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Tag - War Thunder

The Genius of War Thunder’s X-Ray System

war thunder

War Thunder and World of Tanks are fairly close in terms of playerbase. While World of Tanks has a lead – and thus more players – War Thunder is expanding extremely quickly, buoyed by constant updates and Steam integration. However, between the two, War Thunder has the better tank mode by a long shot.

Why? The X-Ray system.

The Basics

The X-Ray system in War Thunder is extremely simple. Whenever you shoot somebody, a picture-in-picture window pops up and shows you how your round hit the tank, how it deflected or spalled, and how that affected the tank internals. Whenever you die, it does the same thing, but in reverse; you are shown how the shot that killed you blew apart your ammo reserves or ripped your crew to shreds. This system appears independent of player input, so all you have to do is glance at the side of the screen to see it.

Each of your tank’s internal components is modeled, from the ammo dumps to the tread motors to the gun loader to the entire crew, and is represented by semi-transparent texture-less grey models. It’s a very easy system to understand and get used to, and is really quite pretty; seeing the destruction of an enemy tank both in the main screen and through the play-by-play side window is an exhilarating feeling.

The only downside? It’s not in plane mode, probably because planes are more about continuous MG fire and less cannon shells exploding inside enemies.

Get To Know Your Tank And Crew

Besides being fun to look at, the X-Ray system offers something that you can only intuit or read a guide on in World of Tanks: where to hit an enemy to cause maximum damage and how to angle your tank to take the least amount of damage.

A big part of playing any multiplayer game is the feeling that you’re getting better as you play, either by understanding mechanics better or by improving your reaction times, decision-making skills, or other personal points of interest. World of Tanks has a problem – the problem that made me stop playing it, in fact – in communicating just what you’re doing wrong in a match. You can stick with your team, outflank the enemy, and shoot shells into their side all day, but if you don’t understand the principles of armor deflection and weak spots, you’ll get nowhere. While World of Tanks does explain this in the tutorial, it’s woefully silent on how to spot weak points and how to learn from your misfires.

By implementing the X-Ray system, War Thunder gave players a path to learn from experience, rather than from a tutorial. You can see in real-time the mistake you made – maybe it deflected off the front armor, or the spalling didn’t connect with any vital parts – and adjust accordingly. Of course, you’re usually dead by then, but hey, next life, right?

These are important tank warfare concepts that are not particularly intuitive to grasp. Telling someone sloped front armor has an actual thickness of 90mm and an effective thickness of 120mm (this is a hypothetical, don’t yell at me!) means nothing to the average person. While you can tell them why this is the case, only experience – the skills and knowledge gained in battle – will properly teach a player what exactly that means for the game.

As for the other way around, it teaches you how to better use basic defensive tank concepts such as presenting the proper side (or “sidescraping”) and using defilade. After all, you can see exactly the carnage your crew goes through whenever you take a SABOT round to the side. Also, let’s be honest; it humanizes the crew a little bit, even if it’s just as weak points in your tank. You learn which crewman goes where, which crewmen are expendable, and how you can minimize injury to essential personnel. It’s not the warm fuzzy emotional personalization of a Pixar film, but it definitely makes you understand your tank and crew more.

Nothing Is Perfect

War Thunder has plenty of problems. The arcade mode feels super restrictive on spawns, maps are way too large in many cases, and matchmaking feels off – getting one-shot by a tank two tiers higher than you, when you’re at tier 1 or 2, is not entirely uncommon. Still, the X-Ray system is not one of them. It’s an absolutely genius method to communicate mechanics, and more games need to incorporate such a system.

Screenshot Saturday: Flights of Fancy

Rocket League_20150802223434

Videogames are confusing, beautiful, complicated messes, and the best way to convey that is through screenshots, whether they are beautiful, informative, or goofy. Each Saturday we bring you one screenshot each from a game we played. It’s Screenshot Saturday.

