War Thunder is a relatively old free-to-play game. It has been available on PlayStation 4 and Steam since 2013, and came to Xbox One in 2018. It went through a long early access period, but is now fully-released. For this reason, War Thunder now has to stand on its own feet. Gaijin Entertainment can no longer hide behind the testing period.
So, do I recommend War Thunder? Let’s break it down.
At the present time, the game brings together aspects from all types of vehicular warfare. Unlike other vehicle war games like World of Tanks, War Thunder does not just focus on the ground. Instead, this is a game that wants to you take to battle across land, sea, and air.
This means all kinds of machines are at your disposal, although the choices are limited in terms of time period. Players can access tanks, aircraft, and ships from historical times including World War II, the Spanish Civil War, and the Cold War.
As is the custom in these types of online battle games, War Thunder does not focus on narrative. So, there is no story or singleplayer campaign to get to grips with. While the team behind the title has added various new forces and factions, these are all focused on use in multiplayer. Yet, this is not really an issue as this game excels in allowing players to jump straight into the action.
Perhaps the biggest single strength of War Thunder is the sheer amount of choice. Players are free to choose from dozens of aircraft, tanks, and naval vessels across a range of modes and maps.
Additionally, extra vehicles can be unlocked and upgrades applied using in-game currency. This means you don’t have to spend real money on getting new stuff or better equipment. Simply playing the game should give you enough research points to do everything you want. It’s a good thing, too, because the microtransactions on offer are very pricey.
When it comes to actually playing the game, War Thunder splits up the combat. You first have to choose whether you want to take part in Arcade or Realistic. The arcade mode is a simpler, more dumbed down version of the game. It is easier to control the vehicles and the damage physics are kinder. On the other hand, the realistic mode takes a lot of experience and skill. Which one you choose will depend on how confident you are in your own ability.
Then, you just have to decide what type of warfare you are interested in, as each vehicle group comes with its own distinct mode. This is an approach that works well, as it ensures that War Thunder doesn’t become too unwieldy.
There are separate control schemes for each type of mode and different objectives to accomplish. By keeping these in their own modes, the game is more polished and better able to play to the strengths of each vehicle. Extensive tutorials also give you a good idea of how each vehicle controls. This helps to make sure you can feel somewhat confident in your ability to get around and fight the enemy.
Even though War Thunder was originally released in 2013, the visuals still look great. This is largely due to the fact that Gaijin Entertainment has constantly upgraded the engine and the models so they remain top-of-the-line even now. Each vehicle has a stunning amount of attention to detail. Every switch, display, and element of the vehicles has been carefully recreated to make them as realistic as possible.
Other parts of the game are likewise as impressive. The environments are all varied with long draw distances. This allows you to see quite a distance to take in the action, as well as enjoy the vast scenery on offer.
Damage effects also work well, as vehicles start to disintegrate and lose bits as they take fire. Combined with the booming sound design as cannons and missiles explode, it gives a real sense of immersion. You genuinely feel involved in a large-scale battle with all the perils that entails.
On the negative side, War Thunder suffers heavily from the fact that it was designed first for PC. The endless menus are easy to navigate with a keyboard and mouse. However, they are far from optimal when it comes to a standard controller. Finding the information you want or navigating to the correct menu is never an easy task.
To make matters worse, War Thunder doesn’t really offer any help either. You are left to discover what each part of the confusing user interface does by yourself.
War Thunder is certainly an ambitious game that tries to do a lot more than other large-scale battle titles. It accomplishes most of this well, even if there are some issues with the menu system and user interface. If you can get past these sometimes unclear elements, the actual combat is a lot of fun.
It would be pretty difficult, therefore, to not recommend War Thunder, especially when you consider the free entry and the wide array of vehicles and maps to enjoy. Just be sure to get comfortable with it before jumping into the realistic simulator rounds.