Over the bank I could see the tanks rolling my way in an ant-like formation. There were three friendly tanks surrounding me, but it was clear that the odds were against us, as the six German tanks continued creeping toward us. So we did all we thought we could; we split up. Each of us found cover, and focused our fire on one tank at a time. There went one, two, but the third tank to be taken out of commission was one of ours. It was down to just the three of us, with our other teammates surely treading somewhere on the other side of the battlefield. The enemy had us pinned, we could hardly hit them without taking a hit ourselves. But then suddenly, without any of us hitting him, an enemy tank suddenly exploded. Confused, I looked around, and at a distance to our rear I spotted a friendly artillery tank giving us some much needed assistance. He managed even the fight, and gave us the wiggle-room we needed to dispatch the remaining enemy tanks. We went on to capture the enemy base, winning the match. Digital tank combat has come a long way since Battlezone.
As it has on PC for the past year, World of Tanks on Xbox 360 sets players in the driver’s seat of a wide array of different mid-twentieth century tanks to battle in fifteen vs fifteen skirmishes. But don’t mistake this game for a mere port, it’s been thoughtfully crafted, and drastically changed to be manageable on an Xbox 360 gamepad. The near end-product is, in my opinion, a slightly better version of the already fantastic PC game.
From the altered camera positioning to the controls, all of the changes made for the Xbox 360 version made me feel more directly in control of my steel behemoth, making it all the more satisfying to destroy my foes. Rather than the very loose mouse-controlled camera featured in the PC version, this version presents a more over-the-shoulder view of your tank, making each tank movement feel much more personal, and the controller makes the movement feel more physical. More dramatic camera angles can be achieved in this version, though. But they aren’t exactly ideal for combat. As a predominantly PC gamer, it’s odd harping on how much better the game plays on PC, but this version is really just that much better.
For those unfamiliar, World of Tanks features five different classes of tank, Light, Medium, Heavy, Destroyers, and SPGs (Artillery). Each classification of tank features a pretty generous amount of unlockable tanks, with each tier of tank being slightly more powerful/useful than the last. This begs the question, though, that since this is a free-to-play game, is it pay-to-win? Absolutely not. While the ability to buy in-game currency by spending real money isn’t enabled yet, players in the beta have the ability to get a fair amount of gold (the most valuable form of currency in the game) through the game’s marketplace for free. I didn’t know about this for the first few days of my playing, and was fully able to hold my own in battles against high-tier’d tanks. It isn’t pay-to-win, it’s strategize-to-win.
The fighting your foes in World of Tanks is more akin to other shooters than you might think, mostly thanks to the game’s wide variety of classes. Tanks that are tailored for long-range combat will look for high-ground, while smaller, faster tanks will zip around the corridors found in the central parts of most maps. Also, don’t think you can just aim and shoot. Moving your tank, or even its barrel, will cause your aiming reticle to widen dramatically, forcing you to sit still for a little while before being able to shoot with any real accuracy. At the same time, you have to keep an eye on whether or not a new shell has been loaded into your tank’s firing chamber. All of this managing may make the game sound slow and cumbersome, and it is, to a point. But it makes every tank you destroy all the more satisfying, and each game won a bigger thrill.
I’ve been a big proponent of slower, more methodical multiplayer combat games in the past, and World of Tanks is the epitome of slow methodical multiplayer combat. Its visuals may not hold a candle to its PC counterpart, but the Xbox 360 version is proving to be a wonderful – even superior – way to play World of Tanks.