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8.5

As the clouds around you part, you can see them - several bombers, flying high over the sea. If they reach your destination, things are going to go pear-shaped, and fast. Gunning the throttle, you dive towards them, ready to pump them full of lead and send them into the sea. Suddenly - almost too fast to react - you hear the sound of gunfire. Your plane lurches, and you realize you've been hit.

Of course it wouldn't be that easy. Those bombers are accompanied by a few fighters of their own. You're their target. Think you're enough of an ace to take them down? 

This, ladies and gentlemen, is War Thunder - a free to play vehicular combat MMO that takes place during World War II. The game should immediately feel familiar to anyone who's played World of Warplanes. Familiar...yet smoother. Shinier. More polished and considerably more in-depth. Compared to War Thunder, WOWP almost feels like it belongs in an arcade cabinet. 

From War Thunder's lobby, you'll train your planes flight crew. modify your load-outs, select your faction, and install your upgrades. You'll also be able to choose between a number of different factions, each with its own array of strengths and weaknesses. Japan, for example, is virtually unmatched in maneuverability, while Great Britain is fond of aerial weapons platforms which can't necessary move very fast. 

Each plane has its own individual flight crew which gains experience as you play. If you're looking to stick with the same crew the whole way through the game, you can transfer them between planes for a small retaining fee. 

Your selection of available planes will be relatively small at first - gaining experience with a particular faction will allow you to access more powerful vehicles, while Silver Crowns (the default currency) gained by playing matches are used to purchase most items in the game. There is a real money shop which uses Gold Crowns as currency, but it's quite balanced and there's no unpleasant stench of pay-to-win hanging in the air around it. 

Now, I said War Thunder was quite in depth. I wasn't kidding. There are three primary game modes, each one designed to appeal to a particular brand of player. For the average gamer, there's Arcade Mode: your basic "pick up and play" scenario, which I'd imagine will be what most people go for. Simply hop into your plane, and you'll control it either through some rather intuitive mouse-and-keyboard controls or with a controller. Getting shot down is no big deal, as you'll be back in the air within seconds, and reloading happens on the fly. Anyone from any nation can join any team. 

It's good, explosive fun. 

Historical Mode, meanwhile, is a bit more hardcore. Players will need to learn how to take off and land their plane, as they'll need to return to friendly airstrips in order to reload and repair between skirmishes. Players from different factions will be unable to team up with one another, while lack of an aim assist and with realistic gun physics makes dogfights all the more challenging. 

Last, but certainly not least, Full Real goes full-blown flight simulator, putting you in the cockpit of your plane. 

Add in the fact that developer Gaijin plans to implement naval and land combat in the near future(they already have some pretty decent AI running land and sea), and you've got a game that has the potential to be one of the best vehicular combat titles ever made. This one looks like quite the promising game indeed.

Oh, speaking of looks? War Thunder is downright jaw-droppingly beautiful, with an amazing soundtrack, to boot. 20th-century dogfights have never looked so sexy. 

There's one last thing I should note before I sign off for the day. Like Warframe last week, War Thunder is technically still in open beta. There are still a few glitches in the system that need to be worked out between now and release day. Keep that in mind when you play. 


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Reviewed by: Nicholas Greene