Format Reviewed: PC
Other Formats: N/A
Release: Out Now
Players: Massively Multiplayer
Minimum Spec: 2.66Ghz CPU, 3GB RAM, 256Mb GPU, 19GB HDD space
Online Reviewed: Yes
Successor to the prosperous World Of Tanks, Wargaming’s latest opus World Of Warplanes takes the fight to the skies in the form of a massively multiplayer flight sim. Rooted in PvP encounters, World Of Warplanes is free-to-play and encourages online combat between players in the cockpits of fighter planes and bombers native to the five main aggressors of the Second World War.
The appeal of World Of Tanks was rooted in its simple, compulsive PvP encounters and polished online experience. World Of Warplanes has adopted much the same template, pitting players against each other in 15 versus 15 deathmatches in which each team has to either wipe out every enemy aircraft or attain air superiority by destroying ground targets and the like.
This, unfortunately, results in the game being fairly one-dimensional; the battles themselves are very enjoyable, but they play out much the same way every time. A lot of FPS players will default to a team deathmatch as it is a more unadulterated form of competition, and yet the arsenal of other game types that they have available to them always keeps the action fresh. World Of Warplanes has one game type, with not many different ways to play it.
What World Of Warplanes does is toe the line between stern, dazzlingly complex simulation games and the sort of vertigo-inducing, frenetic action available from arcade flying games. You get all the beautifully rendered real-life World War Two aeroplanes, sure, but they’ve been thrown into a cocktail shaker with Ace Combat and Maverick’s preposterous attitude towards safe conduct in Top Gun.
What we’re left with is a game that, despite its best intentions, feels a little muddled. What War Thunder has done so well is to create an environment that is accessible enough for rookie pilots to whizz around while listening to Kenny Loggins, and hardcore enough for veterans of Microsoft Flight Simulator who prefer games with 3,000 different keyboard commands but feel like trying something ‘a bit more shooty’. This has been done by introducing different realism levels; something that Wargaming hasn’t offered with World Of Warplanes.
The experience is that of an arcade-style flyer with a decent online infrastructure, but like most arcade flyers the gameplay is so inherently basic that it loses its appeal fairly quickly if you are into the more hardcore variety of flight sim. If it’s a simpler, more harmless experience that you’re after then Warplanes is a good place to start, and may pique your interest enough to invest in a more technical sim at a later date.
Simplicity isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. In terms of gameplay World Of Warplanes holds up very well, whether using a joystick, controller or mouse and keyboard. It is worth noting that, like all flying games, in our opinion using a joystick is the most responsive and enjoyable option. When attempting to manoeuvre into position to slot the BF-109 you’ve been tailing through the desert, using a mouse just doesn’t cut it, especially if you’re up against intelligent opposition.
All in all though, the planes handle well. As you near enemy aircraft a red hit-box appears that indicates how much lead you need to give your opponent when firing at them, an addition that yet again will delight fair-weather fans but will make life a little too easy for hardcore players. You really can throw the planes about to your heart’s content – plenty of times we found ourselves nose-diving from 2,000 meters towards a grassy knoll only to be able to turn on a dime and pull up at the last second. It looked bloody great, mind. And of course, like in any combat flight game, snagging a kill is extremely satisfying.
Graphics and sound hold up nicely as well – we’ve played prettier games but, in the case of an MMO with a hell of a lot going on at once, Warplanes can be forgiven for not looking like Battlefield 4 on Ultra. Draw distances are as proficient as you’d expect in a game of this nature, and the plane models themselves – perhaps best admired in the hangar in the downtime between battles – are accurate and well-realised.
World Of Warplanes’ most contentious facet, though, is that of its microtransactions. We are in the midst of an influx of free-to-play titles that hide their most desirable wares behind a pay wall. Of course, titles like PlanetSide 2 peddle the sort of free-to-play experience that give the movement a good name, wherein everything is unlockable over time and the only benefits to glean from spending real currency are cosmetic. World Of Warplanes pretty much slots into this category. Almost every aircraft is unlockable over time, although the grinding required to advance through the vehicle tiers will take an enormous amount of patience. There are a few planes locked away for ‘Premium’ account holders as well, although the discrepancy isn’t troubling enough to lose sleep over.
World Of Warplanes is a neat addition to Wargaming’s repertoire, but it all just feels a little too shallow to really make waves. Like recent online PS4 releases Warframe and Blacklight: Retribution, it hints at some wonderful online content and decent gameplay, but feels like it’s only scratching the surface. The actual online features themselves are good and we encountered no server issues whatsoever (on a modest broadband connection, too), there are a multitude of unlocks to earn if you have the patience to grind them out and there is infinite potential for updates. What there isn’t, is a game worth investing a huge amount of time in when you can play its direct competitor, War Thunder, and enjoy an experience with more depth. Still, it’s free, and will provide you with a decent experience – only in our case, for a finite amount of time.