In the photo above the Ram II is being lit on fire, by me, twice, then finished off. The door to my left is to hide my shame.
Focus T-28: Acrofatic
It’s The Inflatable Tank, Stalin's Three Headed Monster, the Party Bus. It moves as though the laws of physics have been suspended in a corpulent bubble around the hull. The armor is laughable and it’s the size of a house! An introduction like this can only be referring to the Soviet T-28 Medium Tank.
My credentials to write this include 625 battles in the T-28, with a paired 58% win rate and 58% hit rate - how odd is that? I had sold the thing when I moved the crew up to a T-34 many months ago and recently re-bought it in my shift away from grinding tiers and toward grinding tears. I began with a 75% crew the second time around, so I have tasted the bitter that comes before 100%. The last time I used one was well before the physics patch and since then the handling has changed somewhat, the top gun was removed, and the battle tiers have tightened. What I thought was going to be a step back into sniperland reminded me just how important a skilled crew is.
There has been some controversy surrounding the in game representation of the T-28 but this Focus is on the in game model, not what actually was, so stow the pitchforks and torches and we shall begin.
POLISHING THIS OBNOXIOUS GEM
Back when the KV-1 and KV-2 were the same tank I was as anxious as anyone to get into one and so I bought the T-28 and got started. I was immediately disappointed with the performance and died horribly and often. After obtaining the KV and trying out the M-10 and the ZiS-6 I started to wonder if there was another way to play the T-28. Compared to the ZiS-4, the ZiS-6 is a devastating weapon but the reload, relatively quick by heavy gun standards, seemed to take ages. I was frequently killed while reloading because I hadn’t learned best practices on cover and maneuver yet. I still had the T-28 in my garage though and as a cruel joke decided to see what it could do with a 100% crew.
While others were jockeying for position or trying to run each other over I would speed to a forward piece of visual cover, let the Camouflage Net and Binocular Telescope kick in and wait for targets of opportunity. I noted that while I rarely caused enough damage for kills I was able to hit multiple targets in rapid succession as they moved from cover to cover. In most cases someone in range was out in the open to shoot at and the ZiS-4 tended to penetrate anything it hit at virtually any angle. I didn’t need the targets armor map memorized, all I had to do was shoot just ahead of it and whatever part I hit was good enough. This was fun! This was like a skeet shoot! It didn’t take long to get the crew to 100% and at the time the new crew skills were just being made available. Most of them were assigned the camouflage skill and I noted the enemy had an even harder time finding me. Things were getting interesting, and the amount of rage generated by killing tanks with a T-28 was staggering. I felt like a murderclown.
The T-28 stalks its prey in their natural habitat... the mens room at Prokhorovka.
OW! OW! OW! What the hell is hitting me?
The T-28 gives you a choice of 5 different guns, none of which are the 85mm F-30 - spoiler for new timers, that’s the one that was removed. It does fit the historical character of the tank as a testbed given the large turret space but actually allowing all of the tested weapons as options, or requiring that many to elite the thing, would surely irritate people. For further discussion on these discrepancies see Addendum 1 at the end of this feature. Like many tanks your only real options are a decent armor-piercing gun and a decent HE gun. Since the 85mm F-30 was the best HE gun before it was removed for balance reasons, the choices are an average HE gun and a very good armor-piercing gun. As driving a T-28 into melee range ends about as well as a fat meth addict charging a police line we’re going to focus on the armor piercing gun and cowardice.
The ZiS-4 is the most accurate Tier 5 gun currently in game. It is essentially the Tank mounted version of the ZiS-2 anti-tank gun. “But wait”, I hear you say, “isn’t the ZiS-2 already in game as a Tier 6 gun with essentially the same stats?” You are correct. The ZiS-4 was experimentally mounted on the T-34, presumably because welding this thing to the turret without removing the wheels and carriage first would probably get you reassigned from Ioseph Stalin Factory No. 92, to the Katorga works in Kazakhstan. For further discussion on these discrepancies see Addendum 1 at the end of this feature.
While the damage per shot from the 57mm ZiS-4 is lackluster the remainder of the stat line compares favorably with top guns from other Tier 4 Medium Tanks. Of the three other Tier 4 Medium Tanks only the Matilda QF 2-pdr Mk. X-B has higher penetration, but even lower damage per hit. For a sniping play style you want as much penetration and accuracy as you can get since you’ll often be facing very distant frontal armor and the ZiS-4 provides an excellent balance of gun qualities for stopping scouts and even picking heavies to pieces if you can keep them away from you. Actual damage per shot is a secondary concern but with the exceptionally quick firing rate your potential damage per minute is surprisingly high.
