The great thing about reviewing a game like World of Tanks is that much of the work is already done. It's mostly in the name there to start: there's a world out there and Wargaming.net wants to fill it with as many tanks as possible. Not just any regular old tanks either, but tanks from the World War II era which one could argue was the very height of tank warfare. Most that are familiar with the PC version should already know what they're getting into, but if you've never had a proper machine to run the game before and have been eying the console version with some suspicion here's a bit of information you may find handy before getting too frustrated about being broadsided by some fast and furious Sherman with an armor piercing round from across the map.
Before getting into the real grit behind what makes World of Tanks a generally satisfying experience, it's important to know that above all else this is a game that requires patience. Players start each round with only one life, and once you've been shot down there's no respawning; instead the game lets you simply enter into multiple matches while tracking how well you did in each individual match, eventually granting you experience in one large bundle. This means that while players only have one life to live, once it's spent you're free to try and learn from your mistakes in another match.
As a result, matches in World of Tanks move at a snail's pace. No one wants to get shot and everyone wants to shoot first, so finding combat is less the frantic multi-tank action that you would imagine and more a game of careful precision and positioning. Knowing the layout of each level certainly helps and once you start up you'll certainly find that there are going to be times where you'll die to enemies that simply know where to hide, but so long as the experience is taken as a learning opportunity it should only take four or five matches to get a hang of the way World of Tanks wants you to play.
The controls themselves are fairly simple, with both analog sticks managing the movement of the tank vs the movement of the cannon and the predictable triggers giving better viewing options in addition to actually firing the weapon. Anyone who has ever driven a vehicle in a game before should get a handle on it, although there are some things that take some getting used to. Tank speed isn't very quick, and moving uphill or through any kind of difficult terrain like bog will literally slow you down to a crawling pace. It's realistic of course, which can be disorienting for anyone used to the somewhat-less realistic mechanized units of Battlefield.
Winning matches gives experience and silver, both of which can be used to buy new tanks and tank upgrades. Better tanks generally have superior overall performance, but as each tank is broken down into various classes it's easy to follow the scale. Light tanks capitalize on speed before fire power whereas medium and heavy tanks lean further towards hitting harder at the cost of speed and size. Of course how well any of these tools of war perform is heavily dependent on the user, and though there's definitely a level of skill present in World of Tanks, much of it is capped by the game's slow pacing and level design.
One complaint is how dated the levels feel, offering little in the way of flexibility due to the long-range style of combat offered. A bigger graphical update to the console version would fix a lot of these issues as an increase in natural foliage, particle effects from smoke, or even heavy fog would be a complete game changer for how players approach taking the field. It would also mean a heavier reliance on team strategy, spotting and overall communication; something that's already required to an extent but isn't really easy to accomplish.
You can only move so far or explore so much in a game where two well-placed shots will literally end your gaming experience, and everything that makes World of Tanks a more genuine tank simulator is somewhat displaced by how incomplete the console edition of the game feels. It's a team oriented game, but you can only group with two other friends in a party. It's a game that wants you to embrace a more realistic atmosphere, but allows players to park a tank in a bush, creating an invisible predator that's near-impossible to detect; and of course it's a game that rewards patience, but includes a short-cut just in case you're looking to get a little bit of an edge sooner than later.
Buying gold in-game can be done with real cash, but thankfully the list of perks that are available for purchase are fairly tame and will sit anywhere between mild weapon upgrades or experience boosts. Not only that, but the matchmaking system tries hard to keep players of similar tank rating against one another, and having heavier equipment really only gets you so far.
World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition feels like a somewhat incomplete presentation of what World of Tanks has to offer. Wargaming.net has the right idea in bringing the game to console gamers, and with a bit of polish World of Tanks should shine beautifully. A graphical update to the terrain and some increased flexibility in multiplayer options would do wonders for opening up the game to players, but for the time being if you have both the patience and the determination World of Tanks can provide a very rewarding (if somewhat limited) strategic experience.
|Controls are smooth, easy to learn|
|XP/Silver earning allows for quick successive games|
|Matchmaking is fairly balanced|
|Not enough game modes|
|Level graphics feel dated compared to tanks|
|Slow paced, very unforgiving|