Oh my GOD, we need to talk about this controller.
Have you ever fantasised about driving an actual tank? Well, look no further! The closest you are ever going to get is right here, in the 2002 game of Steel Battalion. That is, assuming you aren’t planning on joining the army – but all things considered, it’s probably safer to play Steel Battalion and only run the risk of being blown into meaty chunks virtually.
Capcom’s Xbox mech-driving game was bundled up with the world’s biggest, most absolutely overkill controller for a home console. Comprised of both a dashboard and foot pedals, the game and its chunky peripheral tried to give the gamer a real VR experience in the early 2000s before home VR was viable. All you needed was a little imagination, a paycheck that allowed for ridiculous purchases, and a spouse that wouldn’t leave you the instant you set up a controller that takes up most of the living room.
As you can gather from the cover art, you’re not going to be driving a proper tank – you’re going to be driving a “Vertical Tank” – basically, one with legs. One that doesn’t work with the standard XBox controller – one that needs a full-on buttony bastard to even get revved up.
Here is said buttony bastard all set up and ready to go.
That’s more than 40 buttons altogether, not counting the joysticks. How the utter baubles is anyone supposed to learn how to use all of that in a tutorial segment unless said segment is about four hours long? Just looking at this thing is giving me PTSD flashbacks from learning to play Elite on the BBC Micro.
But if you were having daydreams of playing Halo or Forza with this fruit salad of joysticks, those dreams will not be realised. It was not compatible with any game other than Steel Battalion – you can’t even play the 2002 Day 1 Studios mech game MechAssault with it. Which is a shame, since that is a great game.
Yes, this delightful controller didn’t work with any game aside from Steel Battalion, and the sequel released in 2004 Line of Contact. And also, the game didn’t work with a normal XBox controller. You know, the one that comes with the console and doesn’t take up approxomatly half of your house and a bit of your garden.
So basically what you have here is the fuckoff version of a Wii Fit Balance Board – something that works well on its intended game but is absolutely useless elsewhere.
Steel Battalion as a game is apparently slow, clunky, and featuring dreary graphics – so basically, a highly realistic warzone-based giant mech-driving game. Having the deck of buttons before you and the pedals and all that gubbins offers a level of realism not avaible at the time. It is also, as you can probably gather from the pictures – absolutely massive.
Capcom weren’t exactly kind to the player either – find yourself in a situation where you’re about to die in your mech, and you’ll be frantically smacking about the buttons to flip the eject switch because once your character dies, that’s it. Game over, save wiped, start all over again from the beginning. Brutal.
Although I absolutely would love to own one of these hench badlads, I’d be the first to admit that I don’t have the space for it – and also, that I would absolutely suck at the game itself. As someone who has the attention span of a goldfish, I just know that most of my time playing with that controller would consist of frantically wiping my arm across the buttons just to try and do the thing I’m wanting it to do. I tend to play most games while in a constant state of panic, and this is one game that probably wouldn’t lend itself to anyone not able to stay level-headed in tough situations on the battlefield.
I’ve seen this on sale at expos and the like a couple of times. I cannot justify spending such a large amount of money on something so utterly useless; but I mean, look at it.