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Conducting a symphony of destruction in Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor


Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is the smartest use of Kinect I've ever seen.

It's a bold statement, I know, but the marriage of Kinect and controller in Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is quite unique and, even more importantly, works well. We had concerns about the game last year, but those have disappeared.

What impressed me most during my demo mission of Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor -- a variation of the beachfront assault Alexander saw at last year's Gamescom event -- was my immediate feeling of expertise. It felt as though I had mastered this machine. Though I died in my first two attempts from foolish lapses in judgment, once even running blindly into a series of mines, I was eventually left with the belief that I was born to pilot a "Vertical Tank" (VT).

By all accounts, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor should be a disaster. Its Kinect features require nuance and subtlelty, two things Kinect simply isn't known for. You reach up to the right to grab a box that handles ventilation and lighting controls; you place your hand down and to the left to grab the speed shifter, and pull back with force to enable sprinting. In a small corner of the screen, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor shows me Kinect is not only tracking my head and hands, but also my shoulders and elbows and biceps.

During the panic of my beach assault, I was performing multiple actions while still accurately engaging targets near and far. When I took a shot dead-center from an enemy VT, I quickly pulled down my blast shield, reached over to the ventilation systems and exhausted the smoke out of the cabin. I then pulled down my periscope to line up my target and let loose a fire from my cannon that took out one of its legs. As it dropped, crippled, I dealt the final blow and felt like a real badass. It all became second nature. I wasn't moving my limbs in like a puppet master, but focusing on my task.

That's the thing I can't get out of my mind: just how well it all came together from start to finish. I didn't have to put down the controller to use Kinect's gesture controls. Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor's Kinect features don't feel tacked on or convoluted. Everything was a simple, carefully designed movement that felt real -- well, as real as piloting a gigantic bi-pedal mech can feel, I guess.