What original Xbox user hadn’t heard of the $200, insanely difficult, 40-button behemoth controller, giant mech game, Steel Battalion? It took video gaming to an entirely different level by giving gamers the most realistic experience they could. It also took frustration to an entirely new level, because not surprisingly, being a Vertical Tank pilot is extremely, soul-crushingly hard. This turned off many players, as did the hefty price tag.
However, for those that put in the time and effort, the game was brilliant, and in all likelihood these same players were extremely excited to see that after so many years, they will finally get to revisit the ultra-realistic mech sim again in the sequel, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor.
However, with new technology, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor won’t be relying on a super complicated controller, but instead turning to Kinect. It’s arguable, but many would agree the massive controller was part of the appeal of the original. It really lent a sense of realism to a genre sorely lacking in the area. Philosophically, it’s the antithesis to MechAssault, which while fun, gave all-new meaning to the word “ridiculous.”
In Steel Battalion gamers more or less had to learn the virtue of patience. The first time you boot up your mech, which in itself is a bit of a tricky process – you’re required to play through a tutorial that takes several minutes. Players eager to start wreaking havoc in a ridiculously powerful fighting robot death machine are rewarded with a tiny black-and-white screen surrounded with radar and other information readouts. Want a color readout? Want a larger viewing area? You have to earn it. Get into a sticky situation and end up being shot down, better be quick on that eject button or your save game goes bye bye. Ouch. “Steep learning curve” doesn’t say the half of it.
Heavy Armor is being developed by From Software, makers of the Armored Core series as well as the closest mech-sim to Steel Battalion, Chromehounds. Chromehounds was clearly an endeavor to bring realism back into the mech shooter genre, and they succeeded fairly well. However, it didn’t have the soul-aching difficulty of Steel Battalion, nor did it have a giant controller. This time around though they are making an actual Steel Battalion title, so the friendly game mechanics are probably going to be scrapped in favor of realism.
The Kinect creates all sorts of cool gameplay possibilities, however, it might be better to utilize a combo of Kinect as well as a giant controller. The tactile feeling of manipulating a slow moving, complicated machine will be retained, while the Kinect’s ability to use gestures gives the possibility for a simple HUD input for performing certain tasks quickly.
For the gamer not interested in playing Kinectimals or Michael Jackson: The Experience and the like, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor might be the reason to pick up the Kinect.
What do you think? Is integrating the Kinect into a mech game like Steel Battalion a smart move? Would you rather have just the controller, or would you prefer a way to combine both input methods?