November 10th 2010, now there’s a date I remember well. Not fondly I’d hasten to add, but certainly well.
For it was on this bitterly cold winters night that, hands stuffed deep into pockets, I patiently waited for the dawn of a new age of gaming.
July 24th 2012, I’m still waiting……
You see it was on that largely underwhelming and ultimately disappointing night in November that I was second in line for the midnight launch of Microsoft’s much anticipated new baby, Kinect.
Hundreds had gathered the previous evening clamouring for, the also disappointing, Black Ops. On this second night there were roughly 12 of us. And yes, it was an omen.
As Kinect slowly approaches it’s 2nd birthday I feel as though I should have been more patient, there was no new dawn, there’s been minimal innovation, there are a lot of dance games but I’m a gamer not a dancer, so I waited. I waited amid my dying hopes that maybe someone was listening to my pleas for a game that substantially realises Kinect’s potential and delivers in a seriously big way.
And then Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor landed on the doormat and the slightest flicker of a smile met my lips.
Had the postie just dropped the new dawn of gaming through the letterbox? Was this how it would happen? A game-changing piece of software dumped unceremoniously onto the floor amongst the offers of life insurance and overdue bills?
Fingers crossed I placed the disc into the welcoming tray. Minutes passed, and then the slightest flicker of a grimace met my lips.
It didn’t take long either, for my high hopes for Steel Battalion to fade to black and gently wash away. Then again if From Software and Capcom are going to place a broken game in my mitts the end result probably shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The fact that with a bit of tweaking Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor could have been something extraordinary only makes the final product an even more bitter pill to swallow.
Basics first though. Heavy Armor is the follow up to Xbox title Steel Battalion, a game more renknowned for it’s monstrous controller than for it’s gameplay. The Steel Battalion games put you in the cockpit of a huge Mech fully equipped with the usual range of machine guns, rockets and all manner of flashy buttons and beepy control panels. And, on paper at least, ditching the mammoth controller in favour of some wavy arm Kinect action seemed a plausible idea. Want to pull that lever to the right? Raise your right arm and pull it then. Push that lovely red button? Well move your hand towards it and push it. Simple.
If only it was that simple. Here’s how it actually plays out.
Want to pull that lever to the right? Raise your right arm and pull it the….wait not that lever! Move your arm back. Arrghh, now I’m looking down the viewfinder, hang on! Why the hell am I looking at the guy to my left, quick face forward the enemy are firing rockets!! Leave that switch alone! Arggh I’ve just tuned the radio to Classical FM! Now the wipers are on high speed! viewfinder,cockpit,viewfinder,cockpit,viewfinder,cockpit..WHY DOES MY MAN APPEAR TO BE DANCING THE HOKEY COKEY!!!!!!……….Game Over.
And that friends sums up my time spent as an elite Mech pilot. The other soldiers in the robotic war machine must have been pissing themselves.
Soldier 1: “I thought this guy was supposed to be one of the best?”
Soldier 2: “Looks like the rumours about his drink problems might have some foundation.”
Soldier 3: “He dances a mean hokey cokey though.”
In my time playing video games this is the first time I can truly remember a game being unplayable. I’m sure there have been others but Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor has eclipsed them.
When the core gameplay mechanics are broken there’s nowhere left to go.
Sure, it looks quite pretty, the cockpit of the mech looks good too, the sounds of gunfire and explosions are spot on, unfortunately all those explosions are rockets hitting your own mech while you endeavor to push the right button inside and the storyline has promise with it’s mission to take back New York City many years after all the computers and networks were killed by those ever faithful bad guys.
Also I have to add that Heavy Armour is an unforgiving beast, after a very brief flail around the cockpit you’ll be seeing the game over screen once again. There is a brief tutorial where you’re given the chance to get to grips with the multiple controls on offer, movement is played out on the controller proper but the vast majority are done via Kinect and this includes even the simple act of changing bullet rounds. There are a good number of buttons on my 360 control pad and From Software would have been wise to have made use of a few of them.
What else can I say? Imagine buying a TV that had wonderful 3D capabilities and incredible sound but sadly lacked the ability to show a picture, that’s Heavy Armour.
It’s painful, more so as I really wanted this game to deliver, I was banking on this being the one that said “see, we told you one day Kinect would be an integral part of a serious game.” Rather it has just confirmed that maybe Kinect is a place for dance and party games to run free, to be honest if Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is the alternative then I say dance on little ones.
Please folks avoid this game at all costs, if you see it in your local game store ignore it, look the other way or simply run screaming from the premises but, do not pick it up.