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Review | Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor

by on August 21, 2012
 

You have to hand it to Capcom, they aren’t afraid to try new things with the Steel Battalion series.

The first and second game had the monstrous controller that took a good amount of time to get used to. The newest title, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor, tries to take advantage of Kinect to let players feel like they can control a mech.

In theory, this sounds like a great idea. After all, who wouldn’t want to control a giant mech trying to take down other mechs. In practice, though, it becomes one of the more frustrating experiences I’ve had in a while.

The game does have a story to it. However, most people won’t get to experience it at all outside of mainly a few levels. This is because of a fundamental problem the game has: the controls don’t work.

Heavy Armor has you using both the controller and Kinect at the same time, which is an odd choice but one that could be made to work. You aim, shoot and move with the controller, and control the mech from the inside with the Kinect. Only the controller worked in practice, though.

What players will quickly find out with the Kinect is that the sensor just doesn’t want to pick up small movements. Unfortunately, the game really requires small movements to work effectively. While you try to move around the cockpit, you can find yourself accidentally shutting the shutters, switching ammo or doing plenty of other actions you didn’t mean to.

What’s worse is how one of the panels is situated. At certain times the cabin can be filled with smoke, requiring you to vent it before your crew suffocates to death. While this sounds simple in theory, the problem lies with another button on that panel: self-destruct. On a large controller, you could easily ignore this button. On sensitive Kinect controls, though, it becomes a crapshoot to see if you accidentally lift the glass to blow up your mech or not.

Another problem arose in how the game wanted me to stand and sit to operate a mech. Some mech controls have to be done one way or the other. The problem, once again, rests in the Kinect recognizing you. When I was sitting down, the Kinect often thought my arm had merged with my leg, when in fact it was holding the controller trying to move the mech around.

It also doesn’t matter how much light you give to the area you try to play in. I tried moving the living room around, moving lamps closer and farther away, opening curtains and more; the game just didn’t want to recognize what I was doing.

All of this results in plenty of deaths, either by enemies or by your own ineptitude. This means plenty of restarting, dying and trying it again. Honestly, it’ll be a test of patience of those that try to get more than halfway through the game.

The problem doesn’t seem to be all of the Kinect’s fault, though. The Kinect shows the skeleton frame in the upper corner of the screen, and I often looked fine on the outline. The problem seemed to be that the game really didn’t know what to do with the data the Kinect was giving it.

Honestly, there’s not much more to say in the review besides this. Sure, I could talk about the tank movement or different uses the Kinect has in the game, but most people will experience these features and quickly get annoyed to the point of controller-breaking frustration.

Pros

  • It’s nice to see Steel Battalion make a return…Cons
  • The controls are near impossible to use.
  • Game builds frustration easily.
  • Cheap deaths are abound due to controls.Final Thoughts:
  • If the style of the review didn’t make it clear enough above, avoid Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. There are plenty of other Kinect titles that show the controls off better and are just more fun to play. Capcom and From Software had a great idea here, but it definitely wasn’t utilized correctly.
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