I have now played over a hundred games in my KV-4 Tier VIII heavy tank. It has been fully researched for a while, and I have 105k experience amassed out of the 166k experience required to unlock the Tier IX ST-1. I think therefore I have some idea now of the strengths and weaknesses of this tank, leastways as relates to how I play it. Starting off with my statline – I have played 132 matches with a total of 75 victories, or roughly a 57% win rate. Along the way I have 1 Defender medal, 4 Sniper medals, 11 Steel Wall medals, and 1 Confederate medal, and I have destroyed a total of 113 enemy tanks. My damage per battle is just over 1200, my kills/match is 0.86 and my kills/death is 1.23. I mostly will only be discussing the fully upgraded tank, but to begin with I will speak a little about how the tank performs during the initial periods of research.
The first thing to note about this tank is both that you do not need to research the improved suspension to equip the top gun, and that you do not need to research the turret to get the top gun. This makes this 107mm ZiS-24 absolutely the first research priority (in my case the other weapons carried over from previous tanks). Until then the other guns one might use will feel distinctly underpowered for the battles you find yourself in. Essentially one either just learns to live with quite a few bounces (or a lot of bounces in a Tier X match) or uses free experience immediately. Once the top gun is researched it is actually possible to go on and start grinding away for the ST-1 without further action. However, this will mean you are using a somewhat handicapped tank as both the improved suspension and engine do help make this tank slightly less like a stranded whale. I should note that although I personally did research the turret, I have never used it. While in theory it increases the armour values somewhat, there is also a huge weakspot in the form a secondary turret on top of the main turret. I have read that quite a lot of KV-4 players basically do the same.
Even with the upgraded engine this tank is winning no races in the speed department. On the flat, on proper roads, one can just about manage 30 km/h. When you are going uphill, it becomes painfully slow. Things do not improve if the tracks get damage, or especially if the engine or driver are hit. All three and you more or less become an immobile lump of metal. The slow speed has several obvious consequences: you are a relatively easy target for artillery (and very vulnerable if you do get a damaged engine or injured driver) and you do not really have the opportunity to redeploy across the battlefield. In most situations you commit yourself to a flank or area at the start of the match, and you live and die by that decision. Being overly indecisive is a good way to more or less take your tank out of the crucial first few minutes of the battle as well, since it takes far too long to creep back and forth whilst you make your mind up.
The tank moves so slowly because it is heavily-armoured. There is 180mm of armour in front – but beware this is an old style tank. By that I mean the armour is not sloped unlike, for example, the IS-3 which has that distinctive “beak” on the front or the Type 59. The real strength of this tank’s armour however is not the front, but the sides. They have 150mm of armour, but if you can get the tank positioned correctly at a decent angle the effective side-armour becomes much greater, aided by the thick cladding of the tracks.It is possible to soak up an enormous amount of damage this way – so long as one is more or less arty-safe. It will not work very well at the closest ranges as most folks should know not to aim at the tracks themselves by this level, but one can still survive for a surprising length of time from a concentrated enemy barrage.
This points to the first role of this tank – to be a target for the enemy to occupy themselves whilst the rest of your team deal out damage. Since the KV-4 is very large it makes an almost irresistible target. The one caution is to be aware of artillery, as one is large enough and slow enough to make avoiding arty damage tricky. However, even the role as an arty-magnet has its uses. Alternative scenarios of this role are to be a roadblock delaying the total collapse of one flank by a possibly crucial 30 seconds, or the one that “goes over the top” but it doing so allows the rest of the team to break out.
The thick armour on this tank ensures a heavy weight – nearly 100 tons. There is one element of this game in which this tank has an almost unrivalled capability – ramming. Especially if one can manage a downhill sprint (where it can reach higher speeds than on the flat) which ends up in the side of an enemy tank the damage one can inflict is staggering. Even on the flat though, if one has picked up any amount of speed, it is possible to inflict significant damage. In the right position one also has the option of generally being able to push most other tanks around – off cliffs for example or into holes.
The top gun, the 107mm ZiS-24, will generally have little trouble against most Tier VIII targets so long as one does not hit obvious strong spots. Of course, sometimes that is difficult to avoid. It will start to have difficulty against Tier IX (though weakspots remain weakspots) and especially Tier X targets. Lower Tier targets will generally not prove problematic unless circumstances (angling, range, and the rng) favour them. The damage of the gun is respectable, but less than the top gun of many other Tier VIII heavies.
The KV-4 is has one of my poorest kill/match ratings in tanks I have played in the last few months. I also have never killed more than 4 enemy tanks in a single battle with it. It took me a while to realise why this was, and I think it speaks to what sort of tank the KV-4 is and perhaps also why many people seem to dislike it. Firstly the gun’s lack of punch decreases the overall amount of damage – but even more so I think this is a consequence of the tank’s mobility. Many times I have been unable to get a kill because I could just not move quickly enough or nimbly enough to get in that final shot – a nippy medium got it instead. This is especially true as a battle develops since the tracks of the KV-4 tend to get damaged. It is also difficult to switch sides of the battlefield simply because it takes so long – which means one generally can only benefit from one portion of the battle. Finally its role as being something of a damage-sink means one very often is left with a tank that is operating significantly below top capability by the later stages of the battle in a way that simply does not happen so consistently with most other tanks. In addition I think by the time some people get to the action they become over aggressive – I know I sometimes do – which translates into making easy mistakes. All in all this can add up to a very frustrating time.
Plus these days there is a (mostly) incorrect belief flying around that the addition of premium ammunition for credits has rendered the high armour values of this tank immaterial. Well, I have seen a KV-4 (not my own) take over 80 hits, and even my own tanks regularly take 20-30 hits (sometimes surviving, sometimes not) so I would say its capacity to absorb punishment remains high.
Overall judging one’s performance in the KV-4 requires, I think, considering some of the less tangible things that simply does not show up in stats – the only stat that can encompass such things (such as holding up an enemy attack for a precious 30 seconds, or even a precious 10 seconds) is the win rate. Since my own win rate in this tank is in line with my overall win rate (indeed, a smidgen better) I feel I must be doing something right.
I do like the KV-4, and if I had the garage slots I would probably keep it. I do not have said garage slots however, so at some juncture I will sell it off and acquire the ST-1. That is not likely to be before April at the earliest.