The truly unique premise, coupled with stunning graphics and exciting gameplay, makes Giants: Citizen Kabuto one of the best action games in years.
Imagine what would happen if Salvador Dali decided to design a computer game after an all-night