The PlayStation 4 launch line-up may have suffered from some notable blemishes in the form of several major delays (InFamous: Second Son, DriveClub and Watch Dogs), but that has actually worked to War Thunder’s advantage. Had those aforementioned games seen release, Gaijin Entertainment's competent World War II flight combat title would have probably been lost in the deluge of software on Day One. Delayed in the U.S., War Thunder made it out in Europe alongside Sony’s shiny new box at launch, bringing with it some of the most satisfying and strategic flight combat antics witnessed on a home console to date.
Originally released on the PC, War Thunder has little to prove to WWII combat aficionados; Gaijin’s pedigree, which includes the stunning IL-2 Sturmovik franchise, speaks for itself. This is a flight combat game through and through - at least until vehicles show up later down the line - with a Free-to-Play twist. Still in its infancy, War Thunder has yet to offer a full roster of gameplay options; several additions such as Custom and Historical Multiplayer Battles are not yet available. Still, for the sum of nothing, you get a massive line-up of aircraft - fighters, fighter-bombers and heavy bombers - some decent single-player and tutorial missions, plus the madness that is Arcade Battle.
For a WWII fanatic such as myself, War Thunder is pure plane porn. In comparison to competitor World of Warplanes, Gaijin Entertainment trumps its contemporary PC WWII fighter easily, offering a robust line-up of countries complemented by a comprehensive flight roster. Gamers can select from the RAF, Luftwaffe, USAF, Russia and Japan, and sit in the cockpit of some of World War II’s most iconic machines, from Spitfires, ME-109s, B-17s, Mustangs, to Zeroes, IL-Sturmoviks and JU-87 Stukas. However, in order to unlock the best planes, you’re going to have to strap on your grinding cap and prepare to invest in hours and hours of dogfighting action -- that is, unless, you are willing to drop some hard-earned cash to bypass the process.
War Thunder is based around various tiers, ranging from Level I - 15. You’ll start off with rudimentary biplanes not unlike those from WWI, with the roster culminating in some of early jet planes like the Meteor or the ME-262. Plane trees are generally split into aircraft type, with fighters, bombers etc occupying their own tier. What’s more, you can upgrade your plane with an assortment of armaments to improve combat functionality and flight performance. This is done via Research Points (RP) and Silver Lions (SL), with the former essentially the game’s version of EXP and the latter in-game currency. You’ll need to fully upgrade a plane before researching the next one - a lengthy process in itself - and it’s here that the distinct bifurcation between grinding and investing in cold-hard cash rears its head.