I first saw World of Tanks in a small booth at E3 a few years ago. I played it a little, but at the time, to me the term ‘Free to Play’ meant ‘Not a Real Game Yet’. I admit it, I was biased against F2P games and didnt give it much thought. Every year since then, the World of Tanks booth has grown to the point where now you can expect to see full size WW2 tanks looming beside the game area. I began to think that maybe I had misjudged this MMO version of a tank sim.
A few weeks ago I got the chance to play the new version of World of Tanks on the Xbox 360. I kept an open mind, because when a company shows up at E3 with a tank, they must be doing something right. And they are, World of Tanks manages to solve not only a lot of the problems I have with F2P games, but it manages to avoid the shortcoming of most shooters.
One of my big issues with shooters (and make no mistake, WoT is shooter, not a sim. Think Call of Duty...but with tanks), is what I call ‘lone wolf syndrome’. No matter what the game developers envisioned, the game is almost always populated with ‘lone wolves’ who sprint around the map like wanne be Rambos trying to take out the opposition on their own. I’ve always said, if you can get just 3 people in a shooter to work together, their team would win every match. "Think Call of Duty...but with tanks"And yet it never happens. But in World of Tanks, you can’t sprint. You’re a tank. A big slow tank. Even the ‘fast’ tanks are still pretty slow. and that’s a good thing. Because now you’re almost forced to work as a team. Because of your speed and size, if you go out alone, you’re just a big target. This means that almost every game, you’re aware of where your teammates are. You cover them, and they cover you. And with that comes an immediate sense of ‘I’m part of a Team’, even in pickup matches with strangers. That’s something that you almost never get in most shooters.
The next big plus happens when you die. In the modes I played, you only get a single life, with no respawning. Once your tank is destroyed, you can wait around and watch the rest of the match unfold. Or you can leave immediately and start a new match without being penalized any points or rewards you may have earned. No more waiting around while the final two tanks look for each other on opposite sides of the map. That change allowed me to keep playing instead of just sitting back and flipping through the different camera views of other players.
"the devs have managed to keep the tedious parts of sims out"World of Tanks is a slightly arcade-y tank game with more than a few simulation style additions. There’s a ton of historically accurate war machines to pilot, with everything from small Shermans to huge Panzers. All of the tanks have the same simple controls. It’s more complicated to drive a car in Forza than it is to move a 30 ton beast in WoT but I’m not a tank buff so I can’t comment on how historically accurate each tank is. I was pleasantly surprised how well WoT uses terrain. For once in a game, higher ground actually means something. Flanking around the side of a hill isn’t just possible, its the norm. Getting into cover means driving behind a house, and not just hitting a button. Somehow the devs have managed to keep the tedious parts of sims out while including all of the ‘cool’ stuff like the damage model that allows you to blow off a tread or destroy a turret while still keeping the tank alive. And there’s a huge draw distance where you can see someone creeping from behind a fence on the other side of the map.
Notice I've gotten this far into the preview without mentioning ‘Leveling Up’. Usually in F2P games, the game is obviously secondary to the economy the developer has concocted to get you to start spending money. I know Wargaming.net isn’t a charity and they want to fill their bank accounts like any over dev, but I have to admit, I never felt pressured to hand over my credit card, or felt like I was being held back because I didn’t drop an extra $5 in the jar. The games were matched up in a way that I was always against similar skilled opponents, or on a team that had an even mix of small and big tanks. This is just a preview so I won’t go too deep on how the economy works, but basically, you play, you get money, you buy stuff for your tank (or new tanks).
World of Tanks on the Xbox 360 is now in open beta and from what I’ve seen, there’s no reason it won’t make as big a splash on the console as it has on the PC. It manages to have an arcade like control style, strategic gameplay, and is well paced. Maybe ‘F2P’ isn’t such a bad word after all.
Call of Duty. The game people love to hate. The Michael Bay movie of the gaming world, everyone will complain about it but everyone will play. This year’s addition to the franchise Advanced Warfare is brought to us by COD new comers (not including their help on MW3) Sledgehammer games. In this COD Sledgehammer have brought the franchise to the future. Exo skeletons and Minority Report stylisation galore.
From the offset you can be sure…this ain’t your daddy’s COD. The introduction of the double jump alone has created a whole new beast, let’s take a look shall we?
