Ordinarily straight-laced free-to-play WW2 combat sim War Thunder is well known for its silly April Fools events. This year, it’s an impressively well fleshed-out UFO combat scenario named Earth Thunder. With a HUD full of incomprehensible alien text and instructions that aren’t much more helpful, two teams of UFOs clash above a besieged modern-day city. Being advanced alien craft, they’re capable of operating on the land, in the air or even underwater, each with different attack modes, making for an arcadey but very unusual fight. The event runs until April 5th, and Below: A trailer FROM BEYOND.
The Earth Thunder scenario is pretty simple stuff. A capture-and-hold mission with two teams, and five respawns per player. The UFOs themselves are impossibly agile compared to War Thunder’s planes, able to turn on a dime and hit targets with pinpoint accuracy with their beam lasers. Of course, as you’re shooting at tiny UFOs in the distance it’s hard to land a killing shot unless you manage to catch an enemy from above or below. Your UFO’s powers change when you’re close to the ground or underwater, too, making for an unpredictable rhythm to fights.
When you’re near-landed (you can’t crash), your UFO moves slower but with more agility, and is protected by a shield. You also get a railgun cannon to try your hand at sniping. While underwater, you can’t use your main beam cannon, but you can fire a shotgun-blaster, although its shots are only short range. You can also fire homing torpedoes underwater to catch enemies unawares, although they can just as easily hit the ‘fly up’ button (R and F on the keyboard control height by default) to get them out of the water, where neither shotgun blasts nor torpedoes can follow.
I feel there’s a bit more subtlety to the UFO fights than there were in some of War Thunder’s past joke-modes, like the mech-battles they’ve had previously, or the My Little Pony rainbow-powered dogfights even further back. It’s a fresh, fun mode and worth playing a round or two. You launch an Earth Thunder match by clicking the logo in the top-right of the hangar screen.