World of Tanks Unleashes Beautiful Destruction on Xbox One

Before beginning our recent demo of World of Tanks: Xbox One Edition, Creative Director and Executive Producer T.J. Wagner tossed out a few high-tech terms to describe how the free-to-play, 15-versus-15 action game has been visually enhanced for its upcoming debut on Microsoft’s new-gen box.

While his references to “flow-mapping, HDR skies, and volumetric smoke” were somewhat lost on us, the eye-popping beauty unfolding before us was not. Taking place on the game’s classic Abbey map, our demo didn’t dive headfirst into a metal-twisting melee, but instead began on a scenic dirt road surrounded by lush foliage, rushing streams, and a cloud-dotted blue sky that wouldn’t look out of place on a postcard.

Much of this beauty, as it turns out, is made possible by that aforementioned flow-mapping and HDR technology. The former yields natural, realistic movement of water, wind, and blowing trees, while the latter forgoes static images painted onto backgrounds for fully 3D-modleled vistas. Thanks to the enhanced tech, that picturesque sky’s clouds move as they would in real life, instead of just sitting there like pretty props. According to Wagner, this attention to detail, which will also bring more wildlife – like bunnies and butterflies – has gone into all 40 of World of Tanks’ maps. In short, every asset on every map is being built from scratch to leverage the Xbox One’s polygon-pushing prowess.

As he continued to reference the hardware’s ability to deliver a “much higher fidelity” experience with “much, much better graphics,” Wagner turned his attention to the detail-drenched tanks. Sporting 2.5 more polygons than the Xbox 360’s war machines – up to 50,000 for the most complex models – all 400 of the game’s tanks have been remade in HD, right down to each individual rivet. If you spend as much time ogling your artillery in the garage (which has also received a significant visual upgrade) as you do in the cockpit, you’ll appreciate the new eye candy.

As Wagner’s tank effortlessly rolled over a fence and a voice called out “Target spotted!” our demo became a bit more intense, but no less beautiful. As shells flew all over the map, we got to see some of that volumetric smoke in action. Coupled with realistic flames and earth-rattling explosions, the authentic effect makes – as Wagner put it – “the world feel like a battlefield.” We’d argue that the epic, physics-based destruction (fueled by the latest version of the Havok engine) also does its fair share to bring the battle right into your living room. Toss in other effects, such as dynamic weather patterns and the ability for fires to burn and spread, and World of Tanks’ intense battles are shaping up to be as beautiful as they are brutal.

Of course, the game’s arrival on Xbox One also means that it will take full advantage of all the system’s social features, from streaming and screen-sharing to talking trash with your friends. As with every aspect of the title, voice chat is cross-platform, so Xbox 360 and Xbox One commanders can seamlessly communicate within the same game.

Whether you’ve been scarring the battlefield since the title’s Xbox 360 debut or you’re a fresh recruit ready to roll onto the front lines, World of Tanks: Xbox One Edition welcomes you to unleash shell when it arrives later this year.