Steel Battalion for the Microsoft Xbox is a game that really stands out on its own. Had it been just another mech robot title it probably would have been forgotten but the inclusion of its huge, custom controller is what makes this game special. The Steel Battalion controller is simply massive. Stocked with over 35 buttons, switches and two joysticks plus an additional thumb stick on the left joystick, the main portion of the controller is a struggle to learn and master. But you also have a pedal system to worry about. Now the pedals kind of operate the way that a car would operate. Your right is acceleration, your middle is brake and the left instead of being your clutch is actually a sidestep option. This really, really helps when you're trying to avoid missiles and tank fire and stuff like that. It is a pretty complex system but if you manage to actually control everything the game can be pretty fun.
With Steel Battalion’s sharp, training free introduction that throws you straight into the heat of a sudden battle you can find yourself completely overwhelmed right from the start. The vertical tank that you're piloting actually has a start up sequence that must be completed manually and the only way to know how to start up the machine is to read the manual that came with the game. There is a special button on the controller, the eject button. The eject button is all kinds of fun. See Steel Battalion isn't just complex it's also pretty unforgiving. The eject button is basically your last line of defense from what is a super harsh punishment for dying. If your vertical tank begins to show signs of blowing up and you don't push the eject button in time it's game over. No continues and your game save is totally deleted. And while that might seem like a bad thing, the sheer realism and attention to detail makes Steel Battalion a completely unique and outright fantastic experience. Having the threat of a full game deletion really builds up some panic while you play.
The graphics are pretty decent for the time this game came out. They’re very grey and brown and not very bright. The sound effects are gritty and loud and the main music for the menus is very military themed. But it's trying to be a mech simulator in a time of war so it's not all rainbows and pony giggles. It pretty much delivers what you would expect from a game of this caliber. Ss for the gameplay it's like I said at the start, I feel like if this game was made without the controller no one would have cared about it. It's not by any means a bad game but it doesn't do anything super amazing. You have to complete missions which usually involve you destroying things and the combat can be very hectic due to the controls. You have so many options and buttons that you might forget about a feature that could have helped you out. I mean really, there's a button to wash your mech’s windshield! It totally adds to the complexity of an already complex experience. You have the ability to get into different vertical tanks and upgrade weapons and there's a level of customization overall that is pretty cool. But this game's focus will always be on its controller. It's also important to correct yourself from thinking that this game is like the sequel that came out on Xbox 360’s Kinect platform called Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. While you might get blown up in the original Xbox version it's always your fault as the pilot. However harsh it might be, the controls are responsive and accurate. Unlike the Kinect game which was just a horrible experience to play. That was just a really bad game that highlighted some pretty significant issues with the Kinect and overall these two games should not be associated with one another.
There comes a point when a game becomes too difficult and pushes away its player. Death Duel for the Sega Genesis is one such game. And while I believe Steel Battalion isn't an experience that a lot of people can enjoy, if you're a hardcore gamer and want to try your hand at something really different then this game was made for you. Sure this might be one of the most complex controllers ever made for a console game but if you play it enough it's worth it.