World of Tanks Xbox 360 Edition preview: Learning to tread

World of Tanks Xbox 360 Edition preview: Learning to tread

World of Tanks XBox 360 Edition 1

Having a MacBook means two things to me: A) It’s a fantastic laptop that as served me better from a creative aspect than any other computer I’ve owned, and B) I miss out on a lot of games. A LOT of games. One in particular that I had always wanted to try was World of Tanks. After witnessing it overrun the exterior of the LA Convention Center the last few E3s, I was curious as to what the excitement was about.

Cut to E3 this year and the announcement that the game was coming to Xbox 360. Suddenly, I had an option.

Now that I had the beta loaded up on my Xbox 360, I took the time to dive into this enigma of a game. I learned one thing very quickly: I’m not cut out for war, and I certainly hope my opponents had a great chuckle at my expense.

It’s not that World of Tanks is difficult to control; far from it, really. After a little practice, I was able to gauge the timing and speed of my various tanks to make necessary turns, to pivot and spin myself around when needed, to slide behind cover when regrouping. The translation of controls from mouse & keyboard to game pad is spot on. My humble opinion chooses game pads these days over the old school, preferring dual analog sticks for my twitch movements. There are advantages to the pad as well, since I found it easier to be intentionally clumsy. That is, I would often slide behind a building, “accidentally” nicking the corner and knocking it over and giggling to myself mischievously.

No, the controls are pretty solid.

My strategy wasn’t.


World of Tanks is designed sort of like a more traditional FPS, with an emphasis on classes and tactical movement. When there are less players in a match it’s a dogfight on land. When there are more than 4 players in a match, it becomes a hectic cat & mouse, especially if players aren’t working together — or if you’re the mouse being hunted. In my case, I was almost always the mouse.

My tank of choice was almost always a heavy German, which gave precedence to power and distance but slower turning radius for the turret. No problem, since I would just plop on top of a hill and knock out players in the distance. I was trying to be a sniper wearing thick armor.

Not my brightest choice.

As heavy as the tanks are or tuned to distance shots, it’s rare that they should ever really stand still. Stopping my tank meant that my opponents would almost instantly converge on me from all angles, circling like sharks in the water. These big girls needed to keep moving, keep shifting behind structures or down streets. They need to take choice shots, and to know when to fall back.


That’s not to say that you shouldn’t go Rambo once in a while. The Xbox 360 version of the game is a little more accessible for new players, with tweaks to experience leveling and to the tank speed. The perspective change (over the top of the tanks) is welcome as well, reminding me of endless bouts of Twisted Metal with friends back in the early days of vehicle combat on consoles. Sometimes, with the right group of players, running around and “blowing shit up” can be extremely fun, especially if everyone is doing it. In one match I vividly experienced what amounts to Michael Bay levels of explosions, as no one seemed to let off of the guns and mortars the entire time. Explosions everywhere, lighting up the environment and sending booms through my headphones, was as intense and enjoyable as any scene of mass chaos possible.

Moving to the 360 does force the visuals to suffer, however. Tanks are very boxy and textures are muddy. Trees look like grainy cutouts and shadows and lighting didn’t seem to always create a clean environment. At the tail end of a generation, upon hardware that’s over 8 years old, I wasn’t expecting it to really compete with next gen visuals, but I did hope that it would be able to compete with current gen stuff. It misses the target just a bit there.

Thankfully, the visuals didn’t detract much from the experience of tooling around and explodering things. The meat of the PC game seems to be there, and it feels a little more adept to the console. Though only American & German tanks are available in the beta, over 100 should be around for launch from other countries as well.

The biggest question is whether the game’s Free to Play structure will resonate with fans who are ready to move on to Xbones and PS4s. Will we keep our older boxes just to play WoT? I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks. Until then I’ll keep practicing, and remind myself to keep the tank moving even when I have my trigger finger twitching.

World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition is currently in beta.