Note: War Thunder is currently only available in Europe. However, in a recent post on Reddit the CEO of Gaijin Games has stated that a United States release of the game could occur during the first few weeks of May 2014.
The amount of games that allow players to hop into the cockpit of a fighter plane from the early part of the 20th century and simply have aerial dogfights with other players is lacking these days. One of the kings of these types of games is Gaijin Entertainment, responsible for stellar games such as Birds of Steel, IL-2 Sturmovik, and Apache: Air Assault. Thus, when you want to play a game that actually makes you feel like you are a fighter pilot, you want to play a game by Gaijin Entertainment.
Their latest free-to-play (F2P) game, War Thunder, has been available on the PC for quite some time, and it has garnered a pretty big following all over the world. One of the first F2P games to be released on the PS4, newcomers and experienced players alike are getting a chance to fly in World War II fighter planes and gun down players worldwide without having to pay a dime. So is it worth your time to play War Thunder on the PS4? Find out below.
Note: War Thunder is still in beta (on both PS4 and PC). Gaijin Entertainment has yet to state when the game will be officially released.
Solid dogfighting gameplay
The moment you complete the tutorial in War Thunder (which I highly suggest you play the first time you boot up the game), you have pretty much seen everything that War Thunder has to offer. It’s centered around aerial dogfighting (although controlling naval and ground units are rumored to be introduced in future updates) and nothing more, and while it may sound simplistic in nature, it’s actually quite tough to master. One moment, you will be taking a sharp turn with guns blazing as you chase down an opponent, and a split second later? Someone you find that an opponent has shot the engine in your plane, and all you can do is crash land and try to shoot down as many opponents as possible before crashing into the ground.
It’s moments like these that make War Thunder such a thrill to play. You may thinking you’re doing awesome one moment, only to find a band of enemy planes spraying a barrage of bullets at you, forcing you to fly defensively as you attempt to not only dodge them, but also get the upper hand on them and disable them in some way. Every part of the plane can be damaged – from the wings of the plane (that will cause stability issues if too much damage is taken) to the actual propeller of the plane failing to work if it becomes damaged. This forces players to think strategically about how they can disable a plane as quickly as possible, and because the tide of battle can change in a split second, you’ll want to take out planes in the quickest and most effective way possible.
The F2P model isn’t ‘in your face’
I don’t believe that the F2P model in games are necessarily evil, but when utilized in the wrong way, they can be. Many games abuse the F2P model – so much so that it makes players feel ‘forced’ to pay money to get any enjoyment out of the game. Fortunately, Gaijin Entertainment has opted not to do this with War Thunder, and I’m happy to say that you can progress nicely in War Thunder without paying a dime. Nothing is off limits to you if you choose not to buy anything – it’s just going to take you a bit longer to unlock everything than if you choose to throw a few bucks their way.
What a grind
And when I say everything is going to take a bit longer to unlock everything, I sincerely mean that it is going to take a long time to unlock every fighter plane, additional hangars, and more. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the gameplay is always fun and never boring (as I mentioned above), but if you think you can unlock anything in a few dozen hours, think again. War Thunder is a grind to be sure, but even so, it’s a fun grind.
The controls feel like a dream
I have played my fair share of War Thunder on PC using an Xbox 360 controller (blasphemy, I know), and controlling my fighter plane felt very comfortable. I could take sharp turns and fire my guns with relative ease, and I didn’t think controlling fighter planes in War Thunder would ever feel more comfortable than the setup I use on PC.
Friends, was I ever wrong.
Controlling my fighter plane on the PS4 version of War Thunder feels right. I don’t know how else to explain it. Gaijin Entertainment certainly knew what they were doing when they ported the game’s controls to the PS4, as flying around, aiming, and dodging bullets feels infinitely easier than in the PC version.
However, much like in the PC version, players may be put off when it comes to aiming. War Thunder doesn’t hold your hand in any way. There isn’t an aim assist option, nor is aiming and shooting your enemies as easy as placing your reticule on their plane and pressing ‘fire.’ Instead, you have to aim for a small target that lies ahead of enemy aircraft. The further you are the smaller the target is, and the close you get, the bigger the target gets. Fire your guns and hit the target, and you will hit the enemy plane.
The reason Gaijin Entertainment opted to make the aiming of War Thunder in this manner is pretty simple: this is how you would aim your guns in real life if you were flying a plane. When flying and shooting at an enemy, you have to predict how far ahead to shoot at them in hopes that your bullets will hit the aircraft. Gaijin Entertainment has made this task easier for players by showing players exactly where to aim in order to get a hit on an enemy, and while it may still sound confusing, take it from me: when you hit an enemy, you’ll be jumping for joy. It never gets old.
Decent visuals, poor UI
Unfortunately, War Thunder isn’t perfect. The visuals in the game don’t exactly feel next-gen, and while the game is still in beta, they feel as if they need an extra polish all the same. Especially when comparing the visuals of the PC version to the PS4 version, War Thunder on the PS4 looks like the PCs less attractive cousin. Hopefully the beta will fix the poor visuals, but until then, don’t expect to be blown away visually.
The UI is perhaps the worst part of War Thunder. It feels as if Gaijin Entertainment ported a simplified version of War Thunder’s PC UI and spent about five minutes porting the controls over to the DualShock 4. Navigating War Thunder on the PS4 can be confusing, and while you will get the hang of it, it never stops feeling clunky. Gaijin Entertainment needs to do some series work on the UI to ensure it navigates in a console-friendly manner, because as it stands, it’s a mess.
Is it worth your time?
Absolutely. Especially when you consider that War Thunder never has to cost you a penny, the amount of memorable moments and addictive gameplay that War Thunder provides is going to be tough to beat. Not only is War Thunder the best F2P PS4 game available right now, but it’s likely going to be the go-to F2P game on the PS4 for many in 2014. And for those living in North America that are unable to play War Thunder? Not to worry, as I have a handy guide available that will allow you to play War Thunder even if you live in North America. It works as it’s the way I reviewed the game, so try it out, experience the magic that is War Thunder despite the few faults that it has.
Final Score: 8/10
Game Category: Action / Adventure
Article by - Dusty W.
Insert Date: 1/14/2014