Along with new players and new tactics, the PS4 release also means new ways of playing that are PS4-specific. The game offers complete Dualshock 4 functionality as well as Share Play and PlayStation Vita Remote Play. The Chicago team discussed how they'd worked to customize the control setup for DualShock controllers with Jeff Gregg saying, “When you give me a new piece of physical hardware, instantly my brain's like, “What's the dead zone, what's the stick deflection?” The sticks (on the DualShock 4 controller) just feel different. Some think they're better, some think they're worse—but then you're getting into religion. (laughs) But that opportunity to retune everything for the new hardware is super exciting and it was a pleasure to work on the PS4.”
Despite the attention paid to getting the DualShock just right, the team admitted that Share Play and Remote Play are still a work in progress. For one thing, the need for Share Play with a free-to-play game is somewhat questionable, and for another, the Vita controls could be an acquired taste.
“The biggest difference between Xbox One and PS4 is Remote Play on the PS Vita,” said Gregg. “Playing on the Vita means losing some buttons and using the touch screen and cards on the table, at first I was like, “this feels different” but I'm confident in the first pass on that, and if we find a way to make it better, we will.”
Despite the yet-to-be-proven value of these additions, the base game on PS4 looks and sounds fantastic. Upon launch, the PS4 World of Tanks will have 30 maps (including weather variants: rain, snow and the like) and 140 tanks from three countries (Germany, the Soviet Union and the U.S.), all of them eye-poppingly gorgeous. During the open beta, it was easy to get sidetracked from combat by the beautiful rain effects on the cobblestone streets or snow reflected off a chrome finish and get blasted off the map. Though weather doesn't have any concrete gameplay effect (it doesn't affect traction for instance, or visibility) it does add oodles of atmosphere. And as talented as the Chicago-Baltimore art team is, players have Sound Designer Brenden Blewett to thank for making the game a true sensory smorgasbord.
Clearly having one of the best jobs on the planet, Blewett shot artillery, set off firecrackers and blew (or should I say...Blewett?) things up to make sure the sound for the PS4 World of Tanks was both memorable and visceral. In addition to that, he and the sound team worked with the experienced PC team in Minsk to create a an exhaustive library of sounds that was a blend of both teams' methods.
“We recorded 25 tanks and the PC guys, because they were the first ones to do it, piled on as many mics as possible and use the highest fidelity mics,” Blewett says. “We did the same thing, but we have a more musical approach, using more dynamic microphones. That's one of the cool things that the Playstation's getting – all the work that both teams did before (will benefit) the updates going forward.”
He went on to discuss the finesse necessary when creating sound for a game that's chock-full of explosions: “When you record a bunch of loud sounds and throw them all in at once, you have a tendency to want to turn the sound down. We had to work with the mix to make sure it didn't become too fatiguing.”
Along with new maps and spectacular sound and visuals, the PS4 release offers players access to a new Platinum Trophy and four new limited time Founder's Packs containing Premium tanks like the M4A2E4 Ripper and the T23E3. Further, players who log in before January 31 will get a T1E6-PS tank and an additional garage slot.
Though my visit with the Chicago-Baltimore team was brief and my time with the PS4 World of Tanks limited, what I saw and heard proved both how far the game has come since 2012 and its potential for growth in the future. The enthusiasm of the American Wargaming crew has proven them the shot in the arm World of Tanks needed to keep its development sharp, and I've no doubt that when the PS4 version releases next week, PS4 players will be what's needed to keep the game fresh.