Steel Battalion (Xbox) review
"Before doing my review, i must warn that Steel Battalion may be the most difficult game to review this year and that the final score may not represent the fun you'll have playing with it. The game is so different from anything else found in home video gaming that it's hard for it to find a place in the categories of modern games. "
Before doing my review, i must warn that Steel Battalion may be the most difficult game to review this year and that the final score may not represent the fun you'll have playing with it. The game is so different from anything else found in home video gaming that it's hard for it to find a place in the categories of modern games.
On that note, let's begin...
Steel Battalion, from the well known japanese company Capcom, is a giant robot (called ''vertical tanks'', or ''VTs'', this time around) simulator. It will remind some of the PC Mechwarrior(tm) series.
What makes this game different from anything else you've seen on a home video game is the controller that comes with it. Steel Battalion comes with a massive 3 foot large controller that features a throttle, a tuner dial, 2 analog joysticks, 40 buttons, lights under most of the buttons and three foot pedals. The game actually comes in a box three to four times the size of the XBox packaging and cost $200 US.
And before you ask, yes, you heard right. $200...
Steel Battalion's graphics are, to say the least, very impressive. From the very detailled cockpit to the rich landscape, everything will make your eyes say ''wow''. VTs move fluidly, rain falls on your VT's camera, everything in this game as a photorealistic appearance. While this game may be one of the most impressive on the xbox to date, there are some glitches that prevent it from getting a perfect score. Destroyed VTs tend to have explosions so big that nothing of them is left on the terrain after their ''deaths'', which is kind of a turn-down to realism. Also, the graphics are so life-like that every single small error or missed effect becomes VERY apparent on the screen. Cutscenes could also have been much MUCH better. Capcom has decided to go with a ''Street Fighter'' kind of cut-scenes, with cardboard characters and no animations. To be brief, the cutscenes of Steel Battalion are among the worst i've seen for the last 5 years. The cutscenes don't affect the gameplay at all though and i still give a 9 out of 10 for the graphics of Steel Battalion.
Steel Battalion, to be fully appreciated, should be played in DD 5.1 surround sound. Explosions are among the best i've heard and the ''thumping'' of the VTs feet trampling the ground really make you feel like you are piloting a slow lumbering giant vertical tank. With a good sound system, you can even ''feel'' the weight of the VT by the sound alone.
Music is another story. Since this game is a simulator, there's no music in it. There is an option called the ''boom box'' that you can buy after the ''training mission''. the ''boom box'' allows you to choose from a limited selection of musics and play them during the game. The twist is that the ''boom box'' is simply a tape recorder, with intentionally very poor audio quality that your pilot brings into his VT. Even then, the volume of the ''boom box'' is so low that you don't even pay attention to it after 15 seconds into a mission. The game is trying to go for a realistic approach, so the lack of music in the game is not really something that gets in the way of gameplay.
It WILL take you some time to master those controls. The lft analog joystick is used to control the direction of your VT. The right analog controls the arms of the VT and the aiming of your weapons. The 3 pedals controls your accelaration, the ''brakes'' and the ability to ''sidestep'' with your tank. The tuner dial is used to adjust radio frequencies to contact your commanding officer, ask for supplies and your teammates. A control hat on the right analog controls the facing of the upper part of the VT (commonly known in the Mechwarrior and Battletech universe as ''torso twisting''). The throttle controls the speed of your VT. The numerous buttons are linked to monitor functions, target locking, map display, munition management and even camera washing in case it's packed with dirt.
Depending on your selected VT, you may be restricted in the speed of your movement and overall maneuverability by the ''stability'' of your vehicle. Turn too tight at high speeds and you may come crashing to the ground.
The game is also very slow paced. You are piloting a very slow giant. This is not necessarily bad as it puts much more emphasis on planning and strategy rather than quick reflexes.
On the bad side, there are some slow downs during heavy fighting. Since the game is not fast and furious, it doesn't affect gameplay much, but it does create a distraction and remove a some of the immersion the game tries so desperately to offer.
A special note on gameplay. You will find a big red eject button on your controller. In the game, eject too late and you will die. By dying, i mean litterally dying as the game destroys your save game, forcing you to play it from scratch.
There are some problems with slow-downs, but the game plays, sound and look so good that we can forget those small annoyances easily. It's a must for any giant robot fan. Only real bad point is the lack of Xbox Live capabilities, which this game is crying for. Capcom did say that Steel Battalion 2 (in the works) will likely supports Live, but since the game is far from being released, no one trully knows if SB2's going to support it.
Even with it's heavy price tag, the game still sold out before it's release on pre-orders only, therefore you may have a hard time finding a copy unless Capcom decides to manufacture more units. If you do find one, Steel Battalion is perhaps THE most immersive game on any platforms to be released this year and will be well worth the 200 dollars investment.
Community review by deedob (December 13, 2002)
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