Capcom's next Steel Battalion game to the franchise that's being developed by From Software, the people who did the Armored Core series. Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is the first Steel Battalion game that doesn't used the massive controller but uses the Xbox 360 Kinect. The game uses a hybrid control scheme where moving, aiming and firing the Vertical Tank can be done on the standard Xbox 360 controller, while the Kinect side is used to interact with crew members, giving them high fives, and trying to communicate with them so they won't panic, as well as other actions including starting the engine and aiming the mounted machine gun. The game takes place in 2082 when all modern technology has been lost to a silicone-eating microbe and wars started raging all around the world.
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is played entirely from a first person perspective. The player controlled character spends most of the time inside a Vertical Tank, though there are some sequences outside the VT. While in the VT, basic movement, aiming, and weapon firing are controlled with a standard controller, using standard shooter controls. Everything else, however, is controlled (poorly) with the Kinect. Everything from lowering a periscope, to changing ammunition types, to (supposedly) fist bumping people is controlled via the Kinect. However, the Kinect controls are widely regarded as being broken at worst, and unnecessary at best. Combined with poor mission structure and a high difficulty, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor has earned universally negative reviews.
Anatomy of a VT
- "Juicer": The handle to the bottom right of the screen starts up the VT after the left loader (or, in some cases, the player) has hand cranked the engine to life.
- Viewport: A tiny window in the center of the cockpit. Moving up to it is usually the best viewpoint from which to navigate and engage enemies at closer ranges. Lights on either side of the viewport alert the player to the status of their left and right weapons.
- Armored Shutter: The glass on the viewport tends to break after some damage, leaving the player exposed to fire that could kill them instantly. Closing the shutter with the handle above the viewport will protect the player, but the viewport is useless with it on, rendering the mission almost impossible to complete with the player essentially blind thanks to this questionably thought-out mechanic.
- Periscope: Grabbing the periscope above offers a zoomed-in view that lets you scope the scene from afar and target distant enemies. The periscope also has a tendency to become damaged as well. The glass can crack, obscuring your view, and the crosshair might become inaccurate for long range affairs if damaged enough.
- High Speed Lever: Pulling this lever (at the bottom left of the screen) increases the movement speed at the expense of stable aiming. After some use, the engine might overheat, disabling high speed temporarily while smoke visibly comes off the front of the VT.
- Main Cannon: Fires shells with the Right Trigger by default. The right loader handles loading the shells in the cannon; if he is incapacitated, the player has to load each shell themselves to keep using it.
- Ammunition Buttons: Players use these two buttons placed in front of the viewport to select between Armor Piercing (AP) or HEAT (HE) rounds for their main cannon. AP rounds have a high payload for hitting heavily armored targets like other VTs. HE rounds have a smaller payload but a bigger explosion good for lightly armored vehicles or groups of infantry.
- Autocannon: A heavy machine gun effective against infantry and lightly armored vehicles. The left loader handles the gun magazines to keep it loaded; if incapacitated, every time the magazine empties, the player has to manually removed the empty magazine and load in a new one to continue using it.
- Monitor: Pulled out of the left side of the screen. Can be toggled to show either a map or four camera views representing each side of the VT. Can be a very desperate last resort for navigation if your viewport and periscope become unusable.
- Bank Panel: Pulled out of the right side of the screen, the bank panel features a few miscellaneous functions. The switch up top toggles headlights (and some other special features like night vision for the periscope if equipped). The handle at the bottom vents smokes from the cockpit, preventing death by smoke asphyxiation. Lifting the plastic hatch and pressing the big red button on the left side triggers self-destruct, which acts essentially as a restart mission button.
- Instrument Panel: Information available at the center and bottom of the screen include ammo counts, fuel, speed, engine temperature, and damage lights indicating the state of various sections of the VT.
- Top Hatch: The player can stand up and out of the top of the VT to have a view of the battlefield unobstructed by the VT cockpit. The player can also lift a pair of binoculars to their face for a zoomed in view. Standing out of the top hatch is a very vulnerable position to be as a stray bullet can instantly kill a player. It's good to make sure it's safe before standing out of it.
- And more...: Some of the parts of the VT can be changed and upgraded with parts earned through cooperative missions or DLC, such as camoflauge, platoon logos, leg joints for better turning rates, a higher quality monitor, or a pretty picture for inside your cockpit your crew to look at. Some specific equipment even add more controls to the cockpit. Rear equipped weapons add a fire button above the monitor and special ammo can be loaded with a button at the top of the bank panel.
Specific missions in each campaign are playable in a cooperative mode with 4 players. Missing players are replaced with AI. Scores are tallied up with kills while points can be lost when a player is destroyed. One player is designated as the team leader; if the team leader goes down, the mission is automatically aborted. The team is rewarded with a letter grade, and each mission has unlockable equipment to customize VTs with depending on what letter grade was received.
In the year 2020, a "silcon-eating microbe" travelled across the planet eating at semiconductors and effectively destroying all computer technology, an even known as "Datacide" which triggered chaos across the world. Why mankind never even tried to create replacements is a mystery for the ages. An "Asian empire" capitalized on this and began invading other countries, causing a war labelled as "World War III" that ended by 2045. A new United Nations was formed, controlled by this Asian empire, and soon after, the UN waged campaigns across all of Europe and engaged in an invasion of America, taking the East Coast.
The game picks up in the year 2082, with the American army reorganizing in Mexico to take the country back. The player is Sgt. Winfield Powers, a veteran brought back into the service after losing his family in the invasion. The story is split into several campaigns that span a few years.
Powers is part of a platoon consisting of many other characters. Depending on how a player does in missions, these characters can die off, affecting what crew is alongside the player in the VT and how the story is told.
Emblem Pack (Free): Released at launch, it includes various emblems to customize the VT with including fan-made emblems as well as emblems for magazines or organizations like IGN and Game Informer.
Map Pack 1 (240 MSP): Release on July 3, 2012, it includes two new missions playable in cooperative play: "Fuel Requisition" (a night time fuel depot raid) and "Mountain Sentinels" (an assault on heavy artillery in the mountains.) Each mission, like the cooperative missions in the main title, have three unlockable parts for use on a VT.
Map Pack 2 (240 MSP): Release on July 17, 2012, it includes two new missions playable in cooperative play: "Ammo Dump Jump" (a desert raid on a spread out ammo depot) and "The Champ-de-Mars" (a strike on an array of spotlights underneath the Eiffel Tower.) For owners of Map Packs 1 and 2, a bonus mission is also unlocked called "Whiteout" (an train assault during a blizzard.) Each mission, like the cooperative missions in the main title, have three unlockable parts for use on a VT.