The free-to-play MMO flight simulator World of Warplanes is now open to all.
In North America, at least, World of Warplanes is not a mainstream attraction - it's been two decades since flight sims were "big" around these parts and most gamers today don't even own a joystick. But for those who do, the game's open beta might be just the thing to take care of an itch that's gone unscratched for too long.
The World of Warplanes open beta will launch with aircraft from the U.S., the Soviet Union (Yak attack!), Germany and Japan in PvP matches with up to 15 fighters per side. A tutorial mode has been introduced to ease new pilots into the action, while a "real-time tactical feedback system" will help players figure out the best ways to survive the unfriendly skies. Players who took part in the closed beta will receive "special prizes" as thanks for their assistance, and Wargaming said that the late stages of the open beta will see the introduction of the "Unified Premium Account" system, which will extend premium account benefits purchased in either World of Warplanes or World of Tanks to both games.
The warbird nerd in me is compelled to note the rather odd exclusion of British planes, meaning that famous fighters like the Spitfire, Hurricane, Mosquito and Meteor won't be on the tarmac, although they'll presumably be added at some point in the future. For now, the air forces of four great mid-20th century powers should be enough to keep most joystick jockeys busy, although you might have to wait a bit to get in on the action: Mainstream or not, the World of Warplanes website appears to be getting hammered, and is currently offline.