XBA Review: World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition
Written Wednesday, February 19, 2014 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Reviews are rather simple things. We play a game, we beat it, and then we write some words and come up with a score (typically) before release. It’s all designed to help you decide what to spend your money on.
But what if the game is free, and doesn’t have an end, and is already out? What then?
Those were the questions we asked ourselves when considering how to approach reviews of free-to-play games. This generation is going to see an influx of them, and they demand a different type of review. So here’s our solution.
Here is our first review of a free-to-play game on XBA. You’ll find no score at the bottom. Instead we’ll just offer our thoughts and a Yes or a No, dependent on whether we reckon it’s worth playing or not, in its current state.
Because the game may be free, but your time is not.
Whenever a major update is released, we’ll go back and reassess. Perhaps that update will have addressed the problems we initially identified. Maybe the update will screw with what we loved about the game in the first place. It’s in those cases that we’ll update the review.
To clarify, we’re not going to change anything every time the servers go down, or a minor patch or content update is released. That would be crazy. We’ll only dive back in when a big update comes out, something that’s worthy of further inspection.
World of Tanks doesn't make the best first impression. After you've sat through several download bars and the installation of various data packs, you're presented with a rather drab and perfunctory user interface that serves as your gateway into a muddy and initially uninspiring set of landscapes. You choose a tank, then proceed to trundle around firing shells at the opposing team until one of you explodes, leaving behind a smouldering metal carcass. World of Tanks seems like something you'll play for five minutes and then never revisit or even think about afterwards. It's all of these things, and none of these things. Everything about World of Tanks soon makes sense if you give a little of your time.
Built from the ground up for Xbox 360, Wargaming's aptly-named World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition is a free-to-play game that's been more than huge on PC. It's something of a phenomenon, with 75 million registered players as of December 2013 and over $372 million in revenue accumulated in micro-transactions alone last year. And upon first firing the game up on Xbox 360, it's hard to see what all the fuss is about; until it gets its hooks into you that is. Hell, we even pondered spending real money on the damn thing, an activity we've steadfastly avoided in every other game to date. We haven't buckled yet, but we can see the temptation.
What is it about World of Tanks that makes it so compulsive then? We think we've narrowed it down to the slow and considered pace, forcing a more strategic approach than a typical run and gun shooter. In Battlefield, tanks can tear along at a fair old speed, ploughing through walls and reducing enemies to wrecks in a few shots. In World of Tanks, there's none of the bombast or reckless fun of Battlefield's tank battles, but there's a lot to be said for its more realistic simulation of tank warfare, demanding tactics over ill-thought out head-on assaults. Go turret-to-turret with a rival tank, and chances are you'll come off worse.
Each successfully destroyed enemy tank and hard-fought victory brings with it some fairly generous rewards, with XP awarded to sink into researching new tanks, and silver currency accrued that can be ploughed into purchasing any tanks you unlock through said research. However, at the end of each match, you'll see the XP and silver you've won, alongside the superior prizes you could have won if only you had the game's premium status, available at a price. It's all a bit grubby; a clear indication that the game is very much geared towards coaxing you towards its best tanks and equipment, locked behind a premium pay gate that can only be unlocked with vast swathes of gold. In turn, gold is purchased in packs that cost anywhere between £4.99 and £69.99.
If you want the best tanks in your garage then, you'll have to be prepared to fork out, if only for additional slots to store them in. Otherwise you're restricted to six slots in your garage, if you want to keep things free, with each additional space costing 300 gold apiece. Of course, micro-transactions are entirely optional, and there are numerous American, German and British tanks to research, unlock and purchase without resorting to parting with cash for gold packs. Hoarding your silver to fill your garage with German Panzers, American Shermans or British Vickers is all part of the appeal, but having some tanks only available with the requisite gold just stinks. And you're going to have to amass some serious XP and silver to research the formidable heavy tanks, which means sinking hours into the multiplayer action.
Hats off to Wargaming for honing the World of Tanks experience for Xbox 360 then, with intuitive analog stick controls that'll be second nature to anyone who's thrown a Scorpion tank around in a Halo game. If you're not au fait with such things, there's a succinct training section to complete that introduces you to the basics in mere minutes. The triggers zoom and shoot, you spot enemy tanks automatically, and if you're at the helm of an artillery tank, you can view the battlefield from above and attempt to pelt the enemy with shells from a safe distance. It's easy to get stuck staring down the barrel of your own turret or in an overhead artillery view, leaving yourself open to flanking tactics. The action might be slow, but you still need to keep your wits about you.
Of course, tactical play is where its at, and shielding your tank's weak spots from incoming fire or hiding behind shrubbery is key to success. There's a wealth of permutations and possibilities to exploit in battle, with the keen-minded strategist invariably winning out over the gung-ho maniac. Granted, the visuals are fairly uninspired, murky and lacking any particular eye candy of any kind, but then function wins out over form here, with each of the game's maps – Province, Cliff, Sand River, Malinovka, Westfield (which isn't a shopping mall) and Mountain Pass – providing its own bottlenecks, ravines, mountainous terrain, foliage, structures, high points and low points to traverse and master. This is all in the quest to either wipe out the opposing team's platoon or steal their base flag by taking it over. It's simple, but it works.
Has World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition made the leap from PC to Xbox 360 successfully then? Pretty much, yes. Presenting a generous free-to-play package with plenty to delve into, and a glut of premium content available for anyone willing to pay out for it, World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition is a great example of how free-to-play should be done. For some, the tactical tank battling might seem too slow and sedate, but if you're willing to persevere and form a platoon with your buddies, World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition is worth sinking some time into.
World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition: YES or NO?