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.
Gallery: Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor (3/5/12) | 5 Photos
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.