Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor Review (Xbox360)

The original Steel Battalion came with a hefty £200 price tag which included an over the top controller with every feasible button on it, and then some, making the controls ludicrously complex, space consuming and unnecessary. And now with Heavy Armor, the new Steel Battalion game from From Software, all that’s really changed is you have to buy the controller separately.

That’s right, Steel Battalion Heavy Armor is the latest game to try and make the Kinect sat in your front room gathering dust seem like it wasn’t a total waste of money. Unfortunately, what it actually does is add another £40 to the pile of wasted cash.

What the Kinect was built for

Heavy Armor suffers from the same problems all Kinect games suffer from, and that is temperamental controls. Although I’ve finally found a game on Kinect other than Fruit Ninja that I can play with the space my house provides, the game constantly loses your hands and arms and has to recalibrate. Of course, it doesn’t do that as soon as you go out of sync, instead it lets you flail around, watching your on-screen hands criss cross like they’re in a game of twister, trying desperately to fathom out what your strange interpretive dance means in relation to your Mech. In actual fact, all I was trying to do was move into the front seat so I could see outside the cockpit, which is achieved with a forward motion with both hands, but once the Kinect loses you, that’s it, you’re done. This becomes all the more frustrating when the game introduces timed missions.

Not only does it take forever to turn around, but when your Mech takes damage, especially to its legs, that in turn also slows your movement down. Combine this snail pace to an inability to do what you’re trying to do, and the game goes beyond frustrating and becomes something else entirely. The Dali Lama himself would throw a tantrum trying to get this game to work.

What Steel Battalion Heavy Armor tries to do differently to other ‘hardcore’ Kinect titles out there is combine it with the standard 360 controller. While games like Mass Effect 3, Skyrim and Ghost Recon: Future Solider all use the Kinect to augment them in a small way, Steel Battalion uses the controller to augment the Kinect. Using the control to move and fire is a brilliant idea, and if the game had actually worked then this idea could have been a huge success. I don’t know whether to blame the Kinect or the game. If you look at games such as Dance Central and Fruit Ninja; they don’t have complex controls, and therefore the Kinect responds to your bodies every move. However, Heavy Armor has similar gestures for the periscope, front view, front view shutter alternate secondary weapon, smoke clearer, self destruct, lights, allies to your left and right, monitor, speed, and even the top hatch.

Am I the only one that sees a sexually excited frog?

The whole game is first person which can be annoying when it takes an age to turn the damn mech, but it does serve to provide more immersion within the game. At various points within the game, you exit your Vertical Tank to engage in scripted events. These usual involve interacting with other characters within your platoon, and usually always implement the kinect in some way. For example, at the very beginning of the game, someone throws an apple at you, and you stick your hand out to catch it. Somehow, it manages to deepen your immersion without feeling to contrived (even though you catch the apple even when you don’t stick your hand out).

Its important to think about those high points when looking at Steel Battalion. If you look at it as an action game, then it falls at almost every hurdle. Aiming is jerky and hard, and the controls are too complex to engage in fast-paced combat. However, if you look at it from a simulation point of view, enthusiasts of mech-games certainly have something to get excited about at being in the cockpit of one without forking out the £200-odd for the previous game. While your experience will be a fleeting one, before you ultimately throw the Kinect out the window, maybe you’ll get some giddy thrill of stomping around the ridiculously short missions of the unfathomable storyline. And if that sentence makes you part with your cash then... Good on you, I suppose.

Top Game Moment: Playing through the first mission without the Kinect dying on me, and being immersed in the games well crafted aesthetics. It all went down hill from there...

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