THAT VERTICAL PEDAL ON THE RIGHT
The T-28 has the highest horsepower to weight ratio of all non-Premium Tier 4 Medium tanks and seeing them streak across the battlefield like parade balloons duct-taped to Formula/E Superkarts can rattle your sanity. The in game model of the T-28 is much lighter than the production models but keeps the true to life 500hp engine at top tier. For further discussion on these discrepancies see Addendum 1 at the end of this feature. The resulting combination ensures the T-28 reaches top speed very quickly and generally stays there unless you’re into mountaineering or performing T-50 impersonations. Since the physics patch the ground resistance of the T-28 feels slightly higher to me but it’s possible I’ve been jaded driving late model Soviet brawlers. Keep in mind, though it is zippy for its class and tier, it does not compare favorably to true scout tanks.
THERE’S A HOLE IN MY ARMOR DEAR LIZA
The T-28 can brawl but it is exceptionally poor at it compared to dedicated brawlers you will run into. As previously mentioned it is a huge target compared to the armor and tier and opponents that can see you should have no trouble hitting you. Hits that connect, even HE shells, are very likely to penetrate. Losing one crew member per hit is not uncommon and with six crewmembers chances are when a shell penetrates someone is going to die. Due to the lackluster HP of the hull one should avoid opponents known to be using HE shells at all costs. If you’re forced into a city and see an Self Propelled Gun or Tank Destroyer around a corner waiting for you, find someone else to charge that corner; you’re unlikely to survive that hit even with full health. The only true defense the T-28 has is not being where bullets are. This involves setting up in stealthy positions forcing the enemy to take longer to spot you, and if all else fails using hard cover to shield yourself from deadly artillery fire. This poor defense, combined with the allure of the KV-1 is why most people grind through the T-28 as quickly as possible. The T-28 is certainly capable of brawling based on the decent HP, but you will do well to soften the target at long range first and move in only when they are distracted trying to kill a teammate.
THE SKILLS THAT KILL
The professional T-28 player will probably want to look at crew skills to maximize their sniping ability. (Is professional an oxymoron here? Are full time clowns called professionals?) Hidden behind a Normandie sized hedgerow and using a Camouflage Net the T-28 can be surprisingly stealthy for such a large tank. Bolstering that stealth with Camouflage skill for all crew members will allow you to deal more damage by staying hidden longer while firing at approaching enemies.
While there are certain obvious tells you’ve been spotted, like opponents training their gun barrels right on you, it will not always be clear you’re detected and taking Sixth Sense for your Commander is invaluable. The T-28 is a one shot kill for most artillery pieces and since you are roughly the size of an apartment complex, and must be still to use your Camouflage Net and Binocular Telescope you will be a very easy target.
The first round of skills then should be Sixth Sense for the Commander, Situational Awareness for one of your Radio Operators, and Camouflage for everyone else. Should you actually keep the tank through this the Commander should take either Camouflage or Recon, Camouflage for that Radio Operator, Deadeye for the Gunner, Call for Vengeance for the already Camouflaged Radio Operator, Safe Stowage for the Loader, Preventive Maintenance for the Driver. If you’re working on the next set you won’t need advice, you’ll need your head examined.
Under normal circumstances I would recommend Brothers in Arms but you won’t have as much use for all the crew skills as you will for view range and stealth. I believe greater advantage is obtained focusing on actual Camouflage skills, and taking Sixth Sense for the commander will boost your survivability tremendously. Where view range is concerned I also believe more is gained taking Recon and Situational Awareness than taking Brothers in Arms. Since this alone would push BiA out to the third set of crew skills it becomes rather moot.
Apart from Camouflage, skills for other crew members are mostly secondary. Since there’s no way yet to strap additional armor plating to your tank and angling does next to nothing, Safe Stowage and Preventive Maintenance will improve your survivability and are handy to have should you transfer this crew over to the medium line. The T-34 and then T-34-85 (a tank which I believe is washed with aviation fuel rather than soap) will greatly benefit from these crew skills.
Deadeye is touted as being a good skill to have to make hits count when you have a long reload time but it’s far more destructive when used on a high penetration rapid fire gun like the ZiS-4. Every penetrating hit has a slightly higher chance to cause critical damage and “brewing up” tanks that can ill afford fires should happen with comic frequency. Since it will take you so long to actually kill your target anything you can do to degrade their performance while you’re killing them is a bonus. Any time a side shot is available you should be trying to hit the rear end of the target to induce fires by hitting the fuel tanks and engine.
