Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor Co-op Hands-on Preview -- Lend Me a Cannon, Will Ya?By Kevin Kelly - Posted Apr 10, 2012
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is set to become the first hardcore game to utilize Kinect in an integral part of the gameplay; unless you count the voice controls from Mass Effect 3. Just for the record, anyone can talk to their Xbox, but it takes a true gamer to slap their squadmates around virtually. Although, you might want to slap your actual teammates around physically if you can’t get everyone to work together in the four-player co-op mode on display during our latest preview session with Heavy Armor.
Sadly, this doesn’t mean you’ll be piloting the mech while your buddies operate the other positions. No, you’ll each have a Vertical Tank and a crew of your own to take care of as you head into battle. You’ll still use the standard Kinect-plus-Xbox 360 controller controls, but you’ll need to work together to take on the co-op maps where you have to destroy a set number of enemies in order to unlock new items for your VT.
One thing to keep in mind is that these things are slow. And when we say slow, we mean like frozen molasses. You can shift your VT into high gear by reaching out and pulling a lever near your left knee, but you’ll give up fine aiming control as it’s like trying to shoot a gun out of a moving car while you’re in fifth gear. You’ll also need to concentrate on keeping fire off of your forward armor, because once a hole opens there, and you don’t get the shutter closed in time, you’re a goner.
The best route is to work in tandem, with someone hanging back to call out targets, while everyone else vectors in and destroys those targets as they are identified. Make sure you practice your long-range shots, as you don’t want to get too close to most of the other VTs. If you have to approach them, try running in zigzags so they can’t draw a bead on you. If you’re coming up on some ground targets, use the HE (high explosive) rounds to take them out quickly, but for the most part, stick to your AP (armor piercing) rounds for enemy VTs.
One nifty little feature that is purely cosmetic is that when you die, you appear as a ghost over your friendlies VTs, and you can see your glowing, ghostly blue hands waving in the air above them. It doesn’t really serve any purpose other than to keep you in the game and possibly call out targets. But it’s a neat touch, and we’re glad that Capcom decided to remind us of our own mortality.
One thing to keep in mind heading into this title is that isn’t a breakneck speed run and gun. Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is a methodical tank battle using old-school technology, and it is paced more like a World War II tank battle. Although it can get exciting at times (remember to hit your exhaust vent to clear smoke from the cockpit, keep your shutter closed when you’ve been damaged, and don’t poke your head out the hatch when snipers are nearby), you’re going to need to become a quick study in flanking and footwork at a lower speed, just like the previous (and wonderful) two Steel Battalion titles.
In addition to the online co-op, there’s also a Score Attack mode where you and your allies are rated based on performance. This is where you want to head in order to unlock certain Achievements. Both Co-op and Score Attack will be available when the game ships exclusively for the Xbox 360 on June 19.