When the first screenshots of Interplay's Giants: Citizen Kabuto appeared, the general prognosis among the PC community was that its best feature would be its unique character designs: a group of armored soldiers, a scantily clad pale woman with red eyes, and a monstrous giant towering over the landscape. Yet, as more information on Giants surfaced, it became apparent that other facets of the game, such as its gameplay, story, and environments, would be as unique as its character designs. In this preview update, we'll cover the different races in Giants and also reveal a little about the missions of the preview build that we just received.
Giants: Citizen Kabuto places you on a massive island where four different races of aliens struggle to survive. However, only the three playable races really matter, as the fourth race is essentially a resource that you use to subjugate the other races. Each race has its own attributes and skills, which give each race advantages and disadvantages over the others, but each was designed to accommodate different styles of gameplay. Let's look at the meccaryns first.
The meccaryns, or meccs, are the aforementioned armored characters with fishlike facial features and British accents. They are a surprisingly powerful and intelligent species and are the game's most mobile species, as their jetpacks help them to fly in the air, move from mountain top to mountain top, scale buildings, and take alternate routes to an enemy base. However, meccaryn jetpacks must be used sparingly because they have a limited fuel supply that takes a few seconds to recharge. If you're deep in enemy territory and you've been spotted, it would be wiser to devise an escape route via land than to try to jetpack out of the area and run the risk of drifting helplessly into a band of enemy soldiers.
Although their agility may be limited by a rechargeable fuel supply, meccaryn weapons are second to none and reflect the meccs' perfect balance of skills. Their initial weapon, a simple laser gun, is rather weak, but you'll find that the next weapon down the line is the bread and butter of the mecc arsenal. The rocket launcher is probably one of the most useful and effective tools that the meccs have - it is able to take out enemy soldiers in two or three shots. The task is made even easier through the use of the sniper cam that lets you shoot enemies from an incredibly far distance. One of the best strategies for invading enemy territory is to move slowly from mountain to mountain or from building to building and snipe at guards along the way from a distance. Of course, when you get near an enemy base, the rocket launcher loses its value because of its slow rate of fire, but other weapons like the laser machine gun can take over as you deliver a barrage of rapid laser fire against the enemy.
The meccaryns' balanced skills make them perfect for anyone who takes a slow and methodical approach to combat, but be aware that you must use the meccs' abilities efficiently, or you may quickly find yourself in a bad position.
The sea reapers will probably attract the most attention of all the species in Giants: Citizen Kabuto because of their apparent dislike for clothing. Sea reapers are pale female characters with eerie glowing red eyes, and whereas the meccs have a balance of power and agility, the reapers' skills focus mainly on agility. This is not to say that the reapers are weak offensively, but it's clear that they were designed with a strike-and-move mentality in mind.
One of the most valuable abilities that the sea reapers have is the turbo skill. When you have this skill, a circular icon will appear on the screen and flash a green color. When you use the turbo skill, the sea reaper will move so quickly to the designated area you selected that it will seem as if she simply teleported. Like the mecc jetpacks, the turbo skill does need to recharge, but it does so twice as fast as the jetpacks do. And unlike the mecc jetpacks, turbo is a great skill to use if you become overwhelmed by enemy fire and need a quick escape route. While it may seem like an unfair ability, the turbo skill is limited by its lack of precision landings. On a flat plain, it's easy to determine where you're going to land because the flashing green circular icon on your screen denotes the area. But when you attempt to use this skill to scale buildings and mountains, it's easy to misjudge the landing, which can result in your missing the target area by a significant distance.
A lack of long-range firepower in the sea reaper's arsenal also balances out her turbo ability. At first the sea reaper's arsenal of sword and bow seems weak. Obviously, the sword is great for close-range attacks, but with enemies firing at you from a distance, you'll take serious damage before you can get close enough to the enemy to use a sword. The bow is relatively weak, ineffective at long range, and won't fire well unless you take a few seconds to load the arrow properly. While the first bow and arrow variation largely remains useless except for assaulting some of the local wildlife, the sword becomes very useful in chaotic situations when you learn how to use the sea reaper's superior agility. For example, you can take out a number of targets and remain unscathed by using the turbo skill in conjunction with the sword - it only takes one or two swipes of the sword to take out lesser enemies. Generally though, the sword is the only weapon to use with the turbo ability as the bow and arrow weapons are meant to be used at a safe distance. Thankfully, while the first version of the bow/arrow weapon is weak, other versions almost equal the meccaryn rocket launchers in destructive ability.
The sea reapers' saving grace, though, is their magic spells. One of the spells lets you cast a single fireball toward an enemy, and once it makes contact it splashes and breaks apart to form a small fire trail. This skill is useful at long range and is great for taking out a number of enemies at one time, but you shouldn't use it in close combat because it takes a few seconds to cast a spell, which then leaves your defenses open.
Their swimming ability also gives the reapers a distinct advantage over enemies because none of the other species seem to take to the water as well as the reapers can. As a matter of fact, piranhas viciously attack the meccaryns whenever they enter the water. This lets you use the sea to your advantage when you play as the reapers.