War Thunder

Thomas: As I wrote yesterday, I’ve been dipping my toes into the War Thunder pond. I’m still figuring things out. Biplanes can pick up quite a bit of speed in a swooping dive, you know! I was pretty proud of myself for the maneuver, coming down right on this Ki-10’s ass, before I realized I didn’t have any brakes to pump. About a millisecond after this screenshot, the two of us were tumbling towards the ground in burning chunks. War Thunder Is Good.

Elite: Dangerous

James: Despite all of my frustrations with it (which I hope Horizons will help with), the exploration profession in Elite: Dangerous is still my favorite. Once you get good at it, you can skip across the galaxy extremely quickly, picking up some great screenshots while making a buck on the side. It may not be the best-paying way to play Elite: Dangerous, but it’s certainly the prettiest. I recently found that you can disconnect your camera from the ship as well, which led to screenshots like this one.

Rocket League_20150802223434

Twisted Metal anyone?

Dave: I now officially own every car there is in Rocket League. Turns out that if you win a match with each of the standard unlockable cars, you get a bonus vehicle: Sweet Tooth from the Twisted Metal series. I’m not sure if this is a nod specifically to Rocket League’s genesis (which you can read about in this great Kotaku article) or what – but it looks pretty sweet. Unfortunately, it lacks full customization options (for somewhat understandable reasons) and I ended up not using it a bunch: but still pretty cool. Now all I need is to drive 18 million miles or whatever it is to get the Platinum for Rocket League!

War Thunder: Newbie Diaries

War Thunder

I played War Thunder for the first time on Monday.

I’d always looked askance at the Gaijin title as a false claimant to the throne, particularly when Ground Forces was announced as a competitor to World of Tanks. WoT has always been close to my heart, despite being terrible at it. I remember playing in the Beta days, when the premium Hotchkiss was an invulnerable killing machine in the lower tiers. It’s hard to shake the affection, even after realizing that without a crutch I am truly terrible.

Still. War Thunder is looking better and a clean slate has its advantages. Maybe I won’t tank (ha ha ha ha!) my win rate as I have in World of Tanks? I played the tutorial ages ago. Let’s see how this game is nowadays.


This machine doesn’t look exactly sturdy.

Looks like I picked the Japanese tree when I was doing my tutorial run. That’s Japan’s entry-level fighter, the Ki-10. It makes sense – when I think of Japanese aircraft, I think of the Zero and Oscar – relatively light aircraft with extreme maneuverability. In flight sims I’m typically pretty bad at boom-and-zoom, so nimble dogfighters appeal to me.

Anyways. Let’s hit the “To Battle!” button and see what happens.

Red or Blue?

Friends? Friends??

Maybe I should have given the tutorials another playthrough. I’m not sure what side I’m on: Red or Blue. Is Red always the enemy? That’s how it is in WoT, but this game is different in a lot of subtle ways. I make a snap decision. The Reds must be friendly, because there’s so many more of them visible.

This is the wrong choice.

I chase a Blue airplane around, slowly acclimating to the controls and missing a lot of shots. Then a Red Russian I-15 biplane opens fire and relieves me of my misconception about who the bad guys are. After a few minutes of dogfighting, he kills my pilot and the Ki-10 drifts into the ground. Scratch one me.

In my second action, I dive from high altitude and put a few bullets into an OS2U seaplane before misjudging my speed, smashing into it and killing us both. I do not get any screenshots of this shameful display. Scratch two mes.

Third life. I stay at medium altitude and speed this time, looking for targets of opportunity. Target spotted! It’s another I-15, maybe the same one. My Ki-10 manages to slip behind him and score a few hits with my 7.7mm machine guns. The I-15 dives to escape me, cutting it very close to the ground – too close. There’s an unusually tall treebank in the way. The I-15’s ailerons twitch as it tries to pull left for just an instant before it smashes through the branches and into the ground. It’s credited to me; I may have damaged his control surfaces. Who cares! I have my first kill!

I-15 Crash

You can just barely see the wreck.

And the match ends. I spend a moment idly thinking about how planes with radial engines look like normal aircraft with condoms on as the score screen comes up.

