World of Tanks Xbox One Review: Woah, that's a big gun...

Cross platform, free to play tank blasting hits consoles - but is this worth sinking time into?

World of Tanks Xbox One Review Woah thats a big gun  Everybody Plays
11th November, 2015
Game Info // World of Tanks
World of Tanks Boxart
Publisher: Wargaming
Players: 1
Online Multiplayer: None
Available On: Xbox One
Genre: Simulation

It's fair to say World of Tanks is nothing short of a phenomenon - and one that few really saw coming. One of the games that pioneered the free to play revolution, World of Tanks is a game with a simple enough concept, offering historically accurate online tank battles with a shallow learning curve, so anyone can pick up and start playing without too much hassle. Oh, and it's completely free of charge. All you have to do is download the (hefty) game from the store, and you can jump right in, and start playing alongside your friends. Once there, you have the option of spending money to fast track your way to better tanks, or buy special ammo for the ones you've got - but you can get hours of fun out of this without spending a single penny. With tens of millions of registered users on PC, and thousands of regular players on the Xbox 360, now the phenomenon has smashed its way onto the Xbox One, looking to take charge of a whole new audience.

What you've got here is essentially the same game that released on the 360 a few years ago, only with a range of upgrades. Taking advantage of the Xbox One's added oomph, the game's been given a graphical overhaul, had a brand new "you vs CPU" mode added, and, perhaps most importantly, comes with full support for cross platform play, letting people on the 360 and Xbox One play together (although sadly, we can't play against the PC folks).

When we mentioned accessibility being important, it shows in the game modes on offer in World of Tanks - while there are three different types of game on offer, they're all mostly variations of a theme. With up to fifteen tanks on each team, it's up to you to a) try to capture the (enemy/neutral) base, and b) not get blown up. One of these is easier to achieve than the other.

When you first start out, you'll only have a handful of tanks to choose from to take into your mission with you - mostly light tanks like the US T1 Cunningham, and the German Leichttraktor. While they may not be household names like Shermans and Churchills, luckily, you'll mostly be playing against people with a similar range of tanks. Unluckily, almost everyone you'll be coming up against will have played the game at least a few times before, and will have upgraded their tank. And that spells disaster for you when you're just starting out.

Upgrades are pretty much the lifeblood of World of Tanks, as both a way of getting the best out of your tank of choice, and as a way of developers Wargaming making money. While all the upgrades can be bought by simply playing the game, and earning experience and silver coins to spend, you can always buy gold coins to fast track your progress - something many seemingly choose to do.

Still, where there's a will, there's a way, and there's no need to spend a penny on World of Tanks if you choose not to. When you're first starting out, things can sometimes get frustrating, but you don't have to do too much to earn enough experience and coins to purchase a new upgrade. Your light tanks are perfectly equipped as scouts - what they lack in firepower, they more than make up for in speed - and so scooting behind enemy lines, "spotting" enemy tanks, and even capturing the enemy base are the jobs that'll fall to you. Knowing who, and what you can go up against, and what you won't stand a chance of beating is key, and it's a lesson you'll very quickly learn.

In fact, World of Tanks feels very different to most other online games. This isn't a game where going in all guns blazing works - instead, it's essential to work together, as a team, to out-think, out-gun, and outmanoeuvre your opponents. As we mentioned when we first went hands-on with the 360 version of the game, matches on World of Tanks almost start out nervously, as you and your team mates try to figure out who's going to lead, and you almost silently split off into platoons, to use your numbers to your advantage. If you come across an enemy tank, it's almost always a numbers game that decides who wins, so you'll want to work together.

