By Joseph Luster

World of Warplanes may currently have everyone feeling pretty satisfied with online air combat, but a challenger recently entered the fray with the kick-off of the War Thunder open beta. Though Gaijin Entertainment’s combat flight simulator previously caused a bit of confusion—it was originally titled World of Planes when development began in 2009—War Thunder isn’t just about dogfighting with a variety of aircraft, and its massively multiplayer action is currently being tested in open beta.

In addition to aircraft from pre-World War II times through the early Korean War era, War Thunder also lets players take control of armored vehicles and ships. With hundreds of plane models and dozens of upgradeable weapons, War Thunder offers up both player-versus-player action in full-scale combat missions and player-versus-enemy sorties. The latter also includes options for cooperative play, as well as a mission editor to customize the battle landscape.

With plenty of tutorials and options like a less harsh, team-based arcade mode, early impressions reveal a dogfighting game that’s actually not too difficult to dive right into. Historical battles will always be there for the more advanced players—which could be you (or maybe even me, though it’s a long shot at the moment) after a bit of practice—but it’s nice to jump into battle without having to worry about the more realistic effects of physics. Cut your teeth on those before taking a crack at recreating history without the hope of respawning after death.

The smooth handling of War Thunder should come as no surprise to anyone who’s taken on some of Gaijin Entertainment’s previous efforts. Games like Birds of Steel and IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey showcase how the developers honed their skills in the genre, building up to a larger scale effort like this one. One thing’s for certain, there’s already no shortage of capable competition in the online arena.

War Thunder is currently in open beta on PC and Mac, and will also be available on PlayStation 4 when the system launches in November. It will be playable across platforms, but unfortunately it doesn’t look like Xbox One will be among those due to uncertainty regarding some of Microsoft’s policies. According to War Thunder developers Anton Yudintsev and Kiril Yudintsev, Microsoft hasn’t quite made it clear how they’re handling online free-to-play and self-published games, making it difficult to release a product like theirs. Microsoft also doesn’t currently plan on allowing cross-platform multiplayer on Xbox One, and that’s another important function of War Thunder.

If air and land combat at home doesn’t sound like enough for you, there’s also a mobile version on the horizon, appropriately titled War Thunder Mobile. Look out for what promises to be a stand-alone game set in the War Thunder world, yet built from the ground up for mobile devices, at some point down the line.

Publisher: Gaijin Entertainment
Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
System(s): PC, Mac, PlayStation 4
Available: Now (open beta)

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