Capcom Co.’s Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor for Microsoft Corp.’s Kinect for Xbox 360 is a decent war simulation title that offers motion-based controls via the Kinect sensor for complimentary and sometimes useful actions.
Developed by From Software, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor allows users to step into a virtual Vertical Tank machine and engage in combat from an interior vehicle perspective. The control setup offers numerous interior gadgets to pull, push, and even punch through the heat of battle.
The standard Xbox 360 controller is used with the title to facilitate movement and firing of left and right ammunition. Movement and aim controls are solid.
The sensor requires a decent amount of space to operate correctly – about six feet from the television. Through a tutorial, users will quickly know how to swipe to view other passengers in the tank, pull with both hands to move close to the viewport, grab the right hand ‘Juicer’ to start ignition, grab the left lever to change gears, or stand up to view outside the tank while holding the left hand up to view with binoculars.
Most actions can be performed with decent accuracy, with the only problem areas being the ammo button selector near the viewport which doesn’t always recognize a tap down, and the pull toward the viewport which at times pulls down the shades of the port.
Fortunately, the main combat portion of the title doesn’t require so much gesture action. The first mission, which involves an escort of ally troops toward the enemy compound, calls for solid aiming skills, while some close hits may require the user to open the interior vents through gestures. At one point, users have to gesture and pull back a comrade from escaping the Vertical Tank and punch him to his senses, all of which works very well.
Another mission is cinematic and requires the user to crawl with their hands in order to reach a detonator. In a seek and destroy mission, the interior is barely used.
Other comrade-based gestures are fun to pull off, including grabbing a candy bar from a fellow soldier or fist-pumping after a mission completion.
A drawback is the lack of radar in the game. Instead a clunky camera that requires users to gesture to each alternate view is available but can’t be utilized well in combat.
Challenge is high throughout the game and users will die instantly if they don’t play correctly. For example, if a user stands still with the Vertical Tank they will be torn apart quickly by enemy fire. Most situations require constant movement and heavy engagement.
The title also includes an online mode to allow up to four users to cooperate and earn items that can’t be found in the solo campaign. Parts can be used to customize the VT from engine to outer camouflage.
The graphics engine is decent at 30 frames-per-second. The environments hold solid detail but can break apart with heavy action. Character models are doll-like but don’t seem to be in-sync with their vocals at all times. Sound effects are good with heavy bullet and tank cannon fire.
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is a decent showcase of motion-based controls attached to a hardcore simulation title. While the controls aren’t perfect, they do require soldiers who can handle a challenge and are able adapt to change.