And in that same way, simply charging into enemy territory doesn't often work. Instead, depending on your type of tank, you'll want to adjust your strategy to suit. Light tanks work well as scouts, as their speed makes them hard to hit - unless you're unlucky enough to stray right in the line of fire of a bigger tank, you should be able to keep your foot to the floor and make yourself tricky to hit. Medium and heavy tanks are the backbone of the team, and provide the firepower needed to take the enemy head on - and have the armour to soak up a fair few hits before they really start to get into trouble. Tank destroyers, on the other hand, have particularly weak armour, but rather powerful guns, and are intended to find a good hiding place, before picking off enemies across the map, while artillery, the last category of tanks, are perhaps some of the best. Offering a totally different type of gameplay, artillery and self propelled guns see you firing at your foes from an overhead view. All you have to do is find a place to hide and press the left trigger, and you'll be presented with a top down view of the world around you. If you've picked a sensible place to hide, all that's left then is to find an enemy on the map, and fire away, as you rain destruction down upon them.

Of course, there's a bit more to it than that, or else all you'd need on your team is a few artillery units, and you'd win. Not all enemies can be hit - those hiding behind buildings or other solid structure will block the path of your shells - and, more to the point, not all enemies can be seen in the first place. World of Tanks uses a kind of "fog of war" system to determine what enemies are marked on the map. If another tank sees you, you'll be "spotted", which will mark your location on the map - and also allow any nearby artillery to see you, meaning a rapid position change is required. If you manage to stay hidden from any enemy tanks, though, you'll also stay hidden from the artillery, as you'll effectively be hidden by the fog of war. Finding a place you can pick enemies off without being spotted yourself is a great strategy to take - especially if you're playing in a platoon of friends. With a buddy on the other side of the road, you can lie in wait, creating a trap - and if you have a third player in a light tank, you could even try and lead people right into it...

For those looking for a less pressured way of testing out new strategies, though, World of Tanks' brand new Proving Grounds mode will be right up your street. Letting you take on a team of computer controlled enemies (along with your computer controlled buddies) in what's essentially a normal World of Tanks game, just without any real people. Adding a much needed single player component - alongside a great place to try out any new tanks, or strategies - this is a great addition.

That said, forming a platoon isn't as easy as it could be, nor as easy as it should be - although the blame for this probably lies at Microsoft's feet. While the game does let you play cross platform, so people on the Xbox One will be facing off against players on the Xbox 360, there's actually no easy way to make a platoon of players across both consoles. For some reason, you can't invite players on the 360 to join your game if it's started on Xbox One, or vice versa. While there is a work around, it'd be nice if there was an easier way to do it.

Similarly, the way World of Tanks handles unlocks is a bit strange, too. While on other similar games, like War Thunder, once you've bought a plane or a tank, you've unlocked it forever, and can switch it in and out your line up as much as you want, World of Tanks takes a slightly different tack. At the bottom of the screen, you have a number of slots from which you can choose a tank to take into a stage. The catch is, when you go to unlock a new tank, you can only unlock it if you have an available slot. If you don't, you'll have to sell your old tank first. With only a limited number of slots available (others are available for an extra cost), this makes things more than a little bit tricky for the collectors, or those of us who prefer a bit of variety. If you buy a Tier 3 tank, then decide you preferred the pace of things in Tier 2, if you don't have any slots left, you'll have to sell your Tier 3 tank and rebuy your Tier 2 tank at full whack. It's the same if a new friends starts playing - if you have a garage full of high tier tanks, you're not likely to want to sell any of them to buy a lower tier one so you can play alongside your friend. It's a bit of an awkward system, and one that puts quite a downer on the game.

Still, for the most part, World of Tanks is an enjoyable historical shooter that brings a welcome blend of strategy to proceedings. Working together with friends to take out (or trick) another team is a great feeling, and even better, you don't have to spend a penny if you don't want to. While we do wish there was more to do by way of single player (we'd pay good money for a single player campaign, or a mission pack), World of Tanks is well worth a download.

StarStarStarHalf starEmpty star
For the tanktically minded
  • +
    Great team based gameplay
  • +
    Working together pays dividends
  • +
    No "pay to win"
  • -
    Nigh on impossible to join platoons cross-platform
  • -
    Odd garage system means you have to replace one tank with another
  • -
    Little single player offering
Parents! Looking for more info? Check out our quick parent's guide to World of Tanks for all you need to know!
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