Hey, guess what? Steel Battalion doesn't suck!

I've always wanted Steel Battalion. To date myself a little, I was too young to have a job when the original came out for Xbox, and my parents were certainly not going to fork over the cash for the giant peripheral needed to play the game. Instead I would wander in to the local mom and pop game shop and play it on their demo unit when I had the chance. I still want that game, even though I have no means to play it, and I've heard from many a person that it is not worth the hassle to get it running. You see I grew up playing Mech Warrior extensively, and I've always wanted a game in that vein that really captured what it was like to be in the cockpit, not just running the mech from a keyboard. Imagine my elation upon hearing a new SB game was in the works. Then imagine my sigh of disappointment upon hearing that it was going to be a Kinect game. After hearing about it on the Bombcast and seeing trailers though, I decided to stand cautiously optimistic. I even bought a Kinect and an Xbox last month (I had gotten rid of my fat model a couple years ago). Outwardly, I told my friends and family that it was for Dance Central, Halo, and Alan Wake. Inwardly, however, I knew it was because I was holding a torch for Steel Battalion.

You can see how I would be exited to play the demo then. I didn't know that it was out this week, I've been too enraptured by Diablo III (and strangely, the Witcher during server downtime) to keep up with what's on Xbox Live these days. Last night I decided to throw in Deadly Premonition so I could watch the next set of Endurance Run episodes today and I noticed that the SB demo was up. Download confirmed.

With great apprehension I set up my game space exactly as they recommended, going so far as to get a straight backed chair from my kitchen to sit in so that I didn't slouch. I gotta say, aside from some minor frustration with the Kinect stuff here and there, I'm pretty impressed. I don't think the game will review particularly well, and I don't think it will appeal to the masses, but playing the game is remarkably intense if you're willing to get sucked in. I had the sound up, the lights low, and the apartment to myself, so I got way into it. I jumped when the VT got shelled, grasped desperately for the viewport handle when it got blown out, and clawed at my comms officer as he tried to escape, hitting the air in front of me a little harder than was probably necessary to get him to calm down.

I do have some concerns though:

First of all, the game seems to have weird difficulty. My first playthrough of the demo, I got annihilated. I stepped on a mine inadvertently and got my leg blown off. My viewport got smashed by an enemy VT, and before long I was a scrap heap. The second time through however, was a cake walk. I don't know if the game adjusted the difficulty, or if it was just because I knew where the enemies would be, but it seemed almost too easy (I'm guessing it was the latter). My other concern is that it is really hard to keep track of what is going on. The guys in your VT will be screaming at you, there will be comms from your commander coming in, and the sound of the battle around you thunders from your speakers. On the one hand, this adds to the immersion, on the other hand, I'm sure it will frustrate many. Finally, the Kinect stuff can be a little wonky. Luckily the actions that you perform using Kinect are easy enough to correct, as they happen pretty fast. That said, I had a hard time quickly switching between HEAT rounds and AP rounds, and I accidentally shut my viewport a few times, effectively blinding myself. Things like that could lead to tragedy quickly depending on the scenario. I think the game will have a relatively high learning curve, and many will find it too punishing to be enjoyable. Kind of like From Software's last game. What was it about? Souls or something? ;)

In the end, I have to say I loved the demo, and am excited for the game. Even if it turns out to be a mess to get through missions, just turning it on and trying will be a blast. I think many of the game's missions could simply be excuses for them to throw more and more sensory overload at you, but sometimes, that's what I want from a game. I will certainly be picking up a copy, and I encourage you to check out the demo if you have a Kinect.

6 Comments
7 Comments
Posted by JesterPC238

I've always wanted Steel Battalion. To date myself a little, I was too young to have a job when the original came out for Xbox, and my parents were certainly not going to fork over the cash for the giant peripheral needed to play the game. Instead I would wander in to the local mom and pop game shop and play it on their demo unit when I had the chance. I still want that game, even though I have no means to play it, and I've heard from many a person that it is not worth the hassle to get it running. You see I grew up playing Mech Warrior extensively, and I've always wanted a game in that vein that really captured what it was like to be in the cockpit, not just running the mech from a keyboard. Imagine my elation upon hearing a new SB game was in the works. Then imagine my sigh of disappointment upon hearing that it was going to be a Kinect game. After hearing about it on the Bombcast and seeing trailers though, I decided to stand cautiously optimistic. I even bought a Kinect and an Xbox last month (I had gotten rid of my fat model a couple years ago). Outwardly, I told my friends and family that it was for Dance Central, Halo, and Alan Wake. Inwardly, however, I knew it was because I was holding a torch for Steel Battalion.

