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Review

Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor Review

  • Game release: June 19, 2012
  • Reviewed:
  • X360

In the battle against the fickle controls, the obtuse mission design, and the squandered potential of Steel Battalion, everyone loses.

by

Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is an exercise in trial, error, and exasperation. Unruly controls and vexing missions conspire to make this one of the most aggravating games in recent memory. Intrepid, foolhardy, and otherwise determined players will find some glittering beacons of hope here, the intriguing by-products of ambition gone astray. But alas, discovering these gems is but a fleeting delight, because Steel Battalion is always ready to topple you with another wave of frustration.

The first such wave crashes hard over your head during the very first mission. Fresh out of the tutorial, you storm a beach in your two-legged vertical tank and meet with a vicious barrage of enemy fire. You've just learned the basics of how to operate your VT in a controlled environment, and now you are called upon to pull all your knowledge together on the crucible of combat. Shells crash into you from all directions while radio chatter crackles with unclear orders. It's a brutal beginning, and one that is totally out of step with the missions to come. Many later levels offer shorter, simpler, and more accessible objectives, leaving you to wonder why Steel Battalion is so eager to separate the masochistic wheat from the impatient chaff.

Yours not to reason why, however; yours but to do and die. With the exception of movement (analog sticks) and firing (triggers), all of your actions are performed with hand motions, usually from a seated position. Steel Battalion and the Kinect want you to feel like you're in the cockpit of your VT, so you reach up to pull down the periscope, stretch your arm forward to press dashboard buttons, extend out to the side to pull out the map, and so on. This is a cool concept, and the moments when you feel a strong connection to your cockpit are rewarding. More often, however, the link between you and the action is tenuous at best.

A one-armed reach registers as a two-armed push. Grasping the top right quadrant registers as swiping to the right, and now you're watching your crew member choke instead of purging the smoke from the cabin. You lunge to close your shutter against enemy fire, only to watch your virtual arm hover indecisively. The imprecision is maddening, and it has deadly consequences in combat. Checkpoints are infrequent, so death can mean replaying lengthy stretches of the mission.

Might be a good time to switch to the periscope view.

As you become more accustomed to your fickle machines (both the Kinect and the VT), you can mitigate the control flaws. Elements are highlighted when you reach for them (unless you've opted to remove such indicators), and as you play more, you get a better sense of the virtual space in front of you. But even with precision and practice, you can never avoid every problem. Even if you've successfully performed an action dozens of times, it might not work the next time. It's like you're an ornery mechanic who has somehow kept an old junker running for years after it should have been scrapped, only instead of cathartically bashing things with your fist when they don't work right, all you can do is flail impotently.

Fortunately, your VT is powerful, and the temperamental controls won't prevent you from blowing up a lot of enemies. Infantry, tanks, and enemy VTs are your main opposition, and all can pose a threat. Every VT has weak spots, so you can never be sure how much damage you or your enemies are able to sustain. A well-placed blast can send an enemy VT to the ground in a satisfying crumple, but you can also be on the receiving end of such lucky shots. A deadly hit may come from a VT or from a tiny enemy soldier with an RPG launcher, one of which is clearly more disheartening than the other.

A perilous battlefield is one thing; an inconsistent enemy is another. Sometimes enemies press the attack relentlessly, and other times they putter around, unsure what to do. You may withstand an accurate barrage from distant VTs, and then be casually ignored by an enemy in close range as you scramble to vent the cockpit. The irregularity of your enemies, the fragility of your VT, and the uncertainty of the controls combine to create an environment in which any combat scenario can end abruptly in death. You may know where it came from or you may not, but no measure of skill or caution can prevent it.

Get it together, soldier!

Trial and error is expected in Steel Battalion, though certain missions require more error than others. Some outings are almost astonishingly easy, while others are nigh impossible to pass without numerous deaths and thorough scouting. Objectives are often unclear or inaccurate; while this may channel a kind of realistic battlefield uncertainty, it makes for frustrating forays. Your map offers only the most rudimentary overview, sometimes even failing to show your position, and the fuzzy camera feeds are even less helpful. Furthermore, only some of the radio chatter you hear is strategically relevant, and a mere fraction of it is specific enough to act on. In one level, you hear the agonized screams of infantry under fire and a cacophony of voices telling you to go help them, but no one thinks to tell you where they are.

