REVIEW "Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor" continues the first game's sad tradition of impossible-to-master controls.
Years ago, I reviewed "Steel Battalion" for the original Xbox, a game that came with a huge, table-sized 40-plus button controller and two navigation sticks. At that point, I said that it was too complicated for its own good but that those who made the effort to invest time with it would be promptly rewarded.
Now, fast forward to Capcom's latest game, "Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor," for Xbox 360. Same situation: It's too complicated for its own good, but this time no matter how much effort is put into it, the rewards never come.
Capcom chose to abandon its huge controller in favor of a combination of typical Xbox 360 controller movements and using the Kinect to maneuver inside your tin can of a VT mech unit. It's an interesting premise, one that has you interacting with three fellow crew members inside the unit, each with a role to play in battle. To swivel between them, you wipe your hand across the screen, as if you were slapping something, to talk to them.
There's stuff happening outside your unit, as well. You'll look through visors and check radar screens for enemies and targets and sometimes have to follow certain conditions that could end your trip right away, such as avoiding doing damage to a tunnel you're cruising through, lest you bring it crashing down on your unit.
It all sounds logical enough, but when it comes down to actually playing the game, nothing works. All the potential going into the Kinect control scheme is squandered over the fact that even the smallest motions are never performed correctly on-screen.
I can't tell you how many times I shut a window visor when all I was trying to do was look forward. Or how many times I accidentally tapped the self-destruct button when the only opposition outside was a foot soldier. Even in the heat of combat, when firing rounds should've been as easy as tapping a button, here it's a process about as strenuous as doing taxes. Nothing works. It gets even worse when a crew member dies in your unit, forcing you to take his work load, too.
Aside from the bad controls, the in-game action, while realistic to a degree, is just plain dull. Getting into a heated battle is a calculative one, and also not exciting, as you play your shots and then take them.
What's worse, in an attempt to innovate, Capcom included a four-player co-op mode, where you and three friends can try to work together as a team without needing to look inside the cockpit. But if the game doesn't work in a solo manner, why would a co-op mode work? It doesn't.
"Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor" does show visual promise inside the battle unit, with decent looking characters and a whole bunch of knobs, even if you can't do anything with them. Unfortunately, the outside environments show little detail and less-than-impressive destruction.
In the end, "Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor" shows exactly what can go wrong when someone doesn't grasp the concept of motion gaming. The controls are hideous to the point that you might not even make it through the tutorial; and the action happening outside your unit doesn't fare much better, either.
The concept is original, but Capcom should have found a way to make the old controller work or abandoned the idea entirely. This "Heavy Armor" is way too painful to wear.