Title: Steel Battalion
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Date Published: November 19, 2002
Platforms: XBox

Steel Battalion is a relatively rare game - for a reason. Just to be sure, Capcom didn't produce too many of them for world-wide circulation. After all, we're talking of a really megalomaniac idea for a hard-core audience.

I haven't played this game, but I sure wish I had. A few of my friends have seen the game in action.

From what I have seen or heard, Steel Battalion looks like your average first-person mecha game, similar to Mechwarrior series. According to the people who have played the game, it is an average game, good fun, not bad but not without its flaws, such as the relatively unremarkable graphics and somewhat stupid AI.

But that's just the game side. What isn't in the game makes it far more interesting game - in fact, pretty unique game in the genre.

What makes it so much different is that it's shipped with its own set of controllers, a "cockpit simulator", that is required to play the game. The game comes in a huge box that has three-pedal foot controller and a wide three-section tabletop controller with two joysticks, throttle handle, and over 40 lit buttons (I wish PC joysticks had lit buttons!), even an eject button with a plastic finger-guard, just like in jet fighters. (There is a button for wiping the windshield. I'm only mentioning this because every other review mentions it for some reason.)

Capcom to software pirates: "Okay, warez this..."

Gee, here I'm sitting with my Logitech stick and, um, I guess my stick just doesn't feel real enough anymore. ::ejects Mechwarrior 2 CD for good::

The development team had got green light for their project but didn't tell their bosses that the game was supposed to have the controller too... and that was revealed to them when the project was already too far away. Capcom took risks publishing games with such a ridiculously fancy and expensive controllers.

At the time of the release, in Finland, the game had retail price of 250 euros - Almost the same as XBox itself at the time.

But Capcom's gamble seems to have been worth it. The game was sold out in USA! Apparently there was a slightly larger shipment available for Europe, so it may still be available at some places. Yet, it proves that there was a market for this - mecha fans don't get good games too often, and this idea was obviously crazy enough to sell well...

The game itself, as mentioned, is a typical mecha simulator. Player controls a VT, a "vertical tank", equipped with every typical mecha weapon from missles to cannons. There are fifteen VTs to choose from.

Every reviewer seems to ogle the controllers and nobody seems to mention anything substantial about the plot - supposedly there's this war going on and you're there to end it by fighting, or something. Who cares, as long as you get to blow stuff up! There are only 10 missions in the game, but this is balanced by the fact that the game is unforgivingly hard. The first shock is to learn how to control the thing - a friend who had a chance to try try this was, of course, a bit confused at first.

Strangely enough, Capcom is producing a sequel - Steel Battalion: Line of Contact, of which there's also a version that doesn't ship with the controllers (but the SB controller is required to play it).

Web sites:
http://www.capcom.com/SB/ - official site http://www.mobygames.com/game/sheet/p,13/gameId,7805/ - Mobygames entry

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