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Steel Battalion Heavy Armour - Kinect's saviour: Buttons?

First look at Capcom's odd mech resurrection

How do you make a sequel to a game that famously required nearly 40 buttons, on a platform that doesn't have any?

The solution to Capcom and developer From Software's Steel Battalion design challenge is simpler than you think; first of all you grab your motion-gaming Kinect pilot's grubby hands and stick a controller in it too. Secondly you recreate the Xbox original's absolutely gigantic controller in-game, with switches, levers and buttons all manipulated via the magic of Microsoft's motion sensor.

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And there are a lot of buttons; gear levers, ventilation pullies and light switches absolutely cover the rusty, claustrophobic cockpit of the on-screen tank-with-legs, and they're all interacted with by holding out your hand and twiddling them with your fingers.


The premise behind Capcom's odd lever-fest, in case you didn't shell out £130 for the original Xbox package, sees a near future earth devoid of computers after a mysterious computer bug kills them off. Subsequently it all goes mental, and Far Eastern countries queue around the block to invade North America.

Heavy Armour is about your - or rather main lead Winfield Powers' - mission to take back the good old US of A, and as you can see from the debut trailer on this page it's a visceral, hard-hitting war that looks less like its futuristic predecessor and more like Saving Private Ryan with big stompy tanks.

As we near the enemy-infested shores of NYC, our From Software demonstrator lowers the Xbox 360 controller and raises his hand to pull down a virtual periscope, before surveying the battered New York coastline again with the pad. Confirming the coast is clear through his Kinect viewing piece, our player stands off his chair to pull open the top hatch and get a proper look by moving his head across the room -yep, that's head tracking.

As our man settles himself back on his mech driving seat, he lowers the Xbox 360 controller and waves his hand to reveal the other occupants of our little switch heaven; a machine gunner on our left, cannon chief on our right and smug-looking comms man sat behind our central seat.

As well as the combination of motion and traditional pad controls, this is another of Steel Battalion Kinect's more interesting bulletpoints.

As our vehicle approaches an occupied beachhead the action kicks in and we can hear the rainshower of hundreds of bullet ricocheting off the outside of our vehicle. It soon becomes apparent however it's not only angry soldiers with AK's taking pot-shots at our ride, and our character has his vision smacked around the inside of the cockpit as explosives from rival mechs hit home from our left.


Our machine gunner, his cries for assistance ignored by the naughty From Software driver, loses the plot and scrambles towards the exit hatch in attempt to escape the missile pain. Then - in a scene that we must admit looked just a little bit staged - the player reaches towards the television screen and pulls him back in, before smacking several shades of shite out of the traitor with a clenched fist.

The developer explains that, much like Nintendo's Starfox, if you ignore the cries for assistance from your teammates getting pummled on the left, right and rear sides of your mech, they'll often make a run for it. You can let them leave in their madness, From Software says, but they'll die outside leaving you the extra work of reloading and servicing their weapons, then picking a new crew with different traits and personalities post-mission.

Heavy Armour's absolutely got a lot of very interesting ideas going on then, but we think it's going to take extended viewings - and some thorough hands-on time - before we're convinced it's the core Kinect saviour we've been searching for. The one with buttons.