In the midst of all this uncertainty, the three crew members in your VT are a welcome presence. The number of characters you meet varies depending on how many of them die during your exploits, but they all have distinctive personalities. You have some neat opportunities to interact with them by sharing food or shaking hands, or maybe just patting their heads until they yell at you to stop. There are dramatic moments as well: you can grab a soldier who is trying to flee and drag him back into the cabin, or pull a wicked piece of shrapnel from your loader's torso. Some of these opportunities can pass you by if you don't look for them, and there's something appealing about being able to discover gameplay moments by paying attention, rather than being automatically guided into them.

Can you spot the camouflaged enemy VTs?

And there are other moments like this. Moments when, despite the array of aggravations aligned against you, you see what Steel Battalion was trying to be. These include a tense desert trek dripping with heat and danger, an enemy VT staggering from the impact of your well-aimed shell, and the fact that you can actually clear and load the guns yourself, even though you're totally screwed if it ever comes to that.

These moments give you a glimpse outside to the game that could have been, but you are invariably dragged back inside the suffocating box of the game that is. Steel Battalion is riddled with erratic flaws of the most insidious kind, the kind that make you think you have a chance to master them. You don't. You can only endure them, and on a handful of levels, endure them with some friends in limp online co-op. But Steel Battalion is still miserable, even with company, so unless you're a glutton for punishment, it just isn't worth it.

The Good
Intriguing cockpit-based Kinect control schematic
Some neat crew moments
The Bad
Controls do not work properly
Missions are poorly laid out
Battlefield intel is scarce
Enemy AI is erratic
3.5
Bad
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

/ Staff

With his Apple IIGS as the spark and his neighbor's NES the fuel, Chris Watters' passion for gaming caught fire early. Years later, you can find him aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent while desperately avoiding sunburns.

Discussion

0 comments
Leboyo56
Leboyo56

From Software, creators of Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, 3D Dot Game Heroes, King's Field, Armored Core, annd...Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. What?

troy0619
troy0619

still waiting for rise the rome type game for the Kinect.

Wedge598
Wedge598

I bought the Kinect largely for my kids when it came out and have personally been massively disappointed with it's laggy and imprecise controls.  Furthermore there hasn't been one single "serious" game that's more than just a tech demo.  Tonight I was bored so I thought I'd try the SBHA demo.  As a huge MechWarrior fan I actually have a bias toward these types of games but I was expected to be massively disappointed by this one.   Much to my surprize the game was fairly interesting.  Yes, the Kinect controls were frustrating at times, and yes the mission was so chaotic that I was about to lose faith ... But I finally did complete the mission and felt some real satisfaction in doing so.  And I enjoyed the experience enough to come here looking for the review.   With such a low score across  the web I doubt I'll get the full game but I must say the developer deserves credit for making the best of a lousy controller and putting out a game that could work.  Shooters and fast paced games will never fit into Kinect but a slow methodical Mech game like this could have been decent.

EzcapeTheFate
EzcapeTheFate

3.5 out of 5 aint too bad. Im heading out right now to buy a kinect and this game!

Ang3l17
Ang3l17

I would like to know how many of you played the first Steel Battalion and have been in a war like scenario? This game sounds like its great! The way that you say it gives you unclear intel and it's hard to push the correct buttons quickly......duh! It's a war game and your in a tank being shot at! Things are not really easy in that set up. Sounds like they got real right! RPGs bumping you around and lucky shots hitting week points in your armor....real. Controls that you have been using for maybe 2 hours and your still pushing the wrong buttons...real. How long did it take you to learn to drive a car? Longer then 2 hours. If you played the first game wi a 36 button and 3 pedal set up this is probably the same. I think that you should not waist the time and money on this! Go play Mario in your PJs and drink your milk! This is too much game and too real for you! "Hardcore" HA! Games are getting more real and you can't handle them. Stay on the couch the real would my hurt you!

hamebone123
hamebone123

good idea...but they didn't pull it off. x-play gave it a .5 and i agree.

