A Humongous Mecha Video Game released for the original Xbox by Capcom in 2002, developed by Nude Maker with Atsushi Inaba's involvement. Perhaps the single most Serious Business, realistic mecha game ever sold to consumers. (There are a few full blown simulated cockpits lurking in major arcades, but they're not exactly going to grace your living room any time soon.)
Why? Well, for starters, look at the controller you have to play it with. It features over 40 buttons (a few of which are used very infrequently, often just during the startup sequence), 2 joysticks (the left one only moving left and right for steering, the right one not centering and used to aim weapons and the manipulator), 3 foot pedals (gas, brake, and slidestep), a gear shift, and a radio dial (with 16 discrete positions, but only 5 are actually used). By the way, the game sold new for about $200, and that's before you factor in the collector's market.
Second, the developers went all out on the simulation aspect. You have to memorize complicated boot sequences on the aforementioned controller to get your mecha to start. When you get mud in your face, digital windshield wipers will come down and clean the screen for you. And that's all before you get to blow stuff up!
And third, the game is Nintendo Hard. Most infamously, didn't hit the eject button in time when the warning lights told you to? Kiss your save game bye-bye. Not to mention, it is possible to get stuck if you fail too much since you won't have enough supply points to get replacement VTs. All of this is compacted by the fact your AI allies can barely navigate the map, leaving it all up to you. You're even treated to an especially painful Boss Battle with a mech that can literally turn you off if you get hit. That's after all the Dakka. If that wasn't enough, every single mission has a time limit, with no pause feature.
The game failed at retail, largely due to two factors: the price, and the fact that Capcom, like most Japanese companies at the time, did not want to support the Xbox and spend time making sure the online modes in Line of Contact worked properly. It's also obviously a very niche, hardcore sort of game, much like how you don't see many combat flight or mech simulators released for the PC these days.
Due to the retail failure of Steel Battalion, only a limited quantity of the game was ever produced, to the point where it can almost be considered a collector's item due to the rarity one would ever find it in stock (which would mean it is used). Not too many copies are even available on the Internet, of all places.
A sequel was made, called Steel Battalion: Line of Contact (2004), which does not come with a controller and is essentially a multiplayer Expansion Pack with no singleplayer. The Campaign mode servers were shut down in 2005, but Capcom released a patch that allowed a code to unlock all VTs for Free Mission use. As of April 12, 2010, it is no longer running due to Microsoft shutting down all servers for original Xbox games. Despite this, the community has moved to Xlink Kai for their Line of Contact fix. LOC.NET used to have all the fine details on the game one could ever ask for, but it has since gone defunct. (It also added support for the Xbox's relatively-little-used HD 720p mode and 16:9, whereas the original topped out at 480p 4:3.)
A completely new sequel, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor, developed by FromSoftware, was announced at 2010's Tokyo Game Show, and uses the Kinect in lieu of the specialized controller as well as the regular gamepad. It worked about as well as you might expect waving your hands at the screen to operate the control panel for a massively complicated mech would work.
Heavy Armor is set in an Alternate History where a global disaster called "Datacide", in which silicon-eating microbe starts destroying microprocessors back in 2020, and by 2080, there are none left (in short, there is no computers anymore in any form), hence the Diesel Punk look. The United States has also taken a major downfall as a result, to the point where the "United Nations" has invaded most of it, driving the remaining US army to Mexico to reorganize. The United Nations are 16 mostly asian countries that have been conquered by China, here called the Asian Empire and appointed into the new UN by them in 2045 at the end of World War 3.
The China in the game is never actually called China, despite the Infantry using Chinese weapons and the soldiers speaking Chinese and all. They are very reminiscent of the Germans of WW2, what with their VT design mimicking iconic Wehrmacht Tanks; or their capturing innocent civilians to put them in installations for experimentation; or their use of Railway Guns to bombard Poland, because Russian forces are pushing into Berlin... Did we say they were China? Oh yeah, they invaded all of Europe before moving to the US and Germany signed a treaty with them. Now Berlin is the capital, and the site for the construction of a new super weapon.