The Giant Kabuto
If you were to describe Kabuto in a few words, you would probably use "enormous" and "powerful." Kabuto is an enormous blue oxlike giant with a mouth filled with giant teeth and a body protruding with sharp bones. Kabuto, the namesake of the game, towers over the landscape and makes even some of the tallest mountains look like anthills. As you may have guessed from the description, Kabuto doesn't rely on hit-and-run tactics or magic abilities to take out its enemies, and it doesn't care to use weapons. It simply wades through anything in its path and eats or destroys it.
While sea reapers rely on their agility to get the job done, Kabuto is at the other end of the spectrum. It doesn't have any skills like turbo, and it doesn't have any kind of long-range attack or flying abilities. Kabuto simply relies on size to win the battle. So when you play as Kabuto, the most useful skill you'll have, especially in Giants' multiplayer mode, is the foot stomp, which lets you destroy structures and enemies by raising Kabuto's enormous foot and dropping it like a ten-ton anvil to the ground. The stomp is the cornerstone of Kabuto's attack, but there are other skills Kabuto can use to obliterate everything in its path.
To destroy individual meccaryns, sea reapers, or other creatures, you can use Kabuto's grab technique. With a simple click of the mouse, Kabuto will pick up the individual object and either toss it up in the air, catch it, and then eat it or simply throw the enemy far away to its death. Both strategies achieve the same bloody result. The grabbing technique is important for feeding yourself and for replenishing energy, but it also serves a larger purpose. Whenever you pick up a smartie - the four alien species in the Giants universe - and eat it, you can hatch Kabuto offspring. You can literally witness the Kabuto reproductive cycle as the giant blue behemoth picks up a smartie, eats it, and then squats to lay an egg. The creature that hatches from the egg is an incredibly hideous horned beast that needs to be fed in order to grow. Thankfully, as Kabuto, you're able to impale food on your horns, which you can later use to feed your offspring so it will eventually be able to take out meccs, sea reapers, and other foes all on its own.
Kabuto and its offspring aren't necessarily the best group to use, but they're the most fun. The imagery of Kabuto is great: an enormous blue beast walking toward an enemy base knocking down trees, destroying buildings, and unleashing a hideously loud roar as it draws closer. Finding a place to hide would probably become a primary concern if you were a mecc or reaper facing this monstrous sight.
The Meat of the Game: Smarties and Missions
The last of the game's four races, the crystal-eyed, large-headed smarties, aren't a selectable race, but they serve an important function in both multiplayer and single-player modes. In multiplayer mode, smarties serve as somewhat of a resource. As a meccaryn or sea reaper, you must find smarties and bring them back to your base so they can build additional structures, weapons, and vehicles for you. However, the smarties do require nourishment in exchange for work, so you must also build up a supply of vimp meat - which is done by killing the peaceful cowlike creatures known as vimps. If you don't have an adequate supply of vimp meat, your smarties will stop construction and begin to wander off from your base.
In single-player mode, smarties serve as the focal point to the main story. Many of the missions you have to accomplish are assigned to you by local smarties, and as you complete these missions, Giants' story begins to unfold.
The most recent build, which is about 90 percent complete, includes a few missions from the single-player mode and a limited multiplayer mode. In single-player mode, you start out playing as a meccaryn marine. You've lost your crew after the ship you were on crashed on the game's planet. A smartie named Timmy offers to help you find your mates, but only if you help him first. The first few missions are humorous and simple and reveal that the sea reapers are evil oppressors of the smarties. In one mission, Timmy's father, who cares more about food than his son's subsequent capture by reapers, wants you to bring him some vimp meat. In another mission, you have to find the wife of Timmy's dad, who is held captive by sea reaper guards. To help you out, Timmy's father gives you a holly bush with which to conceal yourself. Apparently, bushes that move are fairly common on the planet, although some reaper guards will actually recognize that holly bushes can't walk and will closely watch you.
The game lets you play all three races in a linear campaign arc, so after playing as the meccaryns, you'll move on to play as a sea reaper. The sea reaper missions take a different approach: You're a sea reaper princess named Delphi, daughter of Queen Sappho, and you are trying to earn various magic skills as you help a smartie samurai named Yan. Each mission requires that you retrieve a smartie that is hidden in a particular section of the level and bring it back to Yan's dojo. When you're successful, Yan gives you a new skill that you will need to complete the objectives in the next mission. Both sets of missions do an excellent job of introducing you to the basic play mechanics of the meccaryns and the sea reapers. They also introduce you to some of the smaller facets of gameplay such as stores where you can stock up on ammunition and on weapons like grenades.
The storyline relies heavily on humor similar to that found in games like MDK - the holly bush disguise brought up memories of Kurt's inflatable decoy. The voice acting is also well done and complements Giants' unique sense of humor. The deep character classes serve as a great foundation for both the single- and multiplayer modes as their weaknesses and strengths come into play in both. The game's excellent character designs, impressive visual style, and real-time strategy and action elements blend together incredibly well, making Giants: Citizen Kabuto a breath of fresh air in a market glutted with clones.