Steel Battlion Heavy Armor is an attempt at pitching a hardcore game at casual players by using the Kinect sensor. It succeeds, but only just
When Steel Battalion Heavy Armor was unveiled as part of Microsoft’s Kinect line-up at the Tokyo Game Show in 2010, it stirred up some shock. This was because anyone who remembered the Steel Battalion games of old would know that boiling down their control system for the Xbox 360’s Kinect sensor would be a pretty tall order.
Steel Battalion Heavy Armour: Controls
Past Steel Battalion games came packaged with a controller that had three pedals, two joysticks and a ton of buttons on them. With Heavy Armor, Capcom was stating its intention to pare down the interface to just the Kinect module. How on earth was that supposed to work?
As it turns out, not too shabbily, although it should be said right off the bat that Heavy Armor does require players to use traditional controller in tandem with Kinect.
Steering and firing are mapped to the Xbox 360’s control pad, while Kinect is used for every single other function. In a way the Kinect interface works the same was as augmented reality, with the player activating engines, using maps and pulling levers by gesturing at the screen.
Heavy Armor also requires the player to plonk their backsides on a kitchen chair in front of their console. This is because the Kinect sensor needs to be able to clearly make out the player’s limbs and torso in a seated position, which may not be possible if you’re slouched on a comfy sofa.
Steel Battalion Heavy Armor: Plot
If you’re new to the Steel Battalion franchise, here’s the pitch: in the future, a silicon-based parasite destroyed all the world’s microprocessors, hurling mankind into a gasoline powered, new industrial age. In this universe, the
United States has been conquered by invading forces, and its troops are about to stage a daring attempt to take their country back.
The mainstay of the US army is the vertical tank – two legged battle mechs that require four people to pilot them at a time. The player takes on the role of one of the more famous tank commanders, and joins the US army’s invasion efforts as they storm the beaches of Manhattan. All hell subsequently breaks loose.
While the set-up sounds a bit bonkers, the game’s story is actually rather good – more layered than one would have expected, in fact – and is also packed with memorable characters. The dialogue and voice acting is very good indeed, and in short order the player will come to feel protective over his AI comrades, the odd cheesy moment notwithstanding.
Steel Battalion Heavy Armor: Gameplay
Heavy Armor is a tough game to get to grips with. Between pulling imaginary levels, closing imaginary visors and pressing imaginary buttons, players will occasionally be required to mime punching their AI allies as they try to flee the tank in a panic.
They can also stand up and mime using binoculars to scout out the battlefield ahead of them, although this isn’t recommended in the middle of a firefight.
Mastering all of these controls is tricky enough, but it also doesn’t help that Heavy Armor’s default difficulty is actually extremely hard. The game’s thundering soundtrack is disorientating, the HUD is occasionally confusing (especially if stray bullets spiderweb the miniscule visor players see out of) and the odd latency issue with Kinect can be frustrating to say the least.
Steel Battalion Heavy Armor: Verdict
It has to be said that it’s difficult to know who exactly Steel Battalion Heavy Armor is aimed at. The Xbox 360 core remains mostly unconvinced by Kinect and Heavy Armor is probably too hard for casual players.
Are there any committed Xbox 360 fanboys (or girls) out there who are itching for Kinect game that requires patience, coordination and perseverance in the face of an eye-gouging difficulty? Here you are then…
Steel Battalion availability: 22 June 2012
Steel Battalion price: £39.99