Heavy Armor has been mostly bashed by critics due to problems with Kinect integrationnote some of which can make the game needlessly frustrating (if not borderline impossible) to play. However, many reviewers note that under the problems, the game offers excellent combat, interesting (if somewhat stereotypical) characters and a good plot. Plus, even while the Kinect is... flawed, reviewers note that is incredibly cool when/if the integration works and you're pulling the levers and slapping your crew in the middle of an intense firefight. In fact, if the game is viewed not as "futuristic robot infantry simulator" games like the previous ones did, and more of "walking tank crew simulator", the entire game very much (thematically) delivers on that front. It was never patched to fix its many issues and sold less than the original, making this likely the last Steel Battalion game.
- Arm Cannon: Technically, all VTs use weapons that are mounted to a variable swing mounts that allows them to be pivoted and aimed. There are multiple mounts on a VT usually, allowing multiple weapons to be equipped, but unlike most robots that use manipulator arms (think humanoid hands) that wield scaled up rifles, VT weaponry are integrated with the "arms". That's not to say that they don't have manipulators; they do, but said manipulator arms are only there to manipulate small objects, such as door switches in indoor maps.
- Arbitrary Maximum Range: Further modified by each VT's armor modifier, which reduces a weapon's given maximum range depending on which direction the projectiles are coming from. If the modifier results in a projectile from a weapon that would normally be in range being treated as out of range when hitting the target VT, NO damage is taken. There's no damage scaling/curve at all-either your VT's damaged, or it isn't.
- Bladder of Steel: As noted above, there is no official pause feature. If you unplug the controller, the game actually will pause until you plug it back in and press the Start button.
- Cherry Tapping: The Marker Launcher, which is a utility "gun" that makes the illuminated VT visible on everyone's radar, does a measly 1% damage. Of course, there's nothing stopping you from actually killing a VT that has exactly 1% Durability with it. Considering that the Marker Launcher does not alert the enemy for locking on or firing at them...
- Critical Existence Failure: Played straight for a mech simulation, oddly enough, given that the genre's usually known for Subsystem Damage. Line of Contact treated leg integrity as different from body integrity and that a legged VT could be salvaged in Campaign mode, but is of no longer a point, since the Campaign servers died well before original XBox Live did. In any case, as long as you have 1% of body integrity yet, you are capable of fighting just as well as if you're not hurt at all.
- Cute as a Bouncing Betty: Amongst the scary-sounding names of VT units such as Behemoth, Earthshaker, and Rapier, you have the Regal Dress series. If you're expecting a dainty-looking Joke Character, you'll be sorely disappointed; they are 3rd-generation VTs capable of wreaking havoc on the battlefield as good as others.
- Cycle of Hurting: There are several weapons that can do this; the order of operation usually goes like this: Weapon A makes an enemy VT fall down, fire with Weapon B before it gets up, and then use Weapon A to drop them again. Some weapon even straight up skips the second step, such as the dreaded Anti-VT Mine. In fact, even the mighty Earthshaker can be killed near effortlessly with this tactic.
- Death from Above: Support-type VT units are often capable of mounting Howitzers and Multiple Launch Rocket armaments. Their effectiveness are so legendary a well known saying within the community goes like this:
- "And remember kids, it's all fun and games until someone gets MLR'ed"
- Deletion as Punishment: Can you guess what happens to your save file if you fail to eject in an emergency?
- Diegetic Interface: The entire HUD is part of the cockpit. In early VT models, it's in the form of gauges, plus a few numerical readouts on the outside camera monitor. Later VT models do away with many of the gauges and have everything projected onto the camera feed.
- Difficult, but Awesome: Support VT units, by their quirk of providing indirect support, either via artillery or via ELINT (like the Sheepdog does).
- Sniping in this game does not use the FSS, instead relying on the pilot's judgment to make accurate lead on his/her target(s). To compensate, sniper rifles are often very powerful.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Garpike and its Bang Needles.
- Peeping Spear. It's a weapon that allows the Sheepdog to literally listen on what the other players are saying via voice chat. But...peeping?
- Easy Logistics: Both played straight and averted. Every supply base in Line of Contact can be used to refuel and rearm any VT, even when the base itself hasn't been captured yet. Subverted that none of the supply bases can repair you.
