War Thunder – Preview

Title   War Thunder
Developer  Gaijin Entertainment
Publisher  Gaijin Entertainment
Platform  Windows PC, PlayStation 4
Genre  MMO Combat flight simulator
Release Date  November 29, 2013
Official Site  http://warthunder.com

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind . . . Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

You don’t necessarily have to be mad to be willing to fly missions in War Thunder. In fact, you don’t have to be mad at all. I’d be tempted to say that it helps but, honestly, it wouldn’t be much help at all. You’d just die a lot, and that is not fun. Believe me.

The concept of War Thunder is a simple one. Starting with warplanes, they plan to build battles that are fought in the air, on ground, and on sea. Their vision is for planes, tanks and ships to be taking part in the same battle, at the same time, with each type of unit assisting their teammates during that battle. World War II serves as the inspiration for many of the battles and all of the machinery on show, although some of the aerial arenas are unique.

Ric checked out the PC version last year and walked away impressed, and this year we got the chance to see the PS4 version. At the moment, only air battles are available (although tank battles are currently being tested), but that is more than enough to show off just how well War Thunder is adapting to the platform.

War Thunder has already proved successful on the PC, with over three million players actively flying missions at the moment. Developer Gaijin wanted to ensure that they harness that huge player base despite the change in platforms, so War Thunder is completely cross-platform, with accounts also crossing over between the two platforms. That means all the levels you’ve worked so hard to accrue on the PC will be there when you start up the PS4 version for the first time. There has clearly been a massive effort to ensure that communication between the two platforms is as smooth as possible, to the point where updates will be made available for both at the same time. Players of the PC version will have everything the PS4 version has and vice versa, ensuring that it is all about the game, and not the platform you choose to play it on.

The other thing they are bringing over from the PC version is their revolutionary control scheme, which allowed players to control a plane with nothing more than a mouse. There is no need for joysticks, and the whole credo behind the creation of the system was to ensure that their game was as accessible as possible. In order to ensure that the PS4 version is just as accessible the system has been kept, and works surprisingly well with the DualShock 4 controller.

Flying works very simply, with the main control method being the large circle in the centre of the screen. Moving this dictates where the plane moves next, and the nose follows after the circle. There is a bit of time between pointing out the direction you want to fly and the actual flying but, once you get the hang of it, it starts to feel natural very quickly. I still fired off bursts of bullets before the crosshairs met up with the circle, but that didn’t happen all that often, and was a small price to pay for not having to shell out for a big-ass joystick. Other players will likely have the same problems adjusting.

Once you take to the skies you have the chance to see how gorgeous War Thunder is. The planes look fantastic, but the maps are even more impressive. They are enormous, allowing a line of sight of up to fifty kilometres (which is what World War II fighter pilots would have had) and are large enough to accommodate the 128-player dogfights that the PS4 is set to host. With tanks and ships on top of that, the eventual goal is to create battles that have a hundred players per side. It is undeniably ambitious – as is their sixty frames per second goal – but there are already signs that they are well on the way to making it work.

We were given a sneak peek at how ground combat would work as well, although we weren’t able to get hands on. One of the most important ideals of War Thunder is the ability to switch between tanks, planes and ships on the same account and, not only that, to be able to do so within the same battle. We watched as a tank was destroyed, and the player simply chose one of the three hundred aircraft available, joining the aerial battle instead. It was quick and simple, and was an impressive glimpse into what the future holds for War Thunder, especially once they have introduced ships, which are planned for next year.

It is, all in all, a very impressive product. Aerial warfare won’t be for everyone, but a huge effort is being made to ensure that, even if you’re not the biggest fan of flying, there is something in War Thunder to suit you. Battles will continue to grow and evolve with the addition of ground and naval warfare, and the ability to match up to any of the three million players who are already playing on PC means that there should seldom be a problem finding a battle to join, even on day one.

What’s most impressive is the dedication that Gaijin have shown to ensuring that the PS4 experience is the best that it can possibly be, and if you’re someone who prefers joysticks, War Thunder on the PS4 is already compatible with them.

It is clear that their main focus is ensuring that people enjoy their game, no matter the platform they choose. Their methods thus far have been vindicated, as their large player base so aptly shows, so the signs suggest that they know exactly what they are doing. I like the direction it is taking, and when they finally hit the point where they have planes strafing battleships that are bombarding tanks, I think that the experience will be unmatched. Until then though, this is a damned good flying game. Not everybody will love it. Some may be alienated by the controls, others by the way it is balanced, while others will undoubtedly find it boring. They will certainly have an audience, however, and I have no doubt whatsoever that this will be a successful title for the PS4.

Last five articles by Keegan


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