TWD3
TWD3

First this game is FUN (once you learn the controls). Fun as in I was up playing this game waaay past my bedtime- my girlfriend and my work are suffering as I am having so much fun that a chronic lack of sleep and loss of free time are beginning to take a toll. As someone who once spent a fair amount of time gaming, and am only recently flirting (again) with gaming and what I'm finding is video games have become, <em>dumber</em>. Case in point, Splinter Cell. On the original XBox, it was a masterful stealth game and title that required thought if you were to complete. Now, it is a mindless scoot and shoot- just like nearly every other tittle I am finging. I stopped playing video games around the time the original Assassins Creed came out. I could not believe the repetitive nature of that title, nor could I understand the overwhelming critical praise. I had no idea at the time that this was the harbinger of games to come. It seems the dumping down (numbing down) of the masses is in full swing but I digress. In a cookie cutter “me too” gaming world, Steel Battalion stands out as something completely- <em>different</em>, but not just different for difference sake. Steel Battalion is a well balanced game that does an artful job of placing the gamer in a massive Vertical Tank. When you play Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor you actually feel like you are wielding a massive steel contraption in battle. You also feel a connection to your tank mates and when they die, you feel that too, like nothing else I’ve experienced in a sandbox video game before. As for the controls that seem to illicit such outrage from the main street press, once learned, they contribute to a sense of immersion that had the same command been tied to a button on your controller, never could or would. This is a game that must first be learned and then later, (hours later), you begin to master the art of piloting a VT (Vertical Tank) in battle; how to take cover while under fire, how to plan your shots to hit the most vulnerable parts of your opponents Vertical Tank (VT) and all while staying cool under fire. Along the way you have fun and frustration, but for me at least, the game consumes me in nothing else but what I am doing in that moment and that’s the point. Games should be fun, they would allow us to exist in the moment, and for some of us, (perhaps too few of us), this means games must challenge us and take us places we have never been before. In order to do this each new title cannot be a simplistic reinterpretation of countless games before. And this brings me to my opening point, if the evolution of video games I’ve witnessed can be taken as the true state of not only gaming, but also human intelligence, the dumbing down of the masses is not merely an interesting or novel comment, it is a reality in full swing and with the full support of the media.

Haasdude
Haasdude

I played the demo and the controls worked nearly flawlessly (didn't know what half of the buttons/levers even did, but still)...I might even go far as to say I enjoyed it.

hasancakir
hasancakir

Kinect has tons of potential but problem is that we can't still see the good use of this potential. I believe developers need more time to understand Kinect and then start making great games for it.

delakpanlaa
delakpanlaa

Another reason why you should get ps move instead of kinect..

Pyrobolo
Pyrobolo

What they need is to figure out how to integrate the old controller with the kinect. 2 player local co-op is seriously not in this either? so much potential and so little execution...

I_are_Cake
I_are_Cake

A 3.5 for a Kinect game? Congratulations From Software, this is one hell of a stupendous effort for Kinect.

OultawVR
OultawVR

heh ...the only places giving semi good scores for this are the official and dedicated Xbox sites and magazines.

missonrs
missonrs

Eh, the kinect has shown that unless you're playing a game where it's better to use your body (dancing game, workout type game) , then the game is bound to fail.

KillerJuan77
KillerJuan77

Oh look, the guys that do nothing else that troll anything Kinect-related are back in action.

deathstream
deathstream

The 720 MUST launch with a killer game that shows core gamers what Kinect 2.0 can really do.  Kinect expanded the user base for MS which makes it more of a success than Move (which works better in core games).  Women and kids are using the 360 more now.  Kinect integration in non-gaming apps has been great for the most part.  Once MS decided to cut costs and remove the internal processor, Kinect has been about getting people used to having it there for the next iteration.

 

Kinect isn't the train wreck that Sony fanboys want you to think it is, but as a core gaming input it isn't precise enough to be a main controller. So, as I stated at the beginning, Microsoft MUST convince the disappointed core gamers that Kinect 2.0 can control a core gaming experience.  If they do, they'll have a leg up on Sony next gen.  If they don't, Kinect 2.0 will be DOA for core gamers.

RedStar
RedStar

There was another game that tried to use motion based combat, called LAIR. It got horrible reviews because of the control schemes alone. I passed on that. 2 years later I noticed they had a free add-on for FULL controller support. So I picked up the game and thought it was great. I think Steel Battalion falls under the same fate of "wait now, pick up later".

WayneSikes49
WayneSikes49

Yet another attempt to force the Kinect on the gaming public. And yet another fail because the Kinect technology isn't good enough yet to support games like this. Kinect was Microsoft's answer to the Wii and Playstation Move. Great ambitions but the tech isn't there yet unfortunately. Since the objective of publishers is to sell games, they obviously chose Kinect over profits. If you want profits, rework the game input to allow for full 360 controller support in addition to the Kinect. The game itself is beautiful and well done. Too bad Kinect is going to kill it. Trying to force gaming hardware on the public doesn't work anymore -- we have many other options and good games to choose from.

tomb875
tomb875

Lol... Charge of the Light Brigade....

So... I'm probably not getting it based on this...

Rufus_the_rat
Rufus_the_rat

Someone give the people who made the Kinect a cigar and a blindfold.

