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|Engine||Dagor Engine 4.0|
The game is based around combined arms battles on air, land, and sea with vehicles from the Spanish Civil War to the Cold War period with an emphasis on World War II. Players have access to more than 800 playable aircraft, tanks, and ships from the Soviet Union, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Japanese Empire, the United States, Italy, and China (only on the Chinese server). Other nations, such as France, Canada, Australia, and Romania, are also featured as part of the arsenal of the six main nations.
War Thunder is divided into three main game modes, which define the overall realism behind the performance of vehicles in battle; the amount of assistance provided to the player (e.g. through the interface); and the type of maps and missions played. Players may choose to participate in a battle with joint ground forces and air forces in tank battles or to choose to operate air vehicles only in air battles.
In this mode, the game draws two teams of players (of up to 16 players on each side) with vehicles from different nations of similar combat performance. It is possible to see vehicles of the same type on different teams, and different countries on the player's own team. Damage and physics are greatly simplified (e.g. in very high speed dives planes do not have their wings ripped off and are still controllable, ground vehicles receive a boost in engine power), but retain some realism (e.g. bombers are not as maneuverable as fighters, aircraft have limited ammunition available but are able to reload midair).
For aircraft, games are played in either "Ground Strike," where in order to win players must destroy all enemy ground units, shoot down all enemy aircraft, destroy the enemy airfield and bombing points, "Domination", which consists of seizing enemy airfields by touching down on them for about five seconds, causing the enemy team to lose points, or "Air Domination", which requires players to have total control over an area of airspace for long enough to capture it. Also, to help simplify aiming, a 'leading marker' appears when an enemy plane is in range. This shows a prediction of where the enemy plane will be by the time the bullets of the smaller calibre weapon arrive if the plane continues its current trajectory, greatly improving user accuracy.
For ground forces, "Domination" revolves around the capture of three strategic zones on the map, with "Capture" featuring only one. In "Break", the two teams must capture a series of points in order, while in "Battle", each team has its own base zone and must prevent it from being captured. Similarly to how aircraft have a "leading marker", ground forces have a reactive crosshair that factors the ballistic drop of the vehicle's primary weapon at range. It's also color-coded to indicate whether the vehicle the player is targeting can be penetrated by the ammunition they are using at the range they're sighted for, or whether they're targeting an enemy or allied vehicle.
Previously called "Historical Battles," this mode is designed for more advanced players and offers realistic physics and damage modelling while retaining some of the interface and control simplifications of Arcade.
In air battles, Fighters will have to takeoff from the airfield. Interceptors will start airborne. Attackers will also start airborne but higher than Interceptors. Bombers will start about 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) off the ground. More realistic damage models makes long-range "sniping" difficult, and there is no 'leading marker' to assist with aiming. Also, due to realistic G-forces, making tight maneuvers at high speeds can cause pilots to black out or their planes to rip apart, and the views available are the same as in Arcade Battles. Once ammunition is used up, players will have to return to their airfield to reload and repair. For the majority of matches in this mode, players are selected to have only one nation per team, making it possible to recreate a real scenario, such as the Battle of Stalingrad between the Soviet Union and the Third Reich.
This mode is located in the events section, was called "Full Real Battles" and was based on Realistic Battles with more restrictions on the user interface and controls; only the first-person view (in the cockpit) and external turret gunner views for aircraft are allowed in flight, while tank players are restricted to the gunner's scope, the driver's port (or Cabin (truck)), or a commander's perspective located above the vehicle. Additionally, aircraft can only be played in "Full Real controls" (there is no 'instructor' to prevent the aircraft stalling and the mouse can only be used to simulate a joystick). Players retain the option to have flaps, trim and engines automatically controlled in Simulator mode. The Heads Up Display is available to display speed, altitude, heading, engine/throttle settings, oil and water temperatures and basic vehicle damage status.
No player tags are given for the enemy team and friendly player and AI-controlled entity tags are only provided for aircraft within 0.9 kilometres (0.56 mi). Thus, players must pay particular attention when dealing with specific aircraft and tank types that are available to multiple nations and vehicles that can use different roundels other than their own default through personal customization.
Events in War Thunder are officially provided custom missions usually based on one of the three main game modes, but with alternative settings regarding allowed vehicles, mission specifics etc. Examples are the recreation of historical battles by restricting available vehicles (e.g. 'Battle of Stalingrad') or the 32/64 player 'Enduring Confrontation' mode featuring battles of multiple hours of length.
Traditionally, the game developers prepare unconventional events for April Fools Day. For 2017, War Thunder made playable rank XI main battle tanks and attack helicopters. For 2016, ahead of the announcement of the naval forces update, War Thunder offered playable sailing ships of the 18th century fighting in the Caribbean. The year before, a new game mode called "Unrealistic Battles" featured inflated rubber tanks firing potatoes and carrots. Other notable examples include "March to Victory", introducing playable Mecha composed of tank parts; "The Pony Nation" introducing My Little Pony as a sixth playable faction; and "Gaijilla" was a battle against a giant Godzilla-like snail.
Early development and closed Beta
The development of the game as World of Planes began in 2009. Gaijin Entertainment used its experience with its previous flight games such as IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey, Apache: Air Assault, and Birds of Steel in its development. In Closed Beta, the name was changed to War Thunder due to confusion with the similar competitor World of Warplanes, as well as other reasons such as Gaijin wanting the game to not just be focused on aviation anymore.
Open Beta and release
Open beta testing started November 1, 2012 (for users from the Russian Federation; the global beta launched January 28, 2013) for Windows PC with about 200 aircraft and 600,000 players. On May 15, 2014, at 6 million registered players, the first ground forces for Germany and the Soviet Union were introduced. Until 2016 followed the US, British and Japanese ground forces, with the introduction of the latter marking the official release of the game on December 21, 2016, with more than 800 playable vehicles and 15 million players in total. In May 2017, it was announced that Italian planes would be introduced in the game as a faction on their own.
Naval forces are currently in development and playable in pre-beta (for money) as of March 2017, with the closed beta, called 'Knights of the Sea', set to launch later in 2017. Initial Naval forces include torpedo boats, artillery and missile boats, coast guard vessels, and submarine chasers. In April, the developer announced that destroyers would be included as well.
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At release, War Thunder was well-received with generally positive reviews. It was praised for its variety of airplanes and high-quality visuals. However, the user interface was criticized for being "overly abundant and cumbersome" in contrast to the "sparse in-battle HUD".
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