Above: Not the best angle when chasing someone.
Image Credit: GamesBeat
What you won’t like
The controls are difficult to master
War Thunder was built for the PC. Its controls were designed for a keyboard and mouse, and they don’t translate to a controller well.
The fighter plane controls aren’t that terrible, but the camera movement is. The automatic camera gets caught under or on the sides of your plane during maneuvers. A console gamer’s natural instinct is to try to maneuver the camera with the right stick, which will only roll your plane and make the problem even worse. It’s best to just accept that you will crash into trees and mountains periodically due to the camera’s inability to keep up.
The tank controls on the other hand — well, those are a bit of a disaster.
A level one tank moves like a drunk, pregnant cow:
Basic movement improves as you upgrade your crews and tanks, but the command prompts of the tanks’ auxiliary skills replace one headache with another. For example, if I want to call for artillery support [a barrage of massive shells on a certain area], I have to press R1 and Triangle at the same time, then use the right stick to aim it, and then press R2 to launch it. That’s a lot of steps to take mid-battle.
I also encountered a mistake in the command prompts. If your tank is on fire, a prompt tells you to press R1 and X at the same time. I followed these instructions the first few times it happened, and my crew died. I actually needed to press R1 and circle. A very fixable bug, but one that will annoy hundreds on launch day.
Planes and tanks don’t commingle as often as they should
In order for War Thunder to crush its enemies, it needs to take full advantage of its biggest strength: It has both planes and tanks.
World of Warplanes and World of Tanks are two separate games. They require two clients and use two different in-game currency accounts. Even if these games were vastly superior to War Thunder [which they aren't], they would still never be able to mix.
Unfortunately, War Thunder hamstrung itself from the very beginning. All five of War Thunder’s playable nations have planes, but only two nations have tanks: Germany and the Soviet Union. This doesn’t provide for the balance necessary to put two air teams and two ground teams together on the same map. There will always be a lot more pilots in the queue. I found that when I searched for a match as an American, British, or Japanese pilot, I ended up in air-only battles nine times out of 10.
I think this problem is fixable. Adding tanks to the other nations would be the ideal solution. Relaxing the player queue — which always attempts to pit an all-Allied team vs. an all-Axis team — might also help.
Above: Top: Tank Queue. Bottom: Plane Queue
Image Credit: GamesBeat
War Thunder surprised me. I am not very good at it, but I still have a lot of fun playing it. Because it is a free-to-play game, some players will download it on a whim and quit 20 minutes in due to the poor controls. Those that brave the steep learning curve will be rewarded with a realistic combat simulator that could be truly great one day.
War Thunder will be available for download for the PlayStation 4 on June 3. It is currently available for PC. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a free PlayStation 4 download code for this review.
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