Gamescom 2012: World of Warplanes
By Jonathan Doyle (Ardua), OnRPG Journalist
The Wargaming.net booth in the Gamescom Business area is as brimming with interviewers as the booth is on the show floor, showing off what we've come to talk to them about.
It's time to take to the skies and get airborne with World of Warplanes.
The Golden Age
I admit being a huge fan of the technology of World War II. The arms race of our world brought technological changes that can easily be felt the world over. I have heard about the battles in the air, the planes used and dreamed of. I have watched weathered old men recount the terror and glory of flying those glorious machines into danger time and time again.
Respect should and has been rightly heaped upon those who flew these missions across battlefields.
Obviously a video game can and in some cases does deal with moral questions, that isn't why we're here though. Wargaming.net has captured the glory of flight. The exhilaration of the chase in three dimensions and the chaos and confusion that is a dogfight.
What they're offering you and I is nothing less than the golden age of aviation. The whole gamut of planes from rickety looking 1930s Red Baron-esque biplanes to early Korean War jet fighters. Not content to merely pick from what did fly, we're also getting what may have flown. What would have flown, had the projects seen the light of day or their turn on the construction lines.
There is love apparent in every plane I am shown, every modification and variant sitting in a hanger. World of Tanks players are almost certainly nodding and smiling, knowing what I am talking about, but at the time I admit I was unprepared to see just how faithfully and fantastically the planes have been recreated.
Getting in the Cockpit
Eager to get into the air? Eager to get to grips with the enemy team and bring them down one at a time? Well everything I saw says that that will be quick, easy and entirely fulfilling.
During the presentation the preset system was shown to me for pilots who are ready to go right now. Want to switch out your engines and weapons? Just a click away. Want to get a nice rounded package to fit in? Push of a button.
For others though, there will be every chance and option for them to drill down into the bones of the game and really experiment with different engines, wing configurations, weaponry and so on.
Everything comes with a cost of course, one that may not be immediately apparent to you sitting pretty in the sky. Oh, didn't we mention that? No tedious takeoff and landing. No long slogs to get to grips with the other guy. You will start in the air and ready to go once you've picked all your gear.
The cost though, the cost is very very real. Every plane was not created equal; if they were wars would have been fought by heavily armored, super nimble, bristling with guns and packed with bombs superfighters. Thankfully not here. The dream planes may have made it in, but what they can do, or what any plane can do for that matter, is still grounded in reality.
Specifically, if you want a nimble dogfighter? Leave the bomb payloads at home. If you want to cover those nimble souls darting into knife fighting range in the air? Well there's always ground targets to consider and for that you'll need bombs. Heavy bombs, leading to a slower sluggish bomber. These are the decisions that await you and the team. Want those anti-air towers gone? Someone will have to do a bombing run. It's this little pve component that adds something more to the battles in the air.
Ground is such an important feature, after all we all need scenery to admire and to make use of, not just endless blue expanses. To that end the combat ceiling has been lowered from where it would have been historically to mix in the added spice of ground targets and a nice dash of strategy.
They Came Outta The Sun
Wargaming.net really are very very good at their jobs. So are their consultants and historians. It's not all just fly at the other guy and spam you know. Originally, in earlier builds of the game, there was an ammo count to avoid precisely that behaviour. After extensive CB testing they switched to admittedly unrealistic bottomless magazines. Instead of a hard limit they went with a heat system. Spam the guns too much wasting your shots chasing a guy when you should be leading the target? The guns will overheat and you'll need to let them cool off a touch before you can bring the weight of fire again.
It's not just guns though, the environment adds as much to the strategy of the game as a pilot’s configuration does.
You've seen exactly the moments they've thought of and provided. Want a little edge on that unsuspecting USSR fighter? Climb high and come out of the sun. Glare will hide you. Some tough as nails and damnably irritating Japanese dog fighter on your tail? Take him into the clouds and lose him. Think you're a hot shot and the other guy isn't? Drop to the floor and see who can hug the ground better. Just watch out for those towers that your friends really should have been bombing before you decided to duck under a bridge (entirely do-able in game) to get the other guy to crash.
I could go on and on about how fun it was to watch the dogfights. I could spend ages waxing lyrical about the glory of the visuals or the tense feeling I got every time we dived right down to the ground. I wish I could show you just how close you can get to the other guy before you clip his wings and send him down in flames. To be honest though, the proof of this pudding is in the eating. There's no other way to really get it across to you what it's like. So I implore you, fire up the engine, clear the tower. We're all needed in the air, and may the ballsiest win.