We all know the drill. “It’s all a stupid gimmick”, “Kinect is the end of the Xbox 360”, it goes on and on. Fine, I get it, the Kinect is in no way a well-adapted device for the audience popularly referred to as “hardcore-gamers”, and I completely agree with that. Kinect is great for dancing, exercise and children games, but it seems that every attempt at pairing the Kinect up with games even remotely associated with action, story and other gameplay-elements we gamers appreciate, has resulted in failure.
There can of course be many reasons for this. Maybe the Kinect is extremely difficult to develop for, or maybe most attempts have been rushed and created solely for the purpose of releasing some more hardcore-oriented games, but that’s not what I want to address in this article. Because this week, I witnessed what I think is the dawn of a new era for motion gaming. This week I played a game which showed me for the first time, in spite of its flaws, the beauty which occurs when the Kinect is used correctly, and manages to emulate a new level of immersion.
The game I’m talking about is, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. Yes, I know. “Someone get this man in a straitjacket right away!” But, I would very much like to ask those who criticize the game, have you actually played it? I know the great internet is saturated with reviewers almost rendering the game unplayable, but I must admit I had a completely different experience. While the Kinect surely didn’t work perfectly all the time, it managed to bring the game up a notch, and through the combination of the controller and the Kinect, it created a magnificent level of immersion.
Steel Battalion is one year overdue, but it made me thinking. The game managed to create such an intense atmosphere through the mix of the hectic wars the game took place in, and the use of the Kinect. Is this the future of gaming? Surely, the Kinect model we use today has problems, and while the technology is kind of impressing, it is noticeable that it is using fairly early motion tracking technology. There’s surely lots of potential for further progress on this field, but allegedly, that’s already being worked on with the Kinect 2, apparently scheduled for release along with the next Xbox in 2013. But my point is, think of the possibilities! I’m sure every gamer has thought of the idea of being inside a game, or using your body to control it, like in the 2009 film Gamer. Steel Battalion is the first game which has given me anything close to this feeling (in an action-oriented game), and I can’t help but think about the possibilities we will have in the near future.
However, there is one problem in sight. We are pushing the early prototypes of these games away. Steel Batallion: Heavy Armor probably won’t sell well, and it has been met with terrible review scores. I just have to wonder, as a videogame reviewer myself, did sites like IGN even give the game a shot? Sure, I also had problems with the Kinect-controls at first, but I tried to adapt to them, and it worked. It worked to the point where I could quite easily do an action with my arm without thinking, and the arms on the screen mimicked the movement and preformed the assigned action without any problems. Sure, there were hickups from time to time, for example the Kinect would lose track of my arms occasionally, but it didn’t happen too often.
I do however understand how some Kinect-problems in a game like Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor can ruin the experience to an extent. The game is quite hard, and emphasizes on combat simulation. It would have been hard with the controller only as well, which is one of the reasons I think it was met with extremely bad scores some places. It wasn’t only a action-oriented Kinect-game, it was a hardcore oriented game, with somewhat heavy simulation aspects, and it was quite difficult.
My point is, Steel Battalion changed the way I view Kinect and motion gaming in general. The combination of the controller and the Kinect worked good, and it created such a great level of immersion, in fact it is the most engaging game I have ever played. I do not think any future war-game which only uses the controller will match the sheer level of immersion and excitement Steel Battalion gave me.
I hope everyone with a Kinect gives this game a shot. Rent it, buy it, do whatever you want, but do NOT criticize the game, and nag about how there’s no good hardcore-oriented games for the Kinect, if you haven’t at least tried some of them.