A long time ago VRFocus questioned Wargaming about the possibility of a virtual reality (VR) edition of World of Tanks. Given the success of competing online war machine simulator War Thunder within the new medium it seemed only natural for Wargaming to be looking into doing the same. At the time a representative of the company explained that it wouldn’t work for tanks in the same way as planes, and that a great deal of experimentation would have to be undertaken before World of Tanks could make such a jump. That jump, it seems, is into location-based entertainment (LBE).
Wargaming, with the support of Neurogaming and VRTech, unveiled World of Tanks VR earlier this year. It’s most definitely an aside to World of Tanks – a spin-off experience designed for fans and newcomers alike – opposed to integrating VR into the existing online videogame. That brings both strengths and weaknesses into play, but also allows for Wargaming to pitch the experience perfectly for LBE execution.
Limited to four players, each dons their HTC Vive and prepares for war by choosing their preferred tank. In a significant update from when VRFocus first experienced World of Tanks VR, there are now a small selection of tanks available each one with statistics bars demonstrating firepower, reload speed, acceleration etc. Players are no longer limited to fast or slow, heavy or spread. Tactical ambition is now at play not just in the positioning of your tank, but also in the way you engage your enemies.
The World of Tanks VR controls are complicated at first, but soon it becomes natural. The tank will accelerate forward towards the direction the player faces, however given the large bulk of machinery may take some time to turn tight corners. Meanwhile, the player’s central viewpoint will always represent their firing arch in real-time. The player must combine navigation and maneuvering with lining-up that shot on the weak point in the enemy tank’s armour for maximum efficiency, and their best chance of escaping unhindered.
With a new map also on display at Gamescom 2018, Cologne, players were invited to work on new strategies revolving around a central chokepoint. The previous map VRFocus experienced was designed to grant a height advantage to those who lied in wait upon a hilltop, with an open plane providing little in the way of cover below. This new map, conversely, is too uneven to offer much in the way of an overview, but pushing into the busy central area looking for a kill can leave you open to attack from every direction; a bridge that provides access to spawn points at either end of the map makes you an obvious and easy target even for those shooting from the hip.
Matches in World of Tanks VR are only a few minutes long and consist of two rounds. It’s very much a simplified experience; one designed less for the passion of tanks and more for the thrill of battle. That’s no bad thing however, as World of Tanks VR stands as an interesting LBE title that may introduce new audiences to the core online experience in a sort of role-reversal for Mario Kart Arcade GP VR: World of Tanks is a franchise set to benefit from VR, opposed to being a benefit to its reputation.
You can also check out our hands-on with augmented reality (AR) counterpart World of Tanks AR Spectate from Gamescom, here.