Morokoo
Morokoo

Anyone notice 90% of Kinect games aren't that good?

Mello999
Mello999

Microsoft should use the Kinect with a wii like control or at least something like the wii control holders to improve the accuracy of the controls. Like the time crisis acrcade machine but with the additional benefits of hand gestures and voice commands 

hardvectorman
hardvectorman

I try hard to like this game but there is so much bad in the control of the game you are just mad you got the game in the frist place. So much could have been better in this game. WOW

kylts
kylts

The characters of the game are pretty damn good but the Controls...My God!

gix47
gix47

would have been a better game without the Kinect

43n1m4
43n1m4

Ouch. Kinect started as an interesting idea, and went to be a poor input device. It is best used as a peripheral like in Forza 4 for voice commands, or as a techdemo of what Kinect2 might be. As it is, only a few titles for it can be considered 'good', and unfortunately this core game is not among them.

 

 

Rayrota
Rayrota

Are there any good Kinect games out right now? I mean GOOD, not so-so.

cigarcat
cigarcat

At least its better than, ya know...? 3.0.

WillyChong
WillyChong

But using this to exercise while tried to impress the girls, while doing the same in return, is actually good!

WillyChong
WillyChong

 @Ang3l17 How does this "war simulation" game real? Using a Kinect is the most unreal piece of gimmick junk I've ever known, you think you can actually interact the stupid walking tank? In a "simulated" game, the game is not even close to war simulation, a real simulation is to wait until B-52 Bombers done carpet bombing or nukes those shit to hell and you just roll your tank around asking people to raised the white flag. Think that you are driving a tank while have no actual contact with it, that's real??? C'mon tried to played it over and over again to really reflect what is real, or better, join your national army service like me, now that's real war simulation and training, now that's real "HARDCORE", no more couch potatoes, no more gaming.

 

Err........ it took me 1 and a half hour to learned to drive a manual car and less than half an hour to have complete control of Wii mode in half and hour playing monster hunter tri. So yeah, its not that difficult once you got confidence. And please, if this so called HARDCORE game, try playing a none-checkpoint game on the hardest difficulty without save, lets say Omnimusha III Demon Seige, and when I mean no saving is really not saving the game at all. 

DryPancake
DryPancake

 @hasancakir unfortunately by the time that happens kinect 2.0 will be out, and i'm afraid i won't be buying it this time around

WillyChong
WillyChong

 @delakpanlaa No no, played with your friends, its one of the best Xbox 360 exerience I ever had, you must tried to play with a friend!

WillyChong
WillyChong

 @Pyrobolo You can play co-op, just that your co-op player shouldn't be the serious type, have fun move around to impress your friends so that he/she may fire the gun.

WillyChong
WillyChong

 @missonrs Guess what, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is a good work out game, better than Kinect Dance Central, cause your having fun without the need of competing. I hate game when you have to compete with each others in dancing, it hurts feelings and create misunderstanding, but games that makes you goof and workout around, its actually good! I highly recommended to those who wants to get social cause it may look serious but actually its great way to get to know people, even the shy! :D

y3ivan
y3ivan

 @deathstreamSeriously next gen xbox is for core gamers??? just by looking at the road map produce by MS. Its turning it to a WII.

 

MS need new games not new hardware.

y3ivan
y3ivan

 @RedStar i would be surprised.  currently 90% of the controller buttons are not map with only the analog stick and RT been used. No voice recognization for changing ammo type rather than press a tiny ass button on the viewfinder. This is due to failure from devs on not properly designing the controls to suit the kinect.

 

From software did a very poor job on integrating hybrid controller scheme. I personally thought that all the minor controls (such as Ammo type, gear switching, viewfinder hatch, radar) are all map on controller but instead they flip it, making it totally dependent on kinect.

RealFabioSooner
RealFabioSooner

 @WayneSikes49 "Yet another attempt to force the Kinect on the gaming public."

 

That's funny. I didn't think the game was worth it full price after the demo so I didn't get it. So far the 'Microsoft police force' hasn't breached my house guns blazing to make me buy and play it instead of whatever I'm playing at the moment.

 

Keep believing you're 'forced' to do something, pal. Guys like you are those who end up being manipulated the most.

