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Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor Review (Xbox 360)

Posted by Jim Cook, Jun 25, 2012 15:17

Kinect Required: This game requires roughly 6 to 10 feet of clear space, a normal Xbox 360 gamepad (ideally wireless), and the Kinect.

Steel Battalion Heavy armor reviewThose of you interested in Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor have likely heard two major things about it. The first is its premise, letting players serve as the main pilot for a Vertical Tank (’VT’) in America’s army, set in a dystopian future where technology has severely regressed. The other thing you might have heard is that not everyone has been able to get the game to work properly. This review is from the perspective of someone who not only got them to work right the vast majority of the time, but is also a very devoted fan of the giant robot/’mecha’ genre. In other words, I am this game’s ideal player... and even I was left with only enough enthusiasm to say “Eh, I guess it’s okay. I had some fun with it.” That is not sterling praise.

Before I could get started, a special manual was included in the press copy of Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. It made note of special preparations needed for the play space, such as giving the game around 6 to 10 feet of open space, enough horizontal clearance to put my arms out wide to my sides, and make sure my legs could be clearly seen while seated; all easily done. Next, it began to teach me Kinect-based gestures for how to pilot the VT. This started out fine, with step one being to turn the engine on by reaching to my right knee, then pulling back. The next step was how to trigger the self-destruct sequence, which was the point where I threw the ’special manual’ away; I want something that will teach me how to win, not blow myself up!

Steel Battalion Heavy Armor



Thankfully the in-game tutorial was much better. After a few semi-interactive cut scenes (shaking hands with one of my VT crew, for example), it put me inside the cockpit and showed that the game will unfold through a few broad methods. There would be the aforementioned cut scenes, plus a cockpit view where I would instruct the VT crew and handle tasks such as managing the engine, venting smoke, and so on. A viewport mode would be used for most of the piloting and cannon fire (both of which would be controlled with the gamepad), and I would also be able to stand up in order to climb out the VT’s hatch; this would be useful for scouting with binoculars, and some other related functions. That’s a lot to keep track of, but it seemed like an interesting challenge.

With the tutorial done, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor saw fit to ship the VT and crew onto the shores of occupied New York, where the enemy had set up artillery, gun emplacements, minefields, a few opposing Vertical Tanks of its own, and otherwise set up ’Normandy with giant robots added to the mix.’ At first, it was brutally difficult. I couldn’t quite figure out what was expected of the player, and problems began to mount; artillery or mines would cripple a leg on the VT, crew would panic and try to climb out the top hatch to abandon the fight (this was stopped via Kinect controls, reaching up to haul him back inside and then punching some sense into him), and finally enemy infantry climbed that same hatch and shot me dead. Clearly the game wanted to play rough!

For more video game reviews on this and many others head to Game Rankings

Our Rating for Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor Review (Xbox 360)
4.5 Replay
A series of unlockable VT parts and plot branches where you can permanently lose crew members if you don’t make the right choices should, in theory, make this pretty replayable. I honestly don’t see most people coming back for a second play-through due to some frustrating design choices, though.
7.5 Graphics
The brutality of ongoing war in a world where society has nearly collapsed is well depicted here. Explosions and smoke are fairly convincing, and the visual design drives home that your ’cutting edge’ war machine is in fact cobbled together from technology that wouldn’t be out of place in the 1940s.
8.5 Sound
Easily the best part of Heavy Armor’s presentation, with deep explosions, booming cannon fire, and pounding metal making it clear you’re on a battlefield. Voice acting by your VT crew varies wildly in quality (and makes heavy use of profanity, for those sensitive to it), but mostly works for immersing you in a war story.
5.5 Gameplay
The combination of gamepad and Kinect controls to guide a giant robot can work well for those who set it up right, but even when it is functional you’re still left to contend with erratic mission quality. Some are very fun and satisfying when you win, while others are far too short or seemingly pointless and some are just plain unfair.
0.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
Co-op is present, but the reviewer was not able to find other players to try it with. The 0.0 rating should not be seen as a condemnation of it, but rather a placeholder for “could not test this aspect of the game; not rating the category.”
6.0 Overall
Such a great idea is lost on inconsistent design. Those able to overcome the technical challenges will only find a game that averages out to ’decent, but probably not worth its full retail price.’ Genre enthusiasts may want to rent it, while everyone else can probably just hold onto their money or spend it elsewhere.

Rating: 0.0, votes: 0


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