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Last summer, the strategy developer introduced gamers to the beta preview of their World War II–era multiplayer online tank combat shooter, World of Tanks. Smoothly combining the moment-to-moment intensity of carefully piloting a 20-ton war machine with nerve-wracking team-based strategy, World of Tanks will prove stimulating to both the hardcore action gamer and the mastermind armchair general.

Success depends on a squadron’s ability to juggle the strengths and weaknesses of five classes of tanks. Whether your inclination is to scout and harass the enemy in a light tank, vie for control of the ever-shifting flank in a medium rig, or lead the charge in a colossus such as the late-war German prototype Panzer VIII Maus, fans of churning steel and fire will find their niche. Conversely, those who favor a more strategically-paced approach can bide their time while hanging back with artillery and tank-hunters and wait for targeting data from frontline teammates to come in over the radio so they can rain lead on unsuspecting opponents at the critical moment.

The opportunity to continually upgrade your tank and crew outside of battle will provide strategic entertainment over a much longer period of time than is required merely to master the intricacies of combat. Players must increase their arsenal by managing their resources as well as the experience points they gain through heroic achievements in battle. By then using experience points to research new tanks and technologies, players can then use their hard currency to purchase new vehicles, authentic components and modifications, and consumables, which should be chosen carefully in order to create a tank configuration capable of making good on the desired tactic.

The game’s historical detail is noteworthy: the speed, armor, and firepower specifications of the more than 150 Russian, German, and American tanks factor into the way each tank works in-game. That extends even to faction-specific items that boost the fighting efficiency of your tank crews, such as Bavarian chocolate. For all but the most die-hard purists, this abundant detail should help counterbalance the game’s fantasy of a World War II fought by tank battalions alone.

In its beta version, World of Tanks suffered from a few technical issues that may confound avid gamers. Initially developed with older technology, the game is currently incapable of fully taking advantage of the modern computer processor technology commonly in use in the U.S. Practically speaking, this can potentially cause serious setbacks in the performance of an otherwise cutting-edge gaming rig, although it also means that an older computer will be more likely to run the game without incident. However, even the existing flaws have decent workarounds at this point, and a game developer stated that through a series of major updates, should have this issue well in hand before the game goes live in late fall. In the meantime, World of Tanks is a beta worth playing, and a title to keep an eye on, as it promises long-lasting and versatile multiplayer fun for anyone who enjoys simulated tank combat.

Review: 3.5/5 stars
Release Date: Fall 2010
Genre: MMO Tank Simulator
MSRP: Play 4 Free, w/ Micropayments
Format: Digital Download
Play Modes: Online Multiplayer