Kinect for the Hardcore Gamer is Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor
When Kinect was first announced for the Xbox 360 it amazed the public with it’s ability to let you play games without a controller. Their slogan was “you are the controller” and the marketing worked. Over 18 million units have been sold since it’s release, but some gamers dismissed the add-on as another Wii and not suited for the hardcore audience. That all seems like it will change when Capcom releases Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor in June of this year.
I was lucky enough to check out the game at PAX East this year and hop into the mech to experience the motion controlled action for myself. To give a little back story to Steel Battalion, for those that didn’t play the original, the first game required a monstrous controller that had foot pedals, two flight sticks, a throttle stick, and multiple buttons and switches. It was overwhelming to many, but a powerful experience to know what a real mech might be like to control, which is why the game holds a cult following.
When Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor was announced back in 2010, many scoffed at how a game once requiring a 40 button controller now was going to be controller free. Developers at From Software knew better and instead have designed the game to use the Xbox 360 controller for standard controls, like moving the mech and aiming, and the Kinect for more peripheral actions like pulling levers and pressing buttons in your cockpit.
Having that controller is key to making the game still feel physical and keep the accuracy needed when shooting your enemies down. A lot of action happens from within your mech, and that’s where the use of the Kinect heightens the experience, having you thrust your arms out or pull them in to focus in on different dashboards and panels. Everything within the mech has some use, even your AI partners that are squished in the Vertical Tank (the game’s name for the mechanical beast). While the game’s action seems sluggish at times, it adds to the atmosphere of controlling a computerless vehicle.
The story places you in the near future of 2082 it what is essentially WWIII, but without the aid of technology. I particularly enjoyed the different types of damage your VT would receive from battle, seeing it all happen in first person from inside the beast. All of the elements From Software’s developers have implemented make this game feel just as much chaotic and enjoyable as the original.
This was definitely one of my favorites at PAX East. Hopefully Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor will be just the beginning for more developers to use Kinect in this manner and not feel that the physical controller must be ignored.
Update: Today also had the announcement of Co-op play with this trailer. Excitement level rising!
Written by Bryan