World of Warplanes: First Hands-On Preview

Updated Mon, Mar 19, 2012 by Ralphedelominius

For the uninitiated, World of Warplanes draws heavily upon the successful formula developed for World of Tanks. The core gameplay 15v15 random battles with teams of planes drawn from different nationalities (i.e. no axis vs. allies) but confined to ranges of tiered aircraft; i.e. biplanes won’t be going up against jet fighters. Reality is confined to the characteristics of the planes themselves. Though victory mechanics work a bit differently (since there’s no base you can sit on to capture), most battles are won or lost in 5 or 10 minutes.

Also unlike the gameplay experience in World of Tanks, stopping behind cover to get your bearings or snipe just isn’t an option. Clouds and sun (attacking from the blind spot caused by the sun was and remains a significant dogfighting tactic) are already in the game, but don’t expect sunbeams or water vapor to stop a hail of bullets. Head of Game Design Ivan Kulbich noted that World of Warplanes will launch with a number of player-vs.-environment missions (a first for the series) designed to teach players the mysteries of the z-axis.

World of Warplanes Controls and Interface

I went against my flight sim enthusiast instincts and opted for keyboard controls just to see how familiar the keyboard controls would be to a World of Tanks player. Not very. Gamers who grew up on Dynamix's Red Baron or the Aces... series like me might expect mouse to control the camera while WASD controls yaw and pitch, but we’d be wrong. 

Instead, World of Warplanes uses the “ball on a string” mechanic by default to control plane movement. As you move the mouse, you’ll determine where your pilot attempts to fly (indicated by a ball “tied” to the gunnery crosshairs by a string). The W and S keys control throttle, while A and D roll the plane left and right. As I played, I recognized the reason; readily accessible speed control is absolutely necessary for tightening up turns, dumping speed, and other common tactics during an intense dogfight. Looking down to pick out the number key to throttle up or down might spell disaster.

Managing speed and altitude is key to winning World of Warplanes dogfights.

While Ivan noted that though players will have a lot of flexibility in creating their own control scheme, cockpit view won’t be a part of the game. That said, players have already figured out ways to mod the target reticules and sounds for ever higher degrees of historicity and/or zaniness (note the recent Duke Nukem sound pack for World of Tanks). was kind enough to let me try out each of the major plane types: the fighter, the heavy fighter, and the ground attack plane. Similar to the approach used in World of Tanks, each warplane type has a rock / paper /scissors relationship with the other types. Heavy fighters are durable enough to close on a ground attack plane but are vulnerable to more maneuverable and faster Fighters. Ground attack planes are primarily tasked with hitting ground targets of course, but can make short work of a lone fighter from the front or behind (thanks to an AI-controlled tail gun) due to its weak armor.

World of Warplanes Ground Attack hands-on: the Russian IL-40

I tried out a ground attack plane as my first flight: a zippy Russian IL-40 with fifties-futuristic looking dual intakes in the nose cone. Within a few seconds I got my first kill. Touching the trigger poured forth four solid streams of fiery lead as my 23 mm cannons made short work of a Hellcat playing chicken. Ivan chuckled, noting that you should never attack a ground attack plane from the front. The IL-40 makes broad, sweeping turns and (like all early jets) handled like a freight train, but it’s very toothy up front, fast, and can take a lot of punishment.

Anyone who plays a game made by these asshats is in for some bad times, well unless your from mother russia then you will have the best the whole world has to offer.

My advice would be to take the money you would spend on these games stick it up a pigs ass and holler sooie.

Are you arguing that Russians get better vehicles than the other nations? I've never understood this garbage, I drive American and German tier 9s and 10s almost exclusively and I'd rather face Russian IS-7s than any other tier X.

There are a number of folks in my clan that haven't spent a dime on World of Tanks and are having a good time in the mid-tier battles. I don't think they'd enjoy sticking anything up a pig's ass though, we'll leave that sort of entertainment for our anonymous commenters.

Back under your bridge, troll!

I would not recommend trying any current or future WG games, they continue to make promises and back down from them, there is a history of bias towards the faction intentionally keeping one or more factions in a position of power or position weakness.
The will hire so called experts and promise to use mock ups and blueprints to give the tank/ship/plane its historic configuration only to ignore it and make up their own stats in accordance with their own biased ideas.

So you'd rather play an IL-40 with nose-mounted guns that flame out the engines? I'm beginning to sound like a WG apologist, but you have to realize there's a responsibility to balance historicity and fun.

If you really feel like there's an imbalance between nationalities, you're never forced to play one nation or another. Play what you think is most powerful, but recognize that you will have to adapt your playstyle to whatever tank, plane, or ship you're using.

Um...'Microsoft's Aces Over Europe series'? Did I enter an alternate dimension or what? I believe you mean Dynamix/Sierra's 'Aces Over Europe' series, yes? Or maybe you meant MS's Combat Flight Simulator 1 - 3, which the 'Ace's' series predates by nearly a decade (which included 1991's Aces of the Pacific, 1993's Aces Over Europe and 1994's Aces of the Deep)?


You're absolutely right - I missed that in the edit. The Red Baron games were the high water mark of my Dynamix experience, and the writer and I both got MS Combat FS series and the Aces series mixed up. Correction made, and thanks for the catch.


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