- Played with in the first game: you can request a resupply helicopter to repair, refuel, and rearm you in the middle of a mission. You better keep yourself out of battle though, because you're not invulnerable while you are resupplying. Also, the number of times you can do this is limited.
- Ejection Seat: If your VT's about to explode or flood, this is the only thing keeping your save file intact.
- Engrish: The so-called "Scare Face" series of VT units are actually read as "Scarface". Line of Contact kept that name, perhaps since many people remembered it anyway.
- Falling into the Cockpit: Happens during the first mission (technically Mission 00) in the first Steel Battalion game, when you're supposed to undergo a training program first. It's best to read the manual before starting, because it's not as easy as Amuro Ray makes it look.
- Final Death: Anything that kills your pilot deletes your save. Running out of supply points to purchase new VTs gets you demoted to the same effect.
- Fire-Breathing Weapon: VTs can be outfitted with flamethrowers and napalm launchers. More than just scary factor, both weapons can ignite fires on enemy VTs and force them to direct their attention at extinguishing the fire that's raging on their VT (there is a dedicated fire extinguisher button on the controller, but pushing it forces you to take your hand off a control stick) instead of fighting you, on the pain of a substantial damage-over-time.
- Flash Step: The slidestep pedal does this, at least by lumbering VT standards. Learning to use it to dodge enemy fire while not running down your battery so much that you can't do it anymore is a fundamental part of combat in this game.
- Fragile Speedster: Any of the Light VTs, but especially the Sheepdog, which is more fragile than a Vitzh, the cheapest and weakest VT in the game bar none. That being said, the Sheepdog is designed not for direct warfare, but for reconnaissance and guerrilla warfare with the ability to see enemy VTs on the map at all times and even eavesdropping on communications with the Peeping Spear. The speed is for staying out of combat and for capturing unattended control points.
- Fuel Meter: Every VT has a fuel tank with which they can power their batteries, which in turn power maneuvers such as sidestepping and the rare energy-consuming attacks (such as melee weapons and the railgun). Every VT can also bring up to two spare tanks for additional fuel. Running out of fuel does not kill a VT, but forces them to walk, and higher gear settings are disabled.
- Battery Meter: Like mentioned above, battery power is the source of energy for sidestep maneuver and energy/melee weapons. Normally, they have a fixed recharge rate, but activating Override (see below) makes the recharge time near instantaneous; a massive boon in heated battles, especially involving energy weapons.
- Glass Cannon: Artillery Support VT units are often rather fragile, especially when caught in a close range encounter. Make no mistake: they can lay on the hurt like no other, but they often crumble if a close combat VT so much as looks at it funny. Except for the Jaralaccs and Behemoth.
- Infinity -1 Sword: The Quasar. Arguably the easiest 3rd generation VT to acquire, while being one of the best V Ts in the whole game. Getting it requires exploring guarded side passages in a very particular level though, so only an adventurous pilot or someone who read the walkthrough would know where to find it.
- Both the Jaralaccs Macabre and Prominence M3. The former due to its beefy hit points for a 2nd generation VT, Shield Binder, and very respectable torque and turning performance. The latter due to being very agile close combatant as well as a great missile boat with its integrated Multi-Missile Pods. And finally, both of them because they can also equip the Railgun, which is often the domain of 3rd-generation VTs. It's gotten to the point that both are often referred to as "Second-Generation in name only" or "Mini-3rd gens".
- Infinity +1 Sword: The Juggernaut. Which is basically an even better version of the Quasar, but requires grinding the game to get a big enough score to earn it.
- Instant-Win Condition: Line of Contact is made of this. To elaborate, the game revolves around Strategic Points, which are calculated from each side's total VT strength (amongst others). If, at any point, one side's Strategic Points are depleted (either by exhausting it via repeatedly destroying their VTs, or by capturing bases, or both), the other side instantly wins, even if they seconds to losing under the very same condition. Naturally, many last minute, back-from-the-brink style victories were done due to this.
