STAFF REVIEW of World of Tanks (Xbox 360)

Friday, March 21, 2014.
by Khari Taylor

World of Tanks Box art (Xbox Addict Disclaimer: The following World of Tanks Review is based on release code of the game as well as an additional code for 25,000 in-game Gold currency, in order to provide a complete experience of the game from the perspective of both and non-paying customers. 25,000 Gold in World of Tanks is the equivalent of $100 US).

Sadly, last month, the looming shadow of hype and fervor cast by the then soon-to-be-released Titanfall and its limited beta on Xbox One obscured two very important Free-to-Play (F2P) milestones on Xbox 360. The first was Crytek’s first-person-shooter, Warface, which in early February entered a closed beta on the platform and is still ongoing; and the second was the official launch of’s World of Tanks, which is now available for public download. As many readers may remember, the last time the Xbox Addict staff were caught in World of Tanks' F2P clutches was way back in July of 2013, when the game was still in early-beta form and incredibly rough around the edges. The game was missing several features and suffering from some fairly annoying bugs, but despite that the game's fun factor of rolling about in World War II-era tanks and blowing other tanks to smithereens still shone through, keeping us engaged for the entirety of the brief play sessions that the limited beta permitted us to take part in. Fast forward eight months to the present, and we now have a World of Tanks with all of the fun and hardly any of the bugs, and while it’s still effectively ‘free’, it’s now ready and eager to accept your money.

Both in graphics and gameplay (aside from some polish and some new maps) not much has changed about World of Tanks since the beta. Players still choose a tank from their garage and participate in 15-on-15 flag-domination-style matches where victory is won either by wiping out the other team or dominating the opposing team's flag before they can do the same to yours. All players get one life per match, and should they die before the match is over, they can spectate and cheer on their team or leave the match early to start another match with a different tank (tanks destroyed on the battlefield cannot be used again until the match has ended). The most notable change is the addition of platoons (i.e. the ability jump from game to game together in a squad of three) and a much larger starting roster of 60 tanks, which adds the nation of Britain to the pre-existing American and German selections. Naturally, there are more tanks, nationalities and maps to come. The real leap that World of Tanks has made in the past eight months however is in quality. Gone are the dreaded input delay and cockpit-view bugs that severely tarnished our preview sessions, and players can now more easily browse and purchase upgrades, equipment, and consumables to keep their tanks battle-ready. In addition, has added extensive support on almost every non-combat screen, including tutorial videos for every tank class and upgrade aspect of the game; detailed help-screen overlays that can be accessed by pulling the right trigger on almost any UI page; and map load-screens which include additional tips and reminders for tank combat strategies, tank class differences and how to use the game's four forms of currency (Gold, Silver, Tank XP and Free XP). The result is a World of Tanks that is far easier to understand than the beta was, and while there is still a sea of information for players to sift through, the above conveniences now make it possible for players to gradually learn as they play, instead of having to jump out of the game completely and consult's website for tips.

There are some areas that could still use some work, however. While the game rules and mechanics have become easier for newcomers to comprehend, other aspects are still designed in such a way that they almost seem deliberately obtuse. For example, the symbols used to represent the different tank classes in the HUD (e.g. Square = Artillery, Diamond = Light Tank, Inverted Triangle = Tank Destroyer, Three Rectangles in the shape of a Diamond = Heavy Tank) are easy for newcomers to confuse on the battlefield and must be memorized quickly in order to avoid driving blindly into matchups with opponents too high above one's class. The thing is, there's no proper legend provided in the game that makes learning these symbols easily accessible. Even in the tank upgrade tree, where players can view all potential upgrades and read the details of every tank in the game, only the symbol representing the tank class can be found consistently; even the list of tank attributes fail to include the tank class as a key bullet point, and if players find an actual tank class reference in the profile they should consider themselves lucky. Multiplayer matches provide undeniable proof of this problem, as players will often be heard asking teammates questions in the heat of battle like "Which symbol is a medium tank again?" and "Why did I think that was a light tank, not an artillery tank?" An even more perplexing issue is how the "radio-tagging" mechanic used to mark enemy targets at times defies logic and common sense. In World of Tanks, when a tank or its AI crew (let's call this tank "Tank A") sees an enemy ("Tank B") on the battlefield, that enemy is automatically marked on the minimap for all that tank's teammates to see until that tank loses sight with it, or is destroyed. Thus each tank on a team serves as the eyes and ears of all the other tanks that are not in the immediate area. It's a very cool mechanic, but it often falls apart in scenarios such as this: 1) Tank A spots Tank B for sniper teammate Tank C. 2) Tank C trains his guns directly on Tank B. 3) Tank A loses sight of Tank B or dies. 4) Tank B magically vanishes into thin air before Tank C’s eyes, even though Tank C is looking directly at the target, is within firing range and the target has not moved. When a medium sized tank sitting in the middle of a farmer's field suddenly disappears while you're looking at it, you'd likely call shenanigans too.