AND THE GEAR?
Whether you’re grinding past the T-28 or not, equipping a Camouflage Net and Binocular Telescope should be your first priority. If you plan on spending any credits beyond that consider a Tank Gun Rammer to make your reload rate even more disturbing, an Advanced Gun Laying Drive for even faster aiming, or Ventilation for a little of both. There is little justification for any other equipment as they either will not add enough to make a difference in your survivability or will not improve your sniping game.
Consumables should probably be the standard Small First Aid Kit, Small Repair Kit, Manual Fire Extinguisher setup. Given the high power to weight ratio you’ll be up to speed fast enough to make Lend-Lease Oil useless and removing the Speed Governor will just ensure your engine dies even faster and more horribly than it does under enemy fire.
HOW I MINE FOR TEARS?
The best place to use the ZiS-4 is from a sniping position behind a large bush or copse of trees as far away from your target as possible while still being in view range. While you should inflict constant damage and can completely finish off tanks that stay exposed for too long, most will seek cover in short order. You may not get many kills but you will collect a great deal of damage XP and spotting XP as well as denying the enemy a large area of the field when in a commanding position. Sitting still for the best aim and to ensure your Camouflage Net and Binocular Telescope are working for you means making yourself vulnerable to artillery fire. If you’ve been spotted or even if you think you’ve been spotted it is best to move immediately and worry about finishing the job later.
Another thing to beware of is trying to hold a front by yourself. Due to the low damage output of the gun it is quite easy for several opponents to drive straight toward you and overwhelm your position before you can kill them. While this is true of almost any tank, taking many small hits induces less concern in people than taking a single massive hit and isn’t as likely to discourage a dedicated opponent from charging forward. While the low damage makes it time consuming to finish opponents off you can at least least be assured those who do survive long enough to get close and spot you will already be damaged making your job of brawling them easier. If more than one opponent is charging you though your best bet is to run since you’ve got the agility for it.
At Tier 4 you will mostly be facing opponents who are simply grinding their way to a higher tier tank. As I have done this for other lines I know how badly you get killed without a properly trained crew. The grinding player isn’t in a vehicle long enough to gain any appreciable crew skill at these tiers and your operating range. Keeping your range where you can detect and fire without revealing your position is made easier by your opponents inexperience.
If you can arrange a situation where the enemy must approach you through a long line of bushes, all things being equal you should be able to see them two or three bushes before they can see you which will give you time to remove one of their tracks and back up erratically. Even at medium ranges you should be able to snipe selected components. Always remember keeping a crappy enemy still by tracking them will give your artillery critical seconds for their crappy crew to aim.
First strike is a critical advantage, and repositioning to bolster a failing front is a tactically poor decision to make when you know you are providing the only local spotting. Sometimes you just have to let your allies on the exposed front get picked off while tanks near you do the same to the enemy using your spotting values.
Running the T-28 as a spotter/sniper also puts you in a very XP rich environment. You won’t be dealing as much damage to the enemy as your compatriots but you will be getting a portion of the XP for damage they induce on targets you spot. Even with less than stellar performance this should put you near the top of the XP field.
THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW
Since I sold the T-28 many months ago a great deal of gentrification has occurred on the NA server. You will be encountering more people at tiers 5 and 6 who have owned their tanks far longer than before due to the farming that goes on there. Even though the matchmaker has been tightened to prevent tier seven tanks from getting you, a fight with a Tier 6 Medium or Tank Destroyer will not end well, especially if they have spotting skills or gear.
The introduction of French and British vehicles will now give you fights against lower tier tanks with surprisingly thick armor, or with weapons that can kill you even faster than the ones you’re used to dodging. There are more DERP guns in play at the low tiers than ever before and a single hit from any of these is usually enough to end your fight.
The rapid fire rate of the ZiS-4 will also be an advantage against fast scouts and you should make pains to attack them first where possible. A T-150 might nail an ELC AMX, T-50, or T-50-2 dead to rights but if the server decides to ignore that penetrating hit you’re going to want to be close by to lend a hand. None of your sniping posts will really be safe while one of those things lives anyway.
If you’re simply grinding the T-28 to get to the Soviet Heavy Tank lines little in this guide will help you as you’re not going to be around long enough to train up much of a crew or get much practice in sniping. If you do plan on keeping it the T-28 you can make it a very irritating opponent and a good training platform for a T-34-85 crew using these tactics.
ADDENDUM 1: Shut up, SHUT UP, SHUT UP!