You can see how I would be exited to play the demo then. I didn't know that it was out this week, I've been too enraptured by Diablo III (and strangely, the Witcher during server downtime) to keep up with what's on Xbox Live these days. Last night I decided to throw in Deadly Premonition so I could watch the next set of Endurance Run episodes today and I noticed that the SB demo was up. Download confirmed.

With great apprehension I set up my game space exactly as they recommended, going so far as to get a straight backed chair from my kitchen to sit in so that I didn't slouch. I gotta say, aside from some minor frustration with the Kinect stuff here and there, I'm pretty impressed. I don't think the game will review particularly well, and I don't think it will appeal to the masses, but playing the game is remarkably intense if you're willing to get sucked in. I had the sound up, the lights low, and the apartment to myself, so I got way into it. I jumped when the VT got shelled, grasped desperately for the viewport handle when it got blown out, and clawed at my comms officer as he tried to escape, hitting the air in front of me a little harder than was probably necessary to get him to calm down.

I do have some concerns though:

First of all, the game seems to have weird difficulty. My first playthrough of the demo, I got annihilated. I stepped on a mine inadvertently and got my leg blown off. My viewport got smashed by an enemy VT, and before long I was a scrap heap. The second time through however, was a cake walk. I don't know if the game adjusted the difficulty, or if it was just because I knew where the enemies would be, but it seemed almost too easy (I'm guessing it was the latter). My other concern is that it is really hard to keep track of what is going on. The guys in your VT will be screaming at you, there will be comms from your commander coming in, and the sound of the battle around you thunders from your speakers. On the one hand, this adds to the immersion, on the other hand, I'm sure it will frustrate many. Finally, the Kinect stuff can be a little wonky. Luckily the actions that you perform using Kinect are easy enough to correct, as they happen pretty fast. That said, I had a hard time quickly switching between HEAT rounds and AP rounds, and I accidentally shut my viewport a few times, effectively blinding myself. Things like that could lead to tragedy quickly depending on the scenario. I think the game will have a relatively high learning curve, and many will find it too punishing to be enjoyable. Kind of like From Software's last game. What was it about? Souls or something? ;)

In the end, I have to say I loved the demo, and am excited for the game. Even if it turns out to be a mess to get through missions, just turning it on and trying will be a blast. I think many of the game's missions could simply be excuses for them to throw more and more sensory overload at you, but sometimes, that's what I want from a game. I will certainly be picking up a copy, and I encourage you to check out the demo if you have a Kinect.

Posted by Driadon

I had no idea that this demo was out either, and downloaded it just today. I have to say, I'm much in the same boat as you, the Kinect stuff seems a little wonky at times, but everything else is top-freaking-notch. I think the difficulty experience you had is exactly as you described: you knew what to do now, and, well, you could filter what was happening on the battlefield, who to shoot, when, ect. It makes a big difference when you can figure the rough timing that it takes for an enemy VT to reload it's anti-tank gun, and hit it right when it's ready to fire, either causing them to misfire, or giving you precious seconds to move the hell out of there. While I only played a small amount of the original at PAX a couple years back, this feels very akin to it in many ways, and totally unique in others.

It won't sell well, but, dammit, I love that game.

Posted by TheSouthernDandy

That demo is bananas. Aside from a few of the regular liner hiccups, and they were few, everything just worked and I had a blast playing. Using the controller with the money felt pretty natural after you go through the tutorial. I'm so glad it worked the way it was suppose to. Also there's like, a comical amount of swearing.

Posted by TheSouthernDandy

Liner and money are supposed to be Kinect. Goddamn iPhone.

Posted by JesterPC238

Here's one situation where I'm more OK with the swearing. The few times I've been in a serious spot of trouble (car accident, car dying in a bad neighborhood late at night, etc.) I've sworn a ton myself. In fact while playing the demo I was swearing like a sailor. I don't mind language, even very heavy language, in games when it's appropriate. They built the characters in your VT to seem like real people, they are scared shitless by what's going on and so the language makes sense. Not once did I think "man, they are swearing a lot" because I was right there with them.

It bothers me when you have the "I hate fucking computers" moments, where language is injected in order to seem edgy.

Posted by optimusprime223

I played it at MCM and it is pretty mad. I can see why the nostalgia for the original will bring people to it, hell thats the reason I wanted to play it, however, like you say there is a shit ton to keep track of, and I had the added noise of the expo floor. The pulling of switches and stuff was harder than I had hoped it would but I think that is more a kinect limitation rather than anything else. I am unsure at mo, might get the demo and give it a try in the comfort of the bedroom, see what I make of it...

Posted by Driadon

@JesterPC238: I agree. The game brings you in so much that I was saying "OH FUCK OH FUCK OH FUCK" just about as much as my loaders and nav dude. It's still Steel Battalion!