Finally, it's impossible to review World of Tanks without discussing the F2P elephant in the room. First, it should be well known by now that F2P games on Xbox Live aren't truly free, as they require a still Gold Membership to be played online, and World of Tanks is an online-only game, so the Xbox Live Gold requirement should come as no surprise here either. But for some strange reason, World of Tanks states that it requires an Xbox Live Gold membership so that players can purchase in-game Gold Currency. This is more of an odd technicality than a problem, but it's hard to deny that there's something a bit insidious about having to ‘pay so you can pay’, making the Xbox Live World of Tanks experience somewhat less desirable than it would be on PC. Also, as mentioned at the beginning of this review, provided us with paid currency in addition to the default amount of starting Silver in order to provide a complete experience of the game from the perspective of both paying and non-paying customers. After spending several nights grinding and unlocking tanks 'the old-fashioned way' as well as purchasing some Premium Tank starter packages to sample some higher tier battles, the conclusion of this reviewer is pretty much what you should come to expect of a well-designed F2P game; World of Tanks is an undoubtedly fun experience even if you don't pay a cent, but it’s even more enjoyable when you're willing to spend a little money.

Premium Membership (which can be bought in packages of up to 1 year down to as short as a few days) and paid Gold Currency are the grease that help the gears turn faster and make the long grinds much shorter. The perks of Premium Membership are multi-fold; members can purchase exclusive Premium tanks not available through the tech-tree, they gain 50% more XP and 50% more Silver (plus occasional multipliers) for every match they participate in, and as Premium Tanks are also “Elite” (i.e. their stats are already maxed out and all their upgrade packages have been researched), they can be used to immediately start earning Free XP which in turn can be used for almost any purchase that does not specifically require Gold or Silver (such as researching tank upgrades). Then there's the partner of Premium, which is Gold (which coincidentally is also the currency used to purchase Premium membership packages). Small amounts of Gold can be converted into larger amounts of Free XP, which can be used to fast-track the research of modules and tanks on the tank tree and unlock them for purchase (players also earn Free XP from using Elite tanks in battle, but the rate is much, much slower, necessitating days of grinding to research more advanced upgrades). Conversely, Tank XP, while much more plentiful, can only be used by the tank it was earned in, making Free XP an indispensable resource. Gold can also be converted to Silver (at the rate of 1G to 400S), allowing players to quickly purchase tanks they've unlocked with research outright or make up the difference if they just need a bit more silver to do so, and Gold is also necessary for purchasing and/or replenishing certain consumable items or removing certain upgrades without losing the refund of silver that was spent on them in the first place. It's a complicated system, and it’s clearly geared towards enticing players to spend actual money. That said, this reviewer is convinced that World of Tanks' system is not "pay-to-win" in nature, but rather "pay-to-save-time". The game’s solid matchmaking, the benefits of teamwork (World of Tanks players are surprisingly chatty) and the randomness of the battle theatre usually combine to nullify most combat advantages that Premium Tanks and Gold-exclusive consumables offer. And when they don’t, players can inexpensively even the odds with one of the many sale packages offered every week (which usually include a Premium tank and limited Premium Time among other bonuses). In this way, even the most thrifty of players can dip into the paid model for a price and period of time that suits them, take advantage of the perks, and rest easy knowing that they'll revert to the free model upon expiry and can continue grinding and having fun with the tanks they've unlocked.

To conclude, World of Tanks for Xbox 360 is a great tank game, made by people who love tanks for people who also love tanks. It delivers a deep, tactical combat experience that can't be found anywhere else on the console, and deserves a try for that reason alone. Better yet, it's one of the most compelling F2P titles available on the console, delivering a reasonable and flexible model that doesn't require players to pay a cent to enjoy most of what the game has to offer, but simultaneously puts forth enough incentives and perks that many will want to. While you might not want to go as far as dropping $100 in one go, with tempting Quick Start packages offering a Premium Tank, 3 days of Premium Time, Silver bonuses and other perks for as low as $15, it's an inexpensive proposition for curious players to hop in and see how the other side lives. After all, it’s not like you paid for the game!

1) Improve the UI, make symbols easier to interpret for newcomers and provide easy-to-understand tank classification in the profile descriptions. 2) If my tank can see an enemy tank out in the open, it should remain marked and thus visible, even though my tank was not the one that originally spotted it.

Overall: 7.7 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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