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World of WarPlanes Previews: Closed Beta Preview

By Michael Bitton on July 12, 2012

World of Warplanes is Wargaming.net’s follow-up to the massively successful World of Tanks. As one might imagine, World of Warplanes is all about duking it out in the air (my arena of choice!), and we recently got a chance to earn our wings in the game’s closed beta test.

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World of Warplanes follows the basic premise of its predecessor. Players unlock different models of aircraft (Soviet, German, and American), ranging from the P-12 biplane (Tier I) all the way to experimental and prototype aircraft that have never seen the light of day in combat or even production, such as the jet-powered Messerschmitt Me P.1102 (Tier X). Each aircraft fills one of three roles: fighter, heavy fighter, and ground-attack. The game’s aircraft will also feature a host of customization options, including different ammunition, but these didn’t appear to be enabled in the beta just yet.

As a free-to-play game, World of Warplanes utilizes both in-game and for-cash currency. In-game currency, or credits, are earned from participating in battles (with more awarded for winning) and can be spent on acquiring new aircraft and perhaps more. Gold, the game’s cash purchased currency, will be used strictly for purchases that do not affect gameplay.

The hangar interface should be very familiar to World of Tanks players. From here you can select your aircraft of choice and choose from a number of game modes, including: Training (brief tutorial), Single Battle (the player and a bot vs. two bots), Standard Battle (solo queue vs. random players), and Team Training, which allows you to set up your own custom game.

Again, like World of Tanks, players are matched up against each other in team battles across a number of available maps. The objectives are pretty straightforward: kill all enemy players (you only have one life!) and/or destroy ground and naval targets to accrue ‘supremacy’ for your team. The battle will end when all of the enemy team has been eliminated or once one of the teams achieves 100% supremacy, whichever comes first. You don’t have to sit around and wait once you’re dead, either. You can simply return to the hangar and join a new match, provided you have another aircraft you’d like to use in your hangar. The aircraft used in the previous battle will remain unavailable until the match has officially ended.

I first played World of Warplanes back at this year’s PAX East, and let’s just say I was embarrassingly bad with the little laptop mouse they gave me. Now, with some extra time to get acclimated to the game, well, I’m still embarrassingly bad! It’s safe to say there’s a wee bit of a learning curve to the game’s default control scheme, but it’s not too steep. By default, you control aircraft mainly via the mouse, with a number of keys for targeting, communication, camera, and the like assigned to the keyboard by default. I tried using a gamepad to play the game (joysticks are also supported!), and while it was definitely easier to pick up and play, the mouse allows for much more precise movement and targeting. That being said, I’m not too great at the subtle movements required to really master flight just yet, but I can already see how World of Warplanes could easily become an addiction of mine down the line.

Built on World of Tanks’ BigWorld engine, World of Warplanes is no slouch in the graphics department. The game features an array of beautifully modeled aircraft and the sense and joy of flight really comes through when zipping around the maps.  While the maps and ambiance are fun to admire, World of Warplanes really comes to life once you’re engaged in a true furball.  Aircraft explode into satisfying hunks of metal and fire, and the sound of rapid gunfire behind you as players move in for a kill can definitely get the heart racing. With up to 20 players on a map, things can get hairy real quick, but fortunately it never feels like out-and-out chaos.

My only real concern at this point is the game’s learning curve. From talking with the folks at Wargaming at PAX East, it definitely sounds like they want to lean a bit towards the arcade side of things in order to make the game approachable, but flight (at least for me) is still daunting at first.  As I spend more time with the game I’ve definitely improved, but Warplanes could stand to be a bit more intuitive. For one, the Training mode could be more robust, with additional tutorials beyond movement made available. With that said, the game is in closed beta, so it’s possible that such tutorials are already in the works.

World of Warplanes is currently in closed beta testing and a release date has yet to be announced.

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