Review: War Thunder (PS4)


Title: War Thunder
Format: PlayStation Network Download (14 GB)
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Gaijin Networks
Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
Original MSRP: Free (PlayStation Plus Not Required)
ESRB Rating: T
War Thunder is also available on PC. This is an online only MMO game with Cross-Play with the PC version but PlayStation Plus is NOT required to play.
The PlayStation 4 version was used for this review.
A pre-release copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

War Thunder is a very unique game. It’s a Massively Multiplayer Online game with not one fairy. Nor trolls. If it wasn’t for modes like Dynamic Campaign where one takes part in a historic air battle there would be no need for humans at all. The nub of the game is flying combat sorties against another team set against the backdrop of World War II.

Arcade Mode is the most popular game type for beginners and experienced players alike. Like any MMO, these two types of players are in the game world together. Fighting with and against players of differing skill levels helps to balance the teams. At times MMOs can feel a bit unfair. A new player may be pummeled by a more experienced player. However, in War Thunder it seems less personal. If you’re attacking a goal you’ll be rebuffed by whomever is nearby regardless of experience. The battles are quick paced and very much team founded. This isn’t DC Universe Online where a higher player farms the lower players in PvP (Player versus Player) matches.

The good news is that, also unlike DCUO, you don’t begin with a seemingly endless number of fetch quest goals. Everyone doesn’t begin by beating the apes-in-costumes. Here everyone begins by learning to fly and accumulating Research funds to be spent upgrading their planes and buying new aircraft. The player can either follow the path in the game or research one of the many different paths as they open, all the while flying and fighting.

War Thunder_20140601173100

One can also use a USB Keyboard and mouse instead of the DualShock 4 controller. Since the game is played by PC/Mac and PS4 gamers all in the same instances, you might feel on a more even footing with them. As a purely console gamer I found the controller to work very well including using the Touch Pad like a laptop touch pad to move the cursor around. Flight stick support is also coming in the future.

Research Points, Silver Lions and Golden Eagles are the monetary types you’ll earn after each completed battle. Research Points, or RP, are spent to improve your aircraft and on researching other planes. One converts the RP into research on whatever one wants. That research also costs a few Eagles. When one has researched a new plane or tank, yes more about that later, one can purchase that craft with Lions. You will also find that you are free to Test any vehicle you like before you invest in it. Do that.

As for the well-founded and constant concern that these Free-To-Play games can be Pay-To-Win games I can only say that no real amount of money one invests in order to have the better plane will beat a simply better player.

war thunder RP

War Thunder has a wealth of Tutorials. Playing them nets you RP so I highly recommend starting off by playing each Tutorial. You won’t need all that info right away but the more RP you get, the better. You can always revisit them. The Tutorials finish each time by putting the player back in the Main Menu and not the Tutorials Menu. It’s a mistake and it’s a bit confusing when you find you thought you’d done all the Tutorials and there was only one. To get back to the Tutorial Menu simply hit the OPTIONS button and choose Tutorial. As a matter of fact, I recommend you familiarize yourself with the menus. It will help you feel like you know what you’re doing apart from just fighting all the time.

Here are some very handy forum posts which include videos to help beginners:
Episodes 1 and 2
Episodes 3 and 4
Episodes 5 and 6

As I have indicated, the Arcade Mode is the most popular. As with the other modes, Arcade shares very intuitive controls. Other flying games, including the beloved Warhawk, have inexplicably unnecessarily cumbersome flight controls. Gaijin has made the controls for War Thunder completely intuitive and easy. Pro Tip: if you find yourself in third person with a camera angle looking from beneath your plane and up at its belly just hit the triangle button to switch to cockpit view and you will immediately regain proper perspective.

The other game modes are Dynamic and Historic. I tried Dynamic Mode for the Battle of Britain and found myself completely alone fighting several squadrons of AI bots. Some on my own side shot me. I can’t help but feel that when the game launches there will be glorious nerds-a-poppin’ playing those modes. But not so far. I never encountered any instances of what an MMO might include as a raid. I do hope the developers have plans for future expansions along these lines.

War Thunder_20140601173105

There are already Guilds (called Squadrons) being populated by friends and frenemies alike. has a Squadron set-up and ready to go. Look for PSNP. There is also the ability to set-up public or private matches. As in Warhawk, in-game rewards depend upon the parameters set in the custom games. I found it odd that the private match I played in was the one with the most trolling and bullying while the regular public matches seemed populated by more well-behaved players.

Tanks. There are tanks. The game allows players to play in tanks. The tank tutorial makes it clear how intricate tank play is in War Thunder. If you think, like in Battlefield, you can shoot tank to tank and just take them out, boy are you wrong. Specific arms are best against tanks even depending upon your angle of firing. Particular areas of the tanks when attacked with the right projectile are more effective for victory. The tank tutorial had no section about firing at aircraft. Just tanks. And tanks are researched and upgraded just like planes, although there are fewer of them. Vive la différence!

Ground Force Training Video

After all these nice things there is one problem. A problem if you have friends and want to jump in and play with them. I tried but could not just join friends in a game. First you have to add them in game, which is a stupid but simple step. Stupid because games importing the friends list is very last gen. And after you import them you may invite them to a squadron. You may send them a message. You may NOT simply join them in game play. What’s more, use of the word squadron is confusing. Casual friends playing must create a squadron. A Squadron is also a Guild. They use one word for two separate things.

War Thunder Tutorial

War Thunder looks very good. It’s no inFAMOUS Second Son but the framerate was steady. The only thing against it was some occasional pop-in. And that’s not at some long draw distance either. I noticed trees popping-in at as close as two kilometers from my position. But it didn’t happen very often and never affected the game play. It was purely aesthetic.

There are a wealth of customizations in the menus including focus and lens flare although getting too fancy with these settings may cause someone like I am to be distracted in gameplay by the pretty, shining images.

The orchestral soundtrack is wonderful and completely appropriate. There is a setting to change to internet radio whereby one can name the channel and then type in the URL of your mood-satisfying internet radio station. When I tried it the result was silence. I hope they get this function to work. I’d love to dive-bomb a freighter listening to ABBA.

There is a voice chat function which was unsurprisingly being used by no one. On PS4 we have Group Chat for that which works beautifully. I really don’t know why anyone includes voice chat in-game any more. It’s a waste of resources.

war thunder 3

This game is online only as it is a Massively Multiplayer Online game.

War Thunder has much to recommend it. There is no cost to play it. Free is almost always good. The game is easy to pick-up and plays really well. The MMO elements aren’t difficult or too convoluted to get through.

I have compared War Thunder with Warhawk in this review. To be clear, the games are similar in some really superficial ways. There will never be another Warhawk of the PS3 era. But if I could jump out of my tank with a rocket-launcher, that would surely close the gap a bit. The problem with playing with friends is annoying but not fatal.


* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Keith Dunn-Fernández

Keith Dunn-Fernández

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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