Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor Preview – Uncertainty In The Ranks? Not In My Tank!
Written Sunday, September 25, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
You’re sat in a bipedal tank. You’re the pilot. Your munitions guy is sat loading large shells into the cannon to your right. Your communications guy sits nervously to your left, next to a large gaping hole in the tank’s exterior. It’s not a new tank by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, you couldn’t sell this thing on Exchange & Mart! Slightly behind him, a navigator, each of whom are looking somewhat more worried than the next. At any time, any of your wingmen can freak the hell out and make for the nearest exit. It’s your job to calm them down. Hell, you can pull them back in and give them a slap or two if the situation requires it. This is Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor on Kinect, letting you experience, as Capcom would put it, “War. Inside and out.”
Bit of a long-winded intro, yes, I’ll give you that, but it was to highlight a point: war on the battlefield isn’t just about using a controller to control a tank with a series of joysticks, it’s just as much about the people involved and the obstacles they face along the way… their fears... their demons. Everything mentioned above though was all demonstrated in-game as part of Capcom’s Steel Battalion demo at the Tokyo Games Show last week.
Now, we all remember Steel Battalion on the Xbox, right? If you didn’t play it – let’s be honest, not many did – chances are you’ll have heard about its controller – the $200, 40-button behemoth. This time around, you’ll be using both the controller – mainly to do the shooting – and the Kinect device – for pretty much everything else.
Set circa 2082, Steel Battalion throws you into the shoes of Winfield Powers, a bipedal tank pilot who’s called into action to fight on the shores of the US, specifically New York. Yes, New York… again *yawn* and yes, the world has been overrun by a superpower once again… this time, China, although Capcom was apprehensive to mention them, specifically referring to a red flag with stars. Oh you cryptic buggers, Capcom! With the powerful bipedal tanks a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, you’ll be a large part of driving the action forward on the frontline then.
Just like the original Xbox, you have the tank and everything in its interior at your disposal, but this time, Kinect is the controller… or should we say, you are? Using hand actions you can change gears, start the engine, swipe left and right to see what your fellow tank buddies are up to, you can pull down displays, stand up (yes, you’ll be playing this one sat down) to climb up to scan the battlefield without the constricting instruments of the tank affecting your field of view, pull the periscope down and pull forward into the cockpit to drive the behemoth. Chances are you’ll be using the periscope and be climbing out for a better view quite often, mainly because if you take a serious hit, it’s going to affect your internal viewing panel – it took literally minutes before the view was obscured with cracks running across the panes of glass. If you’re wondering, yes, there’ll be a self-destruct button in the cockpit this time as well, but good news, it won’t nuke your save data this time around. The aiming and shooting though, you’ll be glad to hear is controller-based, so you’ll at least be able to maintain that level of intricate control there.
Morale is a big part of Steel Battalion as I previously mentioned in my inane intro. If you have a gaping hole in the tank – like in the demo – your crew are more likely to be on edge… mainly because that’s not just an aesthetic touch, they can actually take a bullet through it and meet their maker ahead of schedule. Often then, you’ll have to deal with morale at key moments, whether that’s dragging someone back into the cockpit and punching him a few times or shaking someone’s hand after a successful mission. If you fail to stop them escaping, then look forward to having to juggle their role as well, so it’s in your best interest to keep everyone happy and on their toes.
The mission in question was a simple one, tasking you with the objective of clearing the sandy beach area and destroying a bunker. In fact, the mission was very reminiscent of the Normandy Beach landings, in that you slowly creep up from the waters towards your eventual target. For those wanting a fast-paced war experience, this doesn’t appear to be it, with there being lots of tinkering involved in the virtual cockpit. If the tank fills with smoke or there’s an issue of morale, you’ll have to pull back from the action – which continues on-field while you see to other issues – and deal with that or risk a trickier run in to the finish line. In the space of a 10-15 minute demo, most of the action for instance was spent in the virtual cockpit, with the rest of the time spent staring down a cannon and taking out various soldiers on foot, another bipedal tank and a few gun emplacements. If there’s one thing that’s for certain though; this is a very unique and different experience.
Capcom’s point with Steel Battalion is that you don’t need an expensive $200 controller to play it this time around, thus making it more approachable, but you do need a $130 Kinect device. Sure, it’s not the same – the Steel Battalion controller had one use, Kinect has many – but whether it’s enough to go out and purchase a Kinect device seems like a stretch at this point. I think it’s safe to say that it’s not going to be a killer-app for the device. For Kinect owners though, Steel Battalion seems to offer a wholly different experience and it’s one of few games that’ll be hitting the market in the foreseeable future that has blended both controller and Kinect gameplay for a unique experience. Something that I’m sure Microsoft and Capcom will chalk up as a win. Nevertheless, it’s a title we’re intrigued to hear more about, that’s for sure.
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is scheduled for a 2012 release.