The campaign mode, while not any different from any previous year’s campaign weighs in at around 6 hours gameplay (for the average gamer) and this is what we have come to expect from the Activision shooter franchise. However this time, more than applicable to any previous iteration, it is advisable to play through the campaign first before delving into multiplayer as Sledgehammer have shaken the very foundations of the COD series that have remained relatively unchanged since the first major shake-up in Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare.
Story wise it is more or less the same length as previous CODs, you have your team, you have your buddies and you have your mission. While not quite as engaging as perhaps the Ghosts campaign, the jump to the future certainly changes the game significantly in location settings and looks, and also the equipment available. While playing the story, even in the opening chapter, you are witness to a ‘Matrix’ esque swarm of drones and walkers that look plucked straight out of Metal Gear Solid 4. A standard tale of power and corruption helmed by Kevin Spacey himself is enjoyable, but it won’t take the whole weekend to complete.
In campaign mode, visiting the pause menu will greet you with a set of EXO challenges such as, get 50 kills or, collect 5 pieces of Intel. This gifts to the game a set of side quests to accomplish alongside your main objective. The introduction of the new arsenal such as the threat detector grenade, gives Advanced Warfare’s campaign even more reason to be played as it gets the player fully comfortable with the changes this time round. A short stealth section aside and some ninja like grappling, the campaign is an easy 6 hour blast, needed this time before hitting the multiplayer. While short and sweet like most COD campaigns, the main story proves more as a necessary training ground for the COD elite.
Controls are shaken up a tad with the dodge mechanic, clicking L3 down and flicking down, left or right will make your character dodge in the corresponding direction. While a nice touch, having it in the multi-player is quite redundant giving the fast paced antics you find in there. Clicking R3, knife kills are replaced with insta-death punches which feels immensely more satisfying than knifing. Finding the beam weapon instantly brings the Ghostbusters theme to your head and is gratifying to use to cause more devastation.
Weapons are much more fun to handle, the aiming and feedback are a whole ton better than we had in Ghosts last year. Bringing the franchise to the future has seemingly brought the fun back to COD. Getting used to the new mechanics and the level layouts is a breath of fresh air to the series and something that needs to be recognised by the teams making next year’s iteration.
Onto multiplayer, while it’s always nice to play your favourite COD map (Nuke town right?) having a complete fresh feeling set is always better. Yeah sure most new CODs have their own set of maps, but never before has such as sense of freshness occurred in venturing into online multiplayer. Thanks to the ingenious (and about 5-10 years overdue) double jump mechanic, playing COD online is a very different game from ANY game previous. Maps have suddenly become much more open as reaching high places is as simple as a double tap of X. That one guy who used to be carefully placed in an unapproachable nesting spot can be quickly dealt with by a few timed double jumps.
Multiplayer seems a lot more frantic this time around. While standing pumping rounds into the guy in front, his buddy is generally only a corner away with a loaded fist. Fast paced has never been a more astute phrase, but this time you will need your wits about the multi layered levels. As granting players the ability to leap buildings and walls means you are never a minute away from the action.
For the old hard-core, online mode does feature a classics section, where you can play online with all the new-fangled young kids double jumping is negated for good old fashioned shooting and being shot at. The extra mile has certainly went into making Advanced Warfare feel as different while familiar as possible.
On to the not so goods – graphically the character models in the cut scenes and in game are absolutely superb. Kevin Spacey being a natural highlight in the story but, each characters facial expressions have had some amount of work put into them. Hats off to Sledgehammers talented studio for that. However the downside is while looking very nice in cut scenes, when the game actually hits the backgrounds just can’t match that cut scene quality and somewhat detracts from the immersion. Getting new items and equipment this time around sadly is not up to the player and is assigned automatically after each online match. This leads to a sense of less customisation than the previous installments that have allowed the player to pick their rewards after matches.
All in all COD is a great package, it’s a big shake up in the way the games played and is visually impressive despite the shortfalls in the way the backgrounds look in gameplay. This is the game to bring back the COD doubters and is the game for any Kevin Freaking Spacey fan to play as he is fantastic in the campaign mode. It’s big dumb fun, but this time… it’s futuristic big dumb fun that might require some getting used to.
For more on COD Advanced Warfare, check out 42 Level One every Tuesday at 9:30pm GMT right here on All Games.
It’s the freshest COD since MW 1
Kevin “freaking” Spacey
Campaigns still short and unsurprising
Scenery could look prettier