 

 

ArticRecon
ArticRecon

 @Rayrota Most of the dancing games and workout games are pretty good.  My wife uses the Kinect mostly and I the "hardcore" gaming stuff.  I use it with her occasionally..  A fun peripheral, but obviously hasn't been utilized.  I think mostly b/c developers want to develop games that make the most money.  i.e.  "hardcore" games that are multiplatform and online competitve..  i.e.  Call of Duty.  It's a multi billion dollar franchise.  Unless Microsoft can produce a Gears of war quality Kinect game with appeal to hardcore gamers,  I think the Kinect may be chalked up to a failing idea in retrospect.  It's fundamentals and tech will be carried forward, hopefully to something more fruitful.  But I think we're stuck with sloppy work like this for now.. :: /

 

Chefjase
Chefjase

 @Rayrota

 It's not a game, more like a tech demo...but the "Be a Superhero game".... something like that...is kinda cool. You shimmer in various colors and have elemental powers, you can record and playback too. Think SW guy, but with special efects. You can find it in kinect labs.

 

Bigslice
Bigslice

 @Tae_One It was from a preview.... it's true, it is a hardcore game... when you compare it to the likes of Kinectimals and Dance Central and the like.  It's not for casual gamers.  The publisher did what most politicians do to one another, take a quote out of context so that your average person reads it and responds.

ExplicitMike
ExplicitMike

 @Tae_OneLOL and people wonder why some people question integrity on this site. I don't care either way. Is still funny tho.

Ang3l17
Ang3l17

@WillyChong Oh and shows how much action you know about with fighting a war. We don't just bomb place and go in later and pick at the scraps. I see and know what planes we have in the air (because I put them there) and your wrong again. Next time pick a better plane not just a well known one.

Ang3l17
Ang3l17

@WillyChong You said it simulation as in like real only not. And this is live from AUAB... I didn't just join I volunteered to deploy and that's why I haven't played this yet. And the Army Narional Guard... If that's what your in go active or get out! Back to the game it's the first one I was talking about learning to play. This one look about 3 times easier to learn. If they added checkpoints to it thats will take away from it to me but the idea is still sound. The original had no check points and if you didn't eject in time your pilot would die and your file would be erased. Also with playing it I'm not talking about easy or normal mode, or even veteran. I'm talking about the last few difficulties where even in the juggernaut fighting more the 2 of any mech could be death. You gave this a ten. What's with the hate when I'm on your side? And your comparing 2 different style games that have no like ground for discussion and because of that your hardcore suggestion and reference are thrown out for waiting my time reading it.

kkushalbeatzz
kkushalbeatzz

 @y3ivan Agreed. There are few Xbox exclusives and even fewer good ones. And kinect seems like a gimmick.

WayneSikes49
WayneSikes49

 @RealFabioSooner

 When I said 'force' I meant the practice of developer / publishers such as Microsoft pushing new hardware on the consumer with enticements such as cool games. Their hope is that the game will entice you to buy the Kinect as in 'you cannot play this cool game without our hardware'. So you are forced to buy a piece of hardware - Kinect - if you wish to play the game. Now in this case, many think the game is bad so the basic scenario of selling more Kinects or increasing the hype of the Kinect didn't work. If anything, people are seeing that the Kinect isn't ready for prime-time usage in a game such as this. Give similar technology another 2-3 years and the whole motion-capture thing will work much better for gaming. I agree with you regarding the 'Microsoft police force' comment. I've developed and published videogames for over 25 years and I've made it a practice to minimize Microsoft control over whatever product I'm making at the time.

WillyChong
WillyChong

 @Ang3l17  @WillyChong Join the army they say, see the world they say, hah, I actually been to Australia through the Royal National Army Reserve Cadet :D

WillyChong
WillyChong

 @Ang3l17  @WillyChong Nope, i never fought a war myself, why should I? But I was lucky enough be part of the national anti-piracy war simulation which involved all the Royal National Reserved cadet, my role at that time was not much though, just walk behind of the actual Royal Malaysia Army, but it was better than nothing. I'm happy to be a national guard reserve myself and keep it that way.

 

Why the US army risk casualty when carpet bombing/precision bombing, thermobaric bombing, nuke bombing risk less friendly casualty while inflict 80%, munition is a lot cheaper than another human lives, if not call in the warhog and strafe away those poor bastards to pieces. Besides, who could rival their might, I know my country won't  so we wait for democracy rather then them come knocking to our front door :P

Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor More Info

  • Released
    • Xbox 360
    Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is set in 2082 and depicts a world devoid of computers, where war is waged with rudimentary weapons as new superpowers battle for dominance.
    4
    Average User RatingOut of 77 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor
    Developed by:
    From Software
    Published by:
    Capcom
    Genres:
    Simulation
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Mild Animated Blood