Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor review

This is a shame because, like I said, the concept of SB:HA is great. Had all the Kinect functionality been… functional, it could have been an extremely immersive mech experience. Though the control problems are just a part of the issue. The missions themselves are extremely odd. The initial mission has you storming the beach, walking around a few mines, shooting two mechs and soldiers and mission accomplished. The mission after that is even shorter. It starts you off in your stationary mech along a bridge, where you have to stand up to look out. Then you just wait and watch as your co-pilots exchange some meaningless banter until the enemy starts firing at you. You're then tasked to walk about five yards with your mech, get out, crawl towards a detonation device, activate it and mission accomplished. Why are these missions so short?

Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor gameplay

You also have the ability to play with up to three others co-operatively online. I'd love to tell you about this experience but no matter how long I waited for others to connect to my game, I was in the lobby all by myself. Didn't matter much because I could still play those missions regardless with AI instead of real players. Thankfully, those missions are a little more involved and actually require you to scout an area, destroy certain structures and dispose of enemies.

As you go through the game, you get access to various unlockables/upgrades that you can outfit your Vertical Tank with. Even the inside of the cockpit can be fully customized, which is a neat touch considering you spend all of your time nested inside.

Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor gameplay

It's a crazy thought that the game went from having an extremely overcomplicated controller for the Xbox, to having make believe controls thanks to the Kinect, and sadly, I would have preferred the former. The other issue with Kinect controls is that the game lays on the difficulty as you progress, which means you then have to balance managing the inside of your mech, all while trying to control it with your controller. It's a frustrating experience that is made infinitely worse by the lack of response from the Kinect itself.

What SB:HA does right is its sound design. While I could do without the constant swearing from all of your cohorts, I understand that war is hell, so naturally people will be on edge, but where I think the game nails it are the sounds all around you. From the gunfire to explosions, it all sounds glorious even from inside your massive hulking tank on legs.

Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor gameplay

Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor could have been my dream game. It could have been the game that successfully brought on the marriage of an actual controller with full Kinect integration. The ambition behind the title was certainly huge, and I can't fault Capcom for that. However, with barely functional Kinect controls (tested out in various locations), Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor ends up being largely disappointing.

You know that saying, "Be careful what you wish for"? I have never felt that saying ring more true than with Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. Ever since the release of the Kinect, I was begging for games that would utilize hybrid controls, and let you perform gestures through the Kinect, while still being controlled with a standard controller.

Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor, on paper, is a genius idea. A mech game that places you inside the cockpit, gives you complete control over it, allowing you to manually set various things such as mech speed, ammo type, and activating various switches such as vents, or even pulling down the periscope — all the while still be able to maneuver it with a standard controller. This was a dream come true to me.

Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor gameplay

That dream was shattered, however, when I first started the game. Even in the tutorial stage, things started to go wrong. While the mech itself was controlled just fine using the standard Xbox controller, it's the gestures that made it fall apart completely. We wanted to ensure that we were playing in completely acceptable conditions for the Kinect, so that it tracked us correctly and had enough lighting. When everything checked out just fine, it was only up to the game to see whether it would read our movements correctly.

It didn't. It is quite the list of what SB:HA detected wrong. When we stood up to look out of the Vertical Tanks cockpit, it would randomly sit us back down, even though we were standing up. If we wanted to scoot forward to look out the front window and actually see where we're going, the game would keep shoving us back to see all the controls, and then back again on the window, and again back to see the controls. This was happening without us even moving our hands at all; it was all happening on its own.

Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor gameplay

Venting out your cockpit due to smoke inside should be a fairly easy task, right? After all, you can see the switch right there, it's even slightly highlighted, giving you the impression that you can just reach out and pull it down. The reality of it is you first have to pull out a console to the right, then reach out to pull the vent down, and then scoot the console back to the left. While it doesn't seem like a big deal, even pulling out the console to the right can be glitchy, and it can take several tries just to pull it out, let alone pull the actual lever once it is out.

The game occasionally tasks you to perform a gesture during various events, such as extending your hand for a handshake, picking up a dropped item, crawl on the floor when under heavy fire, or even to pull a cowardly co-pilot back into the cockpit. These would be fine and immersive if the game actually responded to you doing these gestures. Many times the game would take a while until it registered that I did indeed extend my hand for a handshake, though thankfully, the game didn't register me holding my hand out to catch an apple that was previously pissed on. I guess that was a plus.

Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor gameplay

(Continued on Page 2)