- In-Vehicle Invulnerability: Pilots won't get injured or concussed from having their VTs slammed or knocked down. However, they can still die without being shot at simply by staying shut down for too long and asphyxiating; see Oxygen Meter below.
- Joke Character: The Vitzh, a Mook VT that has weak armor and weapons on top of being the only VT to have a black-and-white main monitor in the first game, which Line of Contact did away with. The m-Vitzh isn't much of an upgrade.
- Doubles as a Bilingual Bonus, as it is suspiciously close to the German word "Witz", which translates to "joke".
- Kick Them While They Are Down: When a VT is knocked down, it is helpless to retaliate from incoming fire. Naturally, there are weapons that can induce this sort of thing, and sometimes, plain old crashing onto an enemy VT while they are at top speed is enough to do this (referred to within the community as a "Shoulder Check").
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Despite being set in 2080 and having Humongous Mecha, the weapons of choice are generally kinetic projectiles and explosives. The most exotic weapon would probably be the Earthshaker's Gauss emitter, used for shutting down enemy VTs such that they must go through the lengthy startup sequence again sans the cockpit hatch closing, leaving them open to attack.
- Lag Cancel: Clip Dumping (Magazine Rush in Japanese). Main weapons normally have a delay before being able to fire the next round (smoothbore cannons), three rounds (rapid-fire rifles), or five rounds (assault rifles). By holding down the main weapon switch button, such that the initial press cycles to the desired weapon (it will not keep cycling with the button held down), firing, and hitting the magazine change button during the firing delay, the delay will be cancelled at the cost of a whole clip of ammunition, and you usually only start with three clips. In addition, due to the position of the main weapon switch and magazine change buttons, it's difficult to do so without taking the left hand off the steering lever and gear shift in a game where manuevering is key to victory. It's also a very frowned-upon tactic in the community, but may be agreed upon in certain match setups that are quite unbalanced, such as a few 1st-gen V Ts against one 3rd-gen VT like the Earthshaker.
- The Japanese community, however, is much less reluctant to use it, as not only the costs are high to begin with, there is no guarantee that the rapid fire shots from Clip Dumping hits the intended target. As such, they view it not as a game breaking cheat, but as "just another skill" that should be utilized, thus adding to the metagame. That being said, online guides also advise on having an agreement with both the Lobby Host and other players on using or not using it.
- Lead the Target: The Forecast Shooting System (FSS) in 2nd-and-3rd-gen VTs. 1st-gen VT pilots will have to do so manually, without locking on. Doubly applies for sniper rifles, since FSS is disabled, and especially with the Painfully Slow Projectile it shoots and the long ranges involved.
- However, not even the FSS will be of any use when aiming Howitzers and Rocket Artillery; those things hurt, but they have to be aimed manually from the minimap.
- Lightning Bruiser: Medium 3rd-gen VTs are this compared to 1st-and-2nd-gen VTs. They're balanced out by costing a lot of sortie points, making their loss that much more impactful on the team. (When a VT is destroyed, its sortie point value is immediately subtracted from the team's total sortie points. If that value goes to 0, that team instantly loses.)
- High-speed close combat VT types such as Garpike and Falchion/Blade/Rapier units are this. They can seriously dominate a fight with their speed and overwhelming CQC abilities.
- Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: The Siegeszug and Jaralaccs Macabre carries what is called a Shield Binder with them. When activated, it makes most incoming frontal attacks ineffective (especially the chaingun varieties), at the cost of not being able to fire primary weapons.
- Shield Bash: What you could actually do with the aforementioned Shield Binder if you want to be aggressive with it.
- Macross Missile Massacre: Many VTs can be equipped with multiple missile type armaments. Some can be specialized to carry only that to deplete the enemy's Chaff supply before moving in for the kill. However, the most emblematic weapons of this trope is both the SL-GM (Six-Launch Guided Missile) and the MM (Multi-Missile Pod), which can fire anywhere up to 8 missiles in a single trigger pull. Even better, the MM does not need to be locked on, and is practically a death sentence for any VT units that are starting up. See Mercy Invincibility entry below.
