historical battles, world war, and solo missions) provide either a quick emersion into the game or offer a more lengthy experience. As of the beta the World War mode is unavailable, but players can still partake in historical battles and become an integral part of notable battles throughout the game’s covered era(s). Some of the game’s modes provide cut-scenes that will give players a small piece of war history; this provides insight about the specific battles the gamer becomes a part of.
War Thunder might be mistaken for a game that is a simulation instead of an MMORPG. In fact, one of the first steps a player may possibly take is a test flight in the early stages of the game. These flights can also be used in the latter parts of the game to test purchased aircraft. The test flight consists of taking off from a land-based runway, shooting a ground target, and lining up with the aforementioned runway and landing. Before taking off, pressing the F1 key will reveal that the game has in-depth simulation style controls. The mappings will show that there are several perspectives in which the game can be played, such as the outside view, cockpit view, virtual cockpit view, and bomber port view. The keyboard can be customized to map all the flight controls to the players taste. In addition, flying with a joystick is fully supported.
So how does this game integrate MMO type qualities into its simulator foundation? The answer is simple. The first thing Gaijin did was lay down an extensive armory of aircraft, with a variety of roles, over five nations. As a player progresses, they will gain experiences and unlock more of the advanced aircraft in each role. On top of that, not only can the aircraft become more deadly, but the crews of the aircraft can as well. For example, a U.S. heavy bomber can use 8 machine gun turrets to defend it; with experience gained each of those turrets can become more accurate, have more stamina, take more damage before being incapacitated, etc. The player gets to decide which crews receive experience, and into what abilities that experience goes. Ground crews can also receive experience. The ability to re-arm a plane and get it back into the air quickly has value as well.
Players get to experience excellent environmental and model graphics in this hybrid simulator/MMO. The models for all of the vehicles (ships, aircraft, and cars) are done in exquisite detail; a player can look closely and notice the individual porthole windows in the ships. The environment provides a variety of landscapes that players can use to their advantage during combat. It creates a cinematic feel for flight and dogfights. The environment isn’t without its hazards. Even the most experienced pilots will have to be wary of tight turns in closed spaces and trees on a strafing run. A close look, which is sometimes forced, at the ocean will show ripples and waves. When it comes to graphic performance, the machine used to review the graphics was a Dell XPS 17 w/ an NVidia 555m (not overclocked). An average gaming session would see around 34FPS, with highs into the 55 range, and dips to 29 during extremely cluttered moments. Gaijin has put together an efficient graphics engine.
Complementing the graphics is the games sound. There isn’t much to say about the game’s soundtrack. The few tracks that are present have a patriotic and inspirational theme to them, but these tracks quickly vanish when a mission begins. However, the sound effects once in-mission more than make up for it. The pristine sound of bullets zipping past your plane, metal shredding as bullets meet their target, the whistling of bombs, and explosions that make subwoofers dance will excite even the most uninspired players! The sounds in the game will give complete awareness of the pilot’s surroundings; they will not only know from which direction they are being shot at, but from which altitude.
When it comes right down to it, the big question remains. Is this a game that people will play? Not only play, but want to continue playing? The simple answer to this question is yes. The game draws you in, gives you a variety of gameplay modes, suits a variety of play types, and keeps you challenged. You can earn your experience through solo missioning or via fast paced quick battles with other real world players. The graphics and sound are appealing to the senses, so much so, you may just take a flight to look around the world instead of loading up the guns and litter the landscape with scrap metal birds.
After the global invitation release, the community seems positive of War Thunder. Some player comments were along the lines of “I finally got in… I had to wait 4 minutes… that is too long for this awesomeness.” Gaijin entertainment has brought a strong candidate into the FTP market. War Thunder is well worth picking up for those who enjoy either MMO’s, simulations or who have an interest in military technology of the World War 2 era.