World Of Warplanes – Hands-On Preview
Developer Wargaming.net released the incredibly popular free to play game World of Tanks back in 2010 and have since gone from strength to strength. You may have recently read Chris’ World of Warplanes E3 preview, where he got hands-on with the game and managed to even win a couple of dog fights, and now, with the game moving through beta, GamingLives have been given another chance at some full, hands-on time with the game.
The first thing to note about World of Warplanes (WoW…where have I seen that before?) is that much of the user interface and menu system is pulled straight from World of Tanks. While the cynics may think this is a bit of a cop out, the more astute would understand that this allows players familiar with the original game to jump straight into WoW. It isn’t just the interface, however – the hangar, tech tree and store all return.
For the uninitiated, the hangar allows the player to look through the aircraft they currently own. Players will start with three starter planes all at tier one, representing the very worst in aircraft from Germany, Russia and the U.S.A. From the hangar screen, aircraft can be inspected, upgraded and sold, and between battles the aircraft have to be rearmed and repaired.
With every battle the player gains a little experience and this can be traded in at the tech tree to move up the tiers of aircraft. As you move through the ranks, your warplanes will get progressively more powerful and (as it’s a free to play title) more expensive to run. While this feature was not implemented in the current version of the beta that we had the chance to play, we have been promised that it will be very similar to the current system in World of Tanks. The store, as you might imagine, allows the player to buy new aircraft, ammo and other useful items using in-game currency called credits, which are earned through battles. Alternatively, players can buy gold and cut down some of the frightful grind, saving some time. Again, much of this has yet to be implemented in the current build, but it’s safe to assume that things like consumables, ammunition and modules will be available to buy.
Now for the important stuff: combat. Where World of Tanks was slow paced and somewhat tactical, World of Warplanes is an incredibly fast and somewhat brutal shooter. Missions are split into two objectives: intercept and destroy enemy planes, or bomb all enemy ground targets. All aircraft start the map in the air while the start timer counts down. In the air, the warplanes are controlled mainly using the mouse, with W and S on the keyboard controlling the throttle and A and D controlling the yaw, however, the game can be controlled using a gamepad, or, for those flight game fanatics, a joystick. Personally, I had a much easier time using the gamepad over the keyboard and mouse – if your mouse sensitivity isn’t set right you will find yourself flying into hills pretty damn quick. Combat is fast paced; it can be tricky, but with good team work you can take down most targets quickly. The “three man rush” as I’ve taken to calling it seems to be the best tactic and it pretty much consists of triple teaming one plane – there are only so many bullets you can dodge.
As previously mentioned, the main objectives of every game are split between intercepting and destroying enemy aircraft or taking out ground targets like ships, warehouses and oil depots. There are a number of aircraft that will let you do just that, from the classic US Carrier based aircraft, the F4U “Corsair”, complete with rockets, to the Russian made THS-3 ground attack plane. While some of these ‘bomber’ craft are a lot slower than the typical fighter, many do have a rear gunner and slightly heavier armour for that additional bit of support.
With the combat, Wargaming.net really has captured the thrill of the WW2 dog fight. It is very fluid and incredibly enjoyable, if a little difficult, playing much like any other air combat game, with your time spent tracking a reticule that shows where your target is heading and trying not to crash into the ground while dodging enemy machine gun fire. Aerial duels may well take five minutes to complete as you and your opponent twist through the air trying to snatch the advantage.
The game has a similar look to World of Tanks, and although we have only been given a look at a small number of maps so far, they are well detailed and filled with activity. There is one map based around an attack on a port that looks incredible, with a dockyard filled with warehouses and cranes, most of which are on fire and sending huge plumes of smoke up into the aerial battlefield. Not only do the surroundings look good, but the planes themselves are well detailed and take realistic battle damage as time goes on.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what Wargaming.net do with World of Warplanes; there are very few games like it on the market and it really does capture the pick up and play nature that makes World of Tanks so much fun. Definitely one to watch for those air combat gamers out there.
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