Steel Battalion is broken, and the fault lies with the Kinect controls
You know you’re in for a bad time when a company sends you paperwork pointing out the “right” way to play a game. I had thought that by following the directions I could replicate the experience I had playing the game at PAX East. I sat in a chair about six feet away from the Kinect controller, I calibrated the controls in the sitting and standing positions, and I made sure no direct light was hitting myself or the Kinect hardware. Sure, all this meant moving some furniture in my basement, but who cares? I was about to pilot a giant Mech!
Things went wrong immediately. The game asks you to shake hands with a character on the screen, and it took three times before the sensor recognized the fact I was holding my arm out. It finally picked up the motion when I stuck my hand out, palm first, and waved my hand. Catching an apple in the next scene went a little bit better, but not much.
Once your character is in your vertical tank, or VT, things get even worse.
Every action within the tank was problematic. The Kinect had issues seeing me put two hands forward to look out of my VT’s window, and those problems continued until I put the controller down, leaned forward, and then put my hands in front of me. You have to reach down at your side and pull back on a handle to start your engine, but my floating, virtual hand on the screen couldn’t seem to grab it, even though it hovered over the lever. I had to do the motion five or six times in an increasingly exaggerated fashion before the game recognized the movement.
Even when I was able to peer out the window, when I pulled my hands back in my lap the game thought I was done looking and my on-screen character sat back. Soon I was pushing my hands in and out trying to figure out how to I could look out the window while holding the controller in a manner that was at least somewhat comfortable. You have to be in total control of your body while playing the game, or else the act of scratching your nose could cause you to change your view or look at another player in the heat of a battle.
The Kinect simply isn’t good enough to detect the kind of movements the game asks of the player, and the fact you’re sitting down makes things worse. For some reason the game kept thinking my knees were hands, and refused to see my actual hands when I tried to do something. I had to switch chairs. Then my virtual hands just kind of floated in the middle of the screen, even when my real hands were holding the controller in my lap. When I did try to flip a switch, change ammo, or do any of the other movements the game requires, it took me multiple times to accomplish that action. There is nothing about the motion controls that functioned, or that was satisfying.
I have since looked around at other reviews, and Polygon has a round up of problems other reviewers, including myself, have seen in the game. The reviewer for Destructroid was able to advance to the 5th mission. That man is a saint. I quit before the end of the tutorial.