We also got a feel for how Heavy Armor refuses, despite it's WWII chic, to glorify war itself. In one stage, our crew teased another soldier during a moment of calm about his lady troubles. Within 30 seconds, that soldier was blown to smithereens as enemy forces attacked on a freeway. We got a feel for how out-of-tank controls worked as we had to scurry and make crawling gestures to reach a detonator charge (and avoid one-hit-kill enemy fire) and gesture to blow up a bridge, which you can see below. It's intense moments like these that heighten the best moments of what we played in Heavy Armor: it's always stressful to play, but in its best moments, that stress translates to exhilaration when you're cracked a mission.
It was in the next sections that things got hairier. In a co-op friendly section, we had to navigate a street full of booby-trapped cars that were set to explode in close proximity en route to blowing up several satellite dishes. We destroyed the cars, but as we traversed one street, we discovered that, in fact, there are indestructible mines. After restarting the mission a few times, we discovered that, in fact, the indestructible mines are in place to keep you out of certain areas. Deadly invisible walls? Take that as you will. Even so, after quite a few deaths, we got the hang of the game’s pace and managed to make it through. The fact that the game gave little warning about those barriers irked us, though.
In the final section we tried out, we faced a tough battle against two deadly tanks. We faced down a sequence in which we had to scout an oncoming enemy attack while parked, notify our engine man to start firing up the tank to warm up and move, then strafe left and right to avoid tank-puncturing artillery shells and keep fighting. It took several, several tries. Again, it’s not just that the game was necessarily tough to handle; it felt as though the game was leaving out information to make it all more challenging. We weren’t happy about this.
Despite these frustrating moments, when you have the hang of Heavy Armor’s idiosyncratic approach, it’s highly rewarding. We found that slow, deliberate gestures don’t always work, and you’ll need to be precise and swift when chaining together a number of commands. When you’ve got the hang of it, it’s a genuinely unique experience that’s unlike anything we’ve experienced. After all, how many games allow you to pantomime all of the moments of operating a huge tank? From managing your teammates to lining up your shots, it’s a game that requires a certain amount of forethought for your next moves, lest you repeat the same mistakes.
At times, we became very frustrated with Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor, and in other instances, we felt a sense of battle-worn exhilaration after cracking past enemy lines. Make no mistake, it doesn’t seem to be a game that’ll be immediately accessible for many core gamers – and we expect opinion to be divided -- but with a lot of practice runs, and oodles of patience -- it looks like a game that could be as rewarding as it is unconventional. We just really hope Capcom and From Software decide to drop a demo to prepare people.