"No matter what gaming background you came from, chances are you’d find something you liked from Giants. "
Back in the early 2000’s, while the gaming industry was on the precipice of creating the next wave of “next generation” games, a small studio managed to put out a title that slipped under many people’s radars. Amongst the many shooter clones and a slew of sprite-based real-time strategy (RTS) games that flooded the market, an underrated diamond appeared in the rough. This precious gem being, of course, Giants: Citizen Kabuto – or simply as it came to be known, “Giants.”
The gameplay was alluring, but not in an obvious way. It was a shooter, but it wasn’t a true shooter. It had RTS elements present throughout the game, but it wasn’t a true RTS. It was squad-based and cooperative but it wasn’t cumbersome or clunky. Giants: Citizen Kabuto was truly a hybrid in all regards but it did so with such simple elegance that it made a lot of people wonder, “What am I really getting out of all these other games?” No matter what gaming background you came from, chances are you’d find something you liked from Giants.
"Players are immediately saturated by this delightfully bawdy humor with the very first cut scene prior to the very first mission in the game."
The concept behind the story in Giants is simple enough: three races are essentially fighting for the control of Island; an ocean-like planet somewhere in the far reaches of the universe. The Meccaryns are a race of technologically superior, British-accented aliens in fancy armored suits with jetpacks. The Sea Reapers wield a myriad of mystical bows and deadly spells. Kabuto is a lumbering giant that smashes, stomps, jumps and crushes his way to victory. The game is broken down into three parts, allowing the player to become immersed in each race’s story and how it intertwines into the overarching story. While each race offers something different in terms of gameplay, they each have their own strengths and weaknesses, which relate to both the shooter aspects and RTS elements found inside the game.
Ahh, yes – humor. For some contemporary titles, it seems to be a lost art. However, the first thing you’ll notice upon your first play-through of Giants is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Players are immediately saturated by this delightfully bawdy humor with the very first cut scene prior to the very first mission in the game. This remains constant throughout the entire game, and while there are clear serious moments regarding death and other mature themes, the cut scene sequences provide a refreshing amount of comic relief that you eventually come to not only expect, but also love. Much like Jak and Daxter or Ratchet & Clank, developers at Planet Moon have found a way to ensure that the silliness doesn’t detract from the game or distract the player from the story. On top of that, the voice actors do a fantastic job of bringing an eccentric, witty spark of life to all of the characters found within the game.
If there was one thing that Giants has in abundance (besides a hilarious script), it would be the variety of weapons and tools at the player’s disposal. In story mode (single player), players come across “Shoppes” that give players a choice of weapons and tools that they can then use to complete the mission. This holds true to multiplayer – allowing players to customize their weapon kits to match whatever offensive or defensive strategies they wish to employ. The only exception to this being the player that takes the role of Kabuto, who has no real weapon load out, but rather a series of physical moves and combos.
"There are straightforward adventuring missions, collection missions, race challenges, base-building missions, escape missions, and more to boot; the problem with this being that they are repeated too often and too soon within the single player story mode."
One aspect remains constant throughout each race (during both single player and multiplayer) and that is, of course, resource management. Players use the native inhabitants of Island as workers and fuel to build their base defenses and grow stronger. From the start of the map load, an elaborate game of cat and mouse begins. An escalation of arms slowly builds and erupts into a cacophony of gunfire, explosions, vehicular combat and conjurations that summon natural disasters (tornadoes, to be specific). Squad-based dynamics provide another realm of overlap, even when it comes to Kabuto; at Kabuto’s maximum growth size, Kabuto can command up to two pint-sized Kabuto spawn to do his bidding.
Another point worth mentioning is the range of single player missions available. And yes, while there are extremely repetitive missions at certain points, you have to give credit where credit is due. For a game that boasts an already impressive array of elements from multiple traditional game archetypes, it has an interesting amount of mission types. There are straightforward adventuring missions, collection missions, race challenges, base-building missions, escape missions, and more to boot; the problem with this being that they are repeated too often and too soon within the single player story mode. After completing the Mecc’s story mode, it eases you into the Reaper story mode that involves the same progression. Given today’s contemporary gamer, many will find this annoying but given the time period that the game was released (2000) it is a notable achievement in overall game design.
While most games employ a keen color schematic for their overall design (see Team Fortress 2), Giants has a different approach. Almost every texture is teeming with saturated tones and vibrant hues – a colorful nightmare by any stretch of the imagination – but somehow the game makes it work. Whatever is lacking in colors in terms of texture, the game compensates by using saturated lights. Somehow, it all works together. Vast, orange cliffs plunge into deep, azure waters while verdant green pastures undulate into rolling hills.
"Multiplayer elaborates upon the fundamental gameplay issues established in the story mode by doing the simple math of removing computer AI and putting the unexpected human factory in place of it all."
Visually, it all comes together to paint a stunning array that not only makes for impressive gameplay but also sculpts a lasting impression within the player’s mind. It’s also worth noting that during this era of gaming, video card manufacturers took note and decided to employ screenshots of Giants on boxes of their products (by no coincidence, I can assure you) to showcase the capabilities of their hardware. The bottom line is that this game was beautiful when it was released and visually it’s still beautiful to this date.
Multiplayer elaborates upon the fundamental gameplay issues established in the story mode by doing the simple math of removing computer AI and putting the unexpected human factory in place of it all. While the tools available to the player remain ultimately the same as the single player experience, the gameplay changes dramatically. Base building doesn’t become so much a chore as it does an experience in multiplayer – and each game is completely different in terms of progression. There’s a few different game types to try, but my personal favorite is capture the flag, or as it exists in Giants, capture the Smartie. Tools that were available in multiplayer, such as portals that you can use to connect two different points on the map, suddenly seem much more useful. Defensive shields and quirky, time-altering spells that seemed to be an inferior choice become instantly more curious.
When it all finally blends together in your mind, you’ll come to realize that the experience is so utterly ridiculous as it is unique. As gamers, we crave exciting new experiences – our appetite for them is insatiable. And in this regard, Giants: Citizen Kabuto certainly delivers. While you can’t walk into a store and pickup a copy of Giants nowadays, you can still find it on Amazon or eBay for less than ten dollars.
Review by: Jordan Powers | Reviewed on: PC