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.