- Magnetic Weapons: The railgun, even with its massive weight (where it isn't a fixed-mount weapon), limited VT availability, firing delay, massive battery drain during said firing delay, and low ammo count (10 or 8 rounds), is one of the most devastating weapons in the game due to its projectile speed, range, and above all, enough damage to take out most VTs in one to three hits, maybe 6 or 8 in extreme cases such as an undamaged Behemoth or Earthshaker.
- A Mech by Any Other Name: Vertical Tank
- Mercy Invincibility: Averted with extreme prejudice, especially in Line of Contact. The fancy 30-second boot sequence can be a death sentence if you decide to respawn too close to the action, as you can be killed while you barely got your VT off the starting point.
- Oxygen Meter: Line of Contact added this along with the shutdown feature to make your VT invisible to enemy sensors. Any time your VT is shut down with the cockpit hatch closed (either manually with the toggle switches, by the Rapier's Stun Rod, or the Earthshaker's Gauss emitter), your view will turn gradually white, signifying the loss of oxygen. Let it go for too long and you'll asphyxiate and die, get taken out of the match even if you have enough sortie points to respawn in another VT, and your pilot data gets deleted.
- Overdrive: The aptly-named Override command available to 2nd-generation and 3rd-generation VT units allows near-instantaneous recharge of battery power (critically required for side-stepping maneuvers and energy weapons) at the cost of ten times the normal fuel consumption. Needless to say, while this can basically turn the tide of a fight, reckless usage thereof can leave you stranded and vulnerable in the middle of a raging firefight.
- This is somewhat tempered by plentiful supply bases in Line of Contact that can refuel you rather quickly.
- Painfully Slow Projectile: Almost every weapon is this in Line of Contact, but ESPECIALLY smoothbore cannons with their low rates of fire. Even the High Velocity Missile Launcher can be slidestepped around at longer ranges by eagle-eyed pilots, and while the railgun is actually fast enough to hit anything within range once fired, slidestepping just before it fires will make it miss.
- Pile Bunker: The Garpike's signature Bang Needles.
- Real Is Brown: The cockpits on 2nd-and-3rd-gen VTs are quite colorful, but the outside environments aren't.
- Real Robot: How real?
- Vertical Tanks tip over when unbalanced, and they tip over easier when loaded past the limit, making them top-heavy.
- Vertical Tanks have built-in fire extinguishers to snuff out any fires that might start due to being hit by a specific weapon.
- Vertical Tanks also have a built-in screen cleaner to wipe the monitor camera off after getting back up.
- Vertical Tanks even have a small arm used to pick up containers and press buttons indoors.
- Rollerblade Good: Line of Contact turned 5th gear into a wheel mode. It's smooth and fast on level terrain, but poor for climbing and harder on the balancer when turning, making it more likely to tip the VT over.
- Save-Game Limits: Just like a Roguelike. One file per pilot, and the game saves with your every decision. Lose a VT in combat? The supply points spent on it are gone. Run out of supply points in the middle of a campaign? You're demoted, time to make a new file! Fail to eject before your VT explodes or sinks and floods? Your pilot's KIA, time to make a new file!
- Super Drowning Skills: Tread in water that's too deep and your VT will start to sink, with water flooding into the cockpit. Take too long to eject and you'll drown, which means-you guessed it-a save file wipe.
- Super Toughness: The 2nd-gen Behemoth and all Jaralaccs VTs, as well as the 3rd-gen Earthshaker in particular. The Earthshaker has the single highest armor of all VT models. It can simply outlast its opponents through sheer durability; even the railgun, the most damaging weapon in the game per shot, requires 6-8 shots to down it, which is almost the entire ammo supply of a railgun. Jaralaccs units are also highly durable with great armaments (and actually respectable speed and torque), and the Behemoth bucks the trend of "fragile artillery VTs" with its durability being second only to the Earthshaker.
- Anti-Frustration Feature: Narrowly averting an Unwinnable by Mistake; it is very much possible for you to lose so many crewmates that you run out of crews to run your VT. You will then have to quickly learn how to start your engine, load a shell, unload a spent casing and more all by yourself. In the middle of a battle. However, after a few battles, you do get a replacement crew from another detachment, although this time, they are nameless soldiers that goes by the name "Meatbag" or "Meathead".
