Gamescom: Steel Battalion Brings WWII Atmosphere to Robots

The original Steel Battalion came with a controller you had to assemble with actual tools. It was the kind of controller that would not help you score a romantic partner, unless you were lucky enough to find a soulmate who was also into giant robots and the realistic simulation thereof.

The new Steel Battalion requires the use of Kinect, which isn't a controller at all. Some may say this is a somewhat rash U-turn on Capcom's part, but Heavy Armor does, in fact, also use the Xbox 360 controller as a compromise. Kinect controls "you" as the driver, while the 360 controller controls the vehicle itself.

It's a curious approach, and thanks to its Kinect requirement (as opposed to tacked-on support), explores some concepts we don't traditionally see in sim-like shooters, such as other humans. Sitting in the "vertical tank" (not "giant robot") you can look around by swiping your hand around, or reach out and grab the controls in front of you. Sitting in the vertical tank with you are several crew members, all of whom speak to you, swear at you a lot and occasionally get very scared and attempt to run away to their inevitable doom. More importantly, though, they fulfill certain functions in your walking machine of death, and losing them will put you at a significant disadvantage, so it's up to you to make sure nothing untoward happens to them.

By getting out of your chair and standing up, you can open the hatch in the top of your mech and take a look around to survey the situation. This is sometimes wise, because the front windshield is very small and claustrophobic, and has a habit of getting vision-obscuring cracks in it when it gets damaged. It is not, however, wise to take a trip up top when engaged in a heavy firefight, as you're likely to get shot in the head and killed. This can also happen to panicking crew members, so by reaching out and grabbing them you can then pull them back and slap some sense into them.

Your tank also has a periscope, which you can use by reaching above your head and pulling it down. This acts like a sniper rifle, allowing you pinpoint accuracy at the expense of movement speed.

If you think this all sounds a little like a simulation of piloting a tank or submarine in World War II, you'd be right; Capcom has made a conscious decision with the game's plot and setting to draw obvious parallels to World War II. Set in the years after a silicon-eating virus destroyed all the computers in the world, humanity had to adapt to using more "traditional" technology as wars erupted around the world. One such conflict flared up in the U.S., and patriotic Americans have decided to reclaim their homeland -- starting with an assault on New York that might as well be the Battle of Normandy.