Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor was developed by From Software and published by Capcom. It was released on June 19, 2012 and retails for $59.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
When Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor was announced for Kinect, a melody of excitement sung through the air, dancing on the hopes of many that Microsoft’s new toy would get its first heavy-hitting core game. After a teaser trailer hit the web, those enchanting hopes soared high as we received our first glimpse of something that felt truly amazing. After all, who wouldn’t want to pilot a mech tank, known as a VT (or Veet), through a seemingly post-apocalyptic cityscape peppered with a flair of beloved World War II themes? Rendered salivating children by such a promising experience, we let Capcom bamboozle us with something painfully haunting, a reminder of frustration that now collects dust behind the TV stand.
Thrown into the shoes of a mute re-enlisted tank commander, Heavy Armor asks players to coordinate between the Xbox 360 controller and Kinect. Using full-motion functions for button pressing and lever pulling around the tank is supposed to free gamers from the clunky console controller, which ran in the ballpark of $200, which the original Steel Battalion demanded. The Xbox 360 controller, on the other hand, is tasked with the duty of moving and firing the vertical tank. Heavy Armor is one of the first games to attempt to combine and simultaneously use both Kinect and a standard Xbox 360 controller, so new ground is being tread upon here.
As Sergeant Winfield Powers, gamers will be subjected to a quickly woven story of revenge and liberation. In the near future (2082 to be exact), the United States falls under the iron grip of a “United Nations” run by a tyrannical Chinese overlord known simply as “Uncle”. Technology has been mostly eradicated after some silicone-eating microbe decimated microprocessors decades before, but the remnants of the United States military might regroups down in Mexico with an army of walking tanks to coordinate a liberation front. Powers has a personal vendetta in this fight for freedom; His family was gunned down and burned before his eyes by Uncle’s forces.
Here’s what we liked:
Graphics - The look, style and feel of this game is beautiful. If Steel Battalion allowed newly enlisted gamers just to explore these decimated cities or roam the desert, we could spend a countless amount of time just gawking at the scope and design of this dark world. In conjunction with the environment, we also enjoyed the blood splatter. A sense of sadism set in as we watched our brothers in arms raid the beachhead in one level, succumbing to the spray of bullets ripping through the rising smoke of battle.
Ambition - This doesn’t seem like an applicable sub-heading, but if there’s any game it applies to, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is that game. Though frustratingly unbeatable and taunting in its poor execution, this game has the imagination and a simple concept that aspires to be something more than it is. If it worked, this could easily be the coolest game on Kinect packed with all the war movie/game cliches and blood and guts many have come to desire. It’s a dream of a symphony orchestra of chaos that could have dealt out more than just a few hastily scribbled notes.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Kinect interface - Feel free to insert loads of expletives here. This game is one of the most arduous game we have ever played, and it feels as though it was never tested by human hands. Interacting with all the levers and buttons within the VT is an absolute nightmare, as they’re all spaced very close to one another. This means gamers are left to wave their arms about in hopes that they’ll yank the right lever by some strange stroke of fate. Our most common cause of death was smoke inhalation because we were unable to lower the lever on a panel that had to be pulled from a wall. Though blaming a game has become the battle cry of awful players worldwide, we feel we can justifiably argue that it’s the sole fault of the controls on this one.
Wasted buttons - The 360 controller’s usage revolves around maneuvering and firing the VT. With that said, there are a few buttons left unused. Considering the close proximity of all the full-motion buttons that will be needed in haste at some point, one would think throwing a few quick commands on the controller would be logical. Not a chance, Capcom decided. The intent of this game is to give one hope, then utterly destroy it. It was never meant to be played or beaten.
Level design - The level designs come in two forms: square or thin rectangle. Some missions take place in one square sandbox while others are just a short hike down a brief stretch of road. Beyond the linear structure, the levels last between one and five minutes. Just as players are getting into the groove of the offensive tactic, they’re robbed of that feeling as the mission suddenly ends. Killed four enemy soldiers having a smoke break? Job well done, sergeant. Move along.
Multiplayer? - Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor does have something of a multiplayer packed into its grueling package. On certain missions, friends are allowed to join in and compete, vying for the most points earned from kills. There are also off-campaign missions that can be played with others, and these missions can be as awful as the ones found in campaign. It begs the question however, “What kind of sadistic wacko wants to share these frustrations with someone else?”
To end this painstaking gripe, this doozy is an evil temptress that should be avoided at all costs. The package is neat. The trailer is deliciously enticing. The end product, however, is a tangled mess reminiscent of the old days of gaming where unbeatable titles were a dime a dozen. If Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor does one thing well, it’s in bringing the past into the present.
Score: Skip it!