Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor
Pay attention soldier, because this part is important: Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour is a busted videogame. At least in my experience, anyway. In my naivety, I presumed the Kinect-based nature of this mech/tank-controlling game would be well-suited to my generously spaced living room – especially considering most if not all of my Kinect experiences have worked pretty well in that area. But even after spending literally hours trying to get Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour to calibrate and adjust to my surroundings to even a semi-workable standard, I never quite got it to work as well as you would hope. Perplexingly, I did eventually manage to get the game working well enough in a friend’s bedroom using the same Kinect camera, despite it working with a much smaller space and drastically worse lighting than in my living room. I can’t tell you how or why these order of events occurred in the way they did, but I can tell you this: this is a bad game which you should not buy.
Simply put, the game is an inconsistent mess. This is really crushing too, because the concept is a totally sound one. Using the Kinect camera and operating a regular 360 controller at the same time, you are tasked with controlling the operations of a mech-like tank (or vertical tank/VT as it’s called) and battling in an environment which is a sort of anachronistic take on World War II. Using the controller’s thumbsticks and triggers, you are able to move and fire weapons respective, while the role of the Kinect is to provide an interface for every other function inside the mech itself. This includes clutching a lever to start up the mech, leaning your arms forward to look through your viewport and get a better bead on enemy mechs, and even thumping a big red self-destruct button when things get really dire. But that’s the game’s greatest problem – the poor responsiveness of these tasks on the behalf of the Kinect’s sloppy motion recognition means that you find yourself in far too many of those dire situations.
Rage ensues when basic attempts to peer through your muddied and cracked viewport just straight-up fail to register, and leaving you to be shot-up and killed in the process. Such an experience is infuriating, and truly destroys the initial feelings of quirky novelty introduced by the game’s training sequences. Even still, the actual framework of the game’s missions most likely wouldn’t be that exciting even if the game worked as intended. Plus, what can only be imagined as an attempt to account for the slow-moving nature of controlling your mech via the Kinect, enemy A.I. does little more than stand motionless in the middle of heated battle, leaving you to take laboriously-paced pot-shots until they eventually drop.
On the semi-rare chance that the controls begin to work effectively and you are able to gradually plod your your way through a mission, the combat is still too dull to make up for any of its short-givings of actually reaching to that point of success. There are also moments where an on-foot enemy soldier will pop the lid of your mech and attempt to take you out with a more direct approach, but the troubles with Kinect are uniquely broken in these cases and never let respond to the attack in due time and end up forcing you back to retry. Missions are strangely short too, although fiddling with the inconsistencies of the Kinect will prolong your hardship without fault almost every time. Online co-op for up to four players features on particular missions, but this mode is only really useful if you wish to share your misery in the company of like-minded masochistic friends.
It’s a sad truth to report, but the great ideas of Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour have been laid on some considerably crooked foundations. If anything, it’s an indictment of the Kinect’s over-promise, as its unresponsive method of control ends up drowning out any potential of its ambitions coming to life in a truly satisfying manner. Whether or not the next iteration of Kinect will fare better with such a task is an open question, but for now, the answer is an unfortunate ‘no.’
D+PAD reviewed Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor on the Xbox 360. Review copy supplied by Capcom UK.
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