- After the End: The game is set roughly 60 years after "Datacide", where an evolving silicon-eating microbes spread worldwide, eating computerized devices and causing societal chaos which led to a cross between post-apocalypse and World War II. China took over as the new UN and has become a fascist empire (coloquially dubbed "Uncle"), and by the beginning of the game, the US has to reclaim their nation from the Uncles.
- Anyone Can Die: Every character is unique, and like in Fire Emblem, all deaths are permanent.
- Artifact Title: This game has absolutely nothing to do with the first two games, the only carryover are the Vertical Tanks, which look more like the HOUNDS from Chrome Hounds than the VTs from the previous games.
- Big Applesauce: The debut trailer shows the United States making a D-Day-style offensive on Manhattan against the Asian Empire's forces.
- Continuity Reboot: This serves as one for the Steel Battalion series. Instead of the Pacific Rim Forces and Hai Shi Dao, this game focuses on America and its allies battling the Chinese led UN (known as the Asian Empire) in the Diesel Punk style future of the 2080s. The Vertical Tanks have been redesigned to be literal tanks with legs that require a team of 4 to pilot instead of the more traditional Humongous Mecha seen in the previous games.
- Diegetic Interface: Like the first game. With the Kinect integration, you actually push the levers and buttons in the cockpit.
- Diesel Punk: WWII Punk specifically, with the very Operation Overlord landing-esque trailer...in 2082. Justified in that microprocessor production has stopped due to a silicon-eating microbe manifesting back in 2020, hence more primitive technology than what the timeframe would suggest.
- Eagleland: A Type 1 example, at least, before the Asian Empire invaded.
- Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: An actual game mechanic enabled by Kinect, along with other forms of crewmate interaction.
- In Name Only: Different setting, different VT designs, gamepad + Kinect instead of a proprietary physical controller. About the only things bridging Heavy Armor with the original Xbox games are the words "Steel Battalion" in the title and combat in mechs called Vertical Tanks.
- Invaded States of America: Invaded by the Chinese led UN, America has all but 8 of its 50 states (this includes Puerto Rico, which was elevated to state status and now San Juan serves as the US capital in lieu of Washington DC.)
- Nothing Is Scarier: The game is notable in its lack of music, which makes all the experience more intense. There is nothing like the repeating sound of bullets ricocheting off a VT's armor while you frantically try to take down enemies in the area.
- Outside Ride: There are members of your VT crew that can hitch a ride on top of your VT, tank desant-style. Of course, this means that if you get into a firefight, they can die.
- Plot Armor: Natch is the only teammate that will never die no matter how bad the situation will be... until the end if you're not cautious enough to provide him cover fire while he needs to operate some machinery by walking on foot.
- Quick Time Event: Rather annoyingly, the game requires you to do many scripted events, not only in order to advance, but also in order to survive. Since these events require the use of Kinect, Some Dexterity Required is an understatement.
- Sequel Difficulty Drop: This game employs contemporary checkpoint based recovery in case of main character's death instead of Final Death. However if your named crewmates are KIA by the time the mission finished, he/she will be replaced. And almost each of the crewmates are unique (until all of them are dead and you are getting characters codenamed "Meatbag" or "Meathead")
- Shout-Out: The names shown on the VT in the Gamescom 2011 trailer 39 seconds in are those of actual fans of the original games.
- Video Game Caring Potential: It's hard not to care for your teammates that has been fighting with you and generally sharing your painnote . When one dies, especially by a shot that you thought only damaged your VT, you can feel the morale plummeting, both of your surviving crewmates and yours.
- You can however, take a risky break from battle to try helping your wounded crewmate. Sometimes, you can even succeed.
- Every once in a while, your crewmates will get letters from home. They are often banal, but it helps humanize all of them.
- Walking Tank: Rather literally. Gone are the days of the high tech walking robots that can employ rollerskates and state-of-the-art weaponry. These Vertical Tanks live up to their tank name by being cramped, manned by multiple crews, and require functions expected from a regular tank, like loading a round, ejecting spent casing, etc. Heck, even the startup sequence has to start with physically winding a generator before pulling the ignition lever.