Steel Battalion: Line Of Contact
Line of Contact's target audience--mech obsessives who lived on ramen for a month to afford the required 200-buck controller--will find lots to like in this online-only follow-up. Survival in the evolving campaign requires militant commitment, exactly what you want from a simulator that demands as much hand-eye savvy as driving a stick shift while programming your VCR. Do you pick a featherweight robot and play recon? Should you lock on to enemies--thus alerting them to your presence--or play stealthy and use trickier manual aiming? Is powering down your electrical system to spoof pursuers worth the risk of running out of air? We're talking a fighter-jet level of complexity. But it's all a big cockpit tease, because online play is busted. You'll twiddle your sticks for half an hour waiting for enough players to start a match, and hefty connection-speed requirements make for laggy play in games with more than six people. It's a shame, because when this game works, it works. Capcom insists it's still tweaking--we'll let you know if this jalopy gets fixed up and flies right.
To paraphrase the saying, Line of Contact is long periods of intense boredom interrupted by moments of sheer excitement. Maybe, maybe 10 percent of the game is actual combat. The rest is spent finding a good server (a frustrating trial-and-error process, thanks to an awful interface), waiting for others to join, outfitting your mech, and moving into position. The actual fighting is thrilling-- both overall strategy and reflexes on the 40-button controller are important--and the campaign mode is brilliant. But when you've fought only three battles in two hours, you start to wonder if it's worth it.
Line of Contact is a poorly conceived, terribly executed piece of crap--but those who already own the original $200 game have almost no choice but to buy this full-priced addendum. Anybody who isn't a member of the decadent gaming elite, steer clear. If you can even establish a game on Xbox Live, barring connection issues, you'll have to contend with an appalling online user interface, mountainous learning curves, and impenetrable lag. Spare yourself the pain.