In the past, playing Steel Battalion required using a 40-button controller that was almost a metre wide, weighed as much as a four-month-old baby, and made anyone using it look like a dork. Mercifully, for the latest in Capcom’s ambitious blasting series, the developers have ditched the monstrous controller in favour of the Kinect, which magically puts players in a virtual cockpit from which they can rain death on their opponents. In the process, they also created the Xbox 360’s worst game.
The problem with Heavy Armor is that the Kinect controls don’t work. While the required motions make sense in the context of the game – raise your right hand to bring down the long-range periscope, extend both hands to look out the viewing window, move your hands to the side to interact with your crew members and so on – in practice the controls rarely allow you to select the correct move, and more often see players flailing around in panic as they choose the wrong command in the heat of battle, and desperately try to back-track as dozens of missiles come screaming their way. Constantly having to recalibrate the Kinect sensor if you shift a few centimetres from your starting position is also acutely frustrating, as is standing in your lounge for up to three minutes as you peek out of your war machine’s virtual cockpit, waiting patiently to ambush a convoy of enemy tanks (a sequence which, frankly, also makes you feel like a dick).
As a brave experiment in using the Kinect controls for a ‘serious’ game, rather than a frivolous party package, the developers of Heavy Armor should be lauded for their valiant attempts to do something new. In practice, though, playing the game is a frustrating, aggravating and unrewarding experience, and will be a crushing disappointment for any of the über-nerds who’ve stuck with the Steel Battalion series from day one.
Reviewed by David McComb