Since the introduction of motion controlled games, we were promised a future where gestures will seamlessly unite with traditional controllers to provide an immersive new gaming experience. We’re almost celebrating Kinect’s second birthday and Capcom decided to demonstrate just how bad the future of motion gaming can be, if Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is anything to go by.
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor takes place in 2082 – a future where the UN is evil Asians and a silicon-eating virus destroyed all computers. This gives the game a World War II atmosphere as there’s no technology to rely on.
You play as Sergeant Winfield Powers, an experienced Vertical Tank driver who’s part of the American resistance team. From within the cockpit of the Vertical Tank you’ll use the controller to move the tank and a bombardment of Kinect gestures to do everything else.
From a seated position you use Kinect to pull levers, push buttons, use the periscope and give the occasional gesture to one of the other crew members. If you stand up you’ll open the top latch of the tank and get a viewpoint out of the tank. From here you can raise your left hand to bring out your binoculars to survey the area.
There’s a lot of Kinect interaction and it often turns out disastrous. Some of the buttons are only a few centimetres away from each other and it’s incredibly hard to judge which button you’re going to hit. To make things worse there’s a self-destruct button right next to the cabin ventilation lever, so it’s often a case of Russian roulette when attempting to clear smoke out of the cockpit.
Another technical issue when issuing Kinect commands is that you still have the controller in your hands. You’ll either have to drop it into your lap or try and execute the gesture while holding the controller with only one hand. It doesn’t sound like a convincing criticism but if you’re in the heat of battle and need to quickly issue a gesture you’ll quickly discover the same problem.
Overall Kinect does respond to your gestures – but that doesn’t mean it detects the right gesture. With a whole lot of tinkering and dedication you will eventually get Kinect to execute your commands correctly but it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
When moving the tank or engaging an enemy you need to “pull” yourself forward to see through a teeny tiny rectangular viewpoint. This is your primary outlook onto the battlefield and it’s incredibly cumbersome. It provides a very limited view of your surroundings and turning the tank to get a better outlook is unnecessarily sluggish.
The tank is equipped with various weapons; some of which are unlocked as you progress through the game. You’ll primarily use the main canon to take out enemy tanks but the shells are often limited – each shot needs to count!
The tank is also equipped with a machine gun to take out infantry but it’s not worth trying as the gun is deliberately inaccurate. Your best bet is to pull up the periscope and try to take out enemies from a distance. Unfortunately scouring the battlefield with the periscope is even slower and more awkward than using the viewpoint.
If the control scheme isn’t off-putting enough, the missions completely ruin the game. The levels vary between mind-numbingly boring and infuriatingly difficult. For the most part you’ll want to chuck the game out of the window.
For some reason enemy soldiers can destroy the Vertical Tank with their assault rifles. Mix this in with a few RPG’s and unexplainable explosions and you’ll quickly be left with only half of your crew and an immobile tank. Finding the bugger who’s firing at your tank is just as difficult because of the limited viewing angle.
The mission objectives are all but clear and your cabin crew often talks over the incoming mission transmissions. For the most part you’ll just follow the yellow objective compass and hope for the best.
In one mission, a 3 minute timer initiated and I had absolutely no idea what happened when it runs out. I assumed I had to clear the area of hostiles as they were running around everywhere. Once the timer expired I failed the mission – or shall I say learned what I had to do. “Failed to destroy the 6 communication towers before time runs out”.
What towers? I didn’t see anything! It took two more attempts to find these communication towers.
This trial-and-error approach is present in most of the missions and you deserve a personal letter of congratulation from the developers when you complete the game.
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour features a few co-op and multiplayer modes but these aren’t worth bothering about either.
The only thing going for this game is the graphics. It’s a decent looking environment and there are a few nice effects here and there. Unfortunately you have to experience it all through small little window.
The poor Kinect integration is only half of Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour’s problems. If the game made exclusive use of a traditional controller it would be just as bad. The poor missions, sluggish tank manoeuvrability, and difficulty spikes contribute to making this one of the worst games I’ve ever played.