I click on a bunch of research and unlock things. I think I might have screwed up – I use almost all of my “Golden Eagles”, which are apparently the premium currency. I started with about 100. I now have 10. Oh well!

I use my research points to unlock the next tier of Japanese fighter, the A5M. I’m very excited to try my new baby out! Next battle, please!

Burning A5M


My new baby burns merrily about thirty seconds into the new battle. Good night, sweet prince. It’s back to the Ki-10s with me. But with a little bit of experience under my belt…



… things are getting…


The Ki-10 is really quite decent down at the treetops here.

…somewhat easier.

I have to take an aside here and praise the control scheme and realism level in Arcade mode. The aircraft all have individual flight characteristics without a punishing level of realism. There are no flat spins or unpredictable stalls, just balls-to-the-wall dogfighting. I can appreciate an absurdly realistic flight model as much as the next dork, but this is straight fun.

Well, that’s settled. I like the planes. Let’s try tanks.

Tutorial For Me, A Baby

What is a “tank”

Now, as mentioned, I have been playing a decent amount of World of Tanks lately (I just reached the T-43 on the Russian medium tree). I’d heard that some aspects of War Thunder’s simulation were more realistic and fleshed out and that the playstyle was more deliberate. This turned me off a bit, honestly. I enjoy my slow games (look for a review of Rule The Waves coming soon!) but I enjoy these F2P windowed-mode games because I can dip in for a bit of twitchy action and move on. “World of Tanks, but slower” seems, well, worse.

Thankfully, War Thunder robbed me of my preconceptions. After playing through the surprisingly-decent tutorial and being wowed by the physics, gunnery and overall feel, I take my dinky BT-5 into my first Arcade Tank battle.



I crank her up to full speed, travelling across a grassy field from our spawn to the town in the center of the map, and… oh my god. My tank can drift. This is fucking hot. I’m starting to see the appeal of this physics model. A couple of minutes are spent driving in circles and seeing if I can roll my Russian tin can.

Eventually, I slalom into town like a jackass and take up position north of what I think is some kind of capture point. A panzer shows up and shoots the hell out of me.

I'm in trouble.

I’m in trouble.

The Panzer IV knocks me out and I am subjected to some Disturbing Imagery.

When you’re knocked out in War Thunder, you get an “instant replay” cam that follows the enemy shell in slow motion as it impacts your tank. The camera then gives you an “xray” view of the inner workings of your tank, showing the shell’s penetration point and the damage it does to individual components and crew members.

Xray 1Xray 2

There is something gruesomely enjoyable about the x-ray cam, seeing those shell fragments rip through the crew. I remember reading, years ago, about Italian tanks in WWII. Their crews called them “iron coffins.” They were built with rivets instead of welding. When the tank took a hit, even a nonpenetrating one, the rivets would shear off the plates and bounce around inside the crew compartment like bullets. After the battle, someone would open up one of these apparently “abandoned” machines, which might have little or no visible external damage, and find the crew inside turned into ground beef.

In any case, I don’t ruminate on this for long. Taking a more cautious approach into town, I sidescrape alongside one of the buildings, leaving just my turret and a bit of angled armor visible to the avenue of approach of the enemy.

Dead PzIv

Panzer IV goes down.

A Panzer IV and a Panzer 35(t) start peeking over the hill facing the town. Their shots bounce, mostly. The Panzer IV gets close and engages me from behind a pile of rubble. My driver is knocked unconcious: I have to stand and fight. I’ve figured out my gun handling a little better. First the IV, then the 35(t) go down.

I feel like a hero. Eventually, an M2A4 infiltrates the town and takes me out, ending the battle. Not bad for a first engagement, right?


If it wasn’t obvious, I very much enjoyed my first few bouts in War Thunder. The air and ground Arcade modes were easy to pick up and genuinely rewarding, with quick progress through the research trees. The community seems less toxic than World of Tanks’, as well. Give it a shot, if you haven’t, and make sure to join the discussion in our Game of the Month thread.