Platforms: PC | PS4 (tested)
Developers: Gaijin Entertainment
Publishers: Gaijin Entertainment
Gaijin Entertainment want a slice of Wargaming's enormous war chest. That's basically the reasoning behind War Thunder -- a free-to-play MMO that will see players take to the skies, leap into naval ships, and roll out across the land in hulking armoured tanks. Sound familiar?
The big difference is that Gaijin are looking to have that trifecta of WWII action happening simultaneously, whereas Wargaming have thus far kept their tanks, warplanes, and warships separate from one another. Mind you, Gaijin's vision won't be happening any time soon, as only planes will be available when War Thunder eventually emerges from its lengthy open beta to release fully this winter.
Wargaming have gone and nailed their flag to Microsoft's mast, with World of Tanks coming to Xbox 360 before the year is out. But Gaijin are looking towards the PS4 to complement the PC, with full cross-platform play being touted as one of the game's USPs.
The scope of Gaijin's ambitions should not be ignored, and it makes sense to deliver the three core sectors of the game one at a time, making sure they've gotten everything right before moving onto the next big focus. So we can expect several hundred planes with fully realised interiors at launch, sweeping across 100,000 km² of battlefield as War Thunder serves up a menu of historically accurate maps and engagements. Moreover, alongside the dogfighting PvP, Gaijin are touting objective-based missions, and the chance to jump into widespread, dynamic PvE to change the course of history.
Of course, I didn't really see evidence of any of that, and we probably won't until the game launches properly come November, but I did get hands-on with some aerial combat on the floor at EGX this year, walked through the demo by the game's producer, Pavel Kulikov. It looks good on PS4, the level of detail in the maps is incredibly impressive, and the planes themselves took visually accurate damage.
Unfortunately, the flight controls were horrible. Kulikov noted that these will be highly customisable to allow for veterans and newcomers to tailor the experience to suit their particularly affinities, but I found fighters and bombers alike to be sluggish and awkward to manoeuvre. It hadn't helped that I'd just come over from Ace Combat: Infinity, admittedly, but in what world would I ever want a aerial combat control system for dual control sticks that has me pointing where I want the nose to go rather than controlling the aircraft directly? Why, Gaijin? WHY?!
As it was, I eventually wrapped my head around it, took down some planes, eliminated a bunch of anti-air emplacements, and then swapped into a larger plane with a tailgun so I could bust some aerial arse in first-person. However, I'm not sure I'd call what I was doing fun.
It's worth noting, of course, that if Gaijion's customisation options are as extensive as they say that they are, this shouldn't be a problem. Even on the PS4, there'll be the opportunity to revamp. But it's worth tempering the expectations that Gaijin are pumping out in their trailers. The game will not work the way that they are illustrating for several months beyond release, and even in the mission I played, there was actually precious little dogfighting.
I'm not going to write the game off based on this experience, there's simply too much potential here to not be explored in a fuller fashion, but War Thunder didn't make a great first impression. I want enormous maps, filled with over a hundred planes, in epic battles across historically-accurate locations. That's what Gaijin have promised; that's what I want. That demo wasn't it.
We're going to be diving into the open beta to bring you a more rounded preview of War Thunder, this article is based on first impressions arising from the EGX demo. Watch this space.