So the WZ-111 is back in the store again. Also the 121B; my second most coveted tank at the moment, but that’s another story.
You may recall I wrote about the WZ-111 a few months ago, saying I had let my emotions get the better of me, and that I had bought the tank ”sight unseen and against my better judgement”. Today, those words – although they were both true and spoken in earnest at the time – seem slightly harsh. They don’t express the way I really feel about the tank.
I also wrote that if you have the Glacial or the IS-5 already, then you may want to give this one a miss. That part still stands. The WZ-111 won’t be a huge upgrade over the Glacial; it has a pike nose and is a little bit faster. Also it has stronger side armour; that’s about the extent of it. And, if you have a few Soviet style Heavy tanks already, thos one probably won’t be worth it for you.
But, in spite of this, I still like the 111 a lot, and I won’t hesitate to recommend it.
So what’s to like?
I have come to understand the Chinese tanks don’t always have the same effect on people they have on me. I think they are fantastic. A lot of other people think they are boring Russian knockoffs, and there is no arguing where the inspiration comes from. Chinese tanks have Russian armour layouts, old Russian field guns, all kinds of Soviet influences. I’ve said before if you look at these tanks and all you see is a Russian knockoff, then that’s all they are going to be.
In the case of the WZ-111, it’s hard to argue there is more to it. It has the same armour profile the tier IX WZ-111 1-4 has; same as the IS-5 has the armour profile of the tier IX IS-8. It has a regular 122 mm gun with APCR standard, same as the IS-5 has. And being a tier VIII Premium Heavy tank isn’t exactly original. It doesn’t even have a 130 mm or something, all in all it’s a pretty standard vehicle.
But it does work. In fact, it’s one of my ten best performing tanks at the moment, although that’s not nevessarily saying much. I’ve never been into Heavy tanks that much, and I don’t actually own a high tier Russian Heavy tank. For someone who does; again, it’s not certain the WZ is going to add a lot to your collection.
Three things I like about the WZ-111. First of all, it’s pretty fast. It’s fast in that typically Chinese diesel kind of way; it bogs down in mud and water, but seems to glide across the ground once you get it going, right up until you try to make a turn. It’s not exactly agile in a close up brawl, but it can chase down Light tanks and run with the Mediums if you want. But the WZ is not one of those ”Heaviums” you hear about, it’s a pretty standard Heavy tank, and it does all the Heavy tank jobs you throw at it.
Second, the WZ-111 side scrapes really well. It doesn’t have the weak fold at the bottom of the side armour a lot of the other WZ models have. It doesn’t have the impervious IS-8 armour the IS-5 does; you won’t get any bounces unless you angle up properly. But with the straight sides, and a bit of spaced armour above the tracks, the armour profile is super easy to get your head around. Especially if you have driven a few similar (…by which I mean ”Russian”) tanks already.
And here, again, I feel I should say that if you are used to the ultra bias of your IS-5, 8, 4, 2, or 7 you may feel the unbiased WZ armour is simply worse than they are. Like I said, that’s hard to argue against. I ended my last WZ-111 review by saying the IS-5 is a no brainer in comparison; it’s faster, it’s stronger, it has a lot more bias, and it’s a lot cheaper. That still stands, although personally, I will always go for the WZ.
Lastly, I really like the pike nose. That’s not a very curious attribute either, but as I haven’t driven a lot of pike nose tanks, I enjoy the playstyle a lot. Indeed, learning to use the pike nose effectively is the key to being successful in the WZ-111.
It’s not really a ”true” pike nose. It’s more like a cross between a pike nose and a flat glacis plate, with a rectangular lower plate unlike the IS tanks and the WZ-110. That means the angles on it aren’t very acute, but it also means it produces a kaleidoscope of bounce/no bounce zones, especially if you wiggle around a bit:
The lower plate is a weakspot, of course, which is completely fair on a tier VIII tank. It’s also pretty flat, so hard to angle up unlike the more severely angled Russians. But if you use the gun depression, the upper pike/plate will be completely impervious, and the turret too. They also won’t see your hatches, which are weak spots. It doesn’t take a lot to find these semi-hull down positions, and nce you figure it out, you’ll start finding them everywhere. It’s just a slight adaptation of your regular Heavy tank playstyle.
So with the fast-in-a-straight-line mobility, the pike-plate nose and the strong side armour, the WZ-111 is a very well put together vehicle, it’s easy to learn how to use, and it’s a pleasant drive, unless you are determined this is just a Russian knockoff and therefore super boring. That pretty much leaves just one question:
Who should buy one?
Well, me. But I already did. So who else?
That’s a difficult question. Because although I won’t hesitate to recommend it, I struggle to actually find someone to recommend it to.
A tank collector? A tank connoisseur like me? Someone who thinks Russian tanks are boring? But then why would Chinese tanks be any less boring? And the fact is you can easily find, or may already own, tanks that are a better option for you.
I think the WZ-111 will continue to be a sort of marginalised, niche type of vehicle; which seems a bit strange for what is basically just a standard Heavy tank. It’s the non-Russian Russian Heavy. The Non-pike nose pike nose tank. Only people who take an actual interest in it will buy it, because unless you are into Chinese tanks, this one doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles.
But it doesn’t have to. I’ve said that’s the exact reason I like it; it doesn’t try to be anything other than exactly what it is, and that’s not hard to figure out. And although you can find a cheaper, more accessible alternative that may be a better fit for you, there is absolutely no risk in choosing the offbeat vehicle for once, because there really is nothing strange about the WZ-111.
IrmaBecx says it’s the perfect tier VIII Heavy tank for me. Make sure you know what you want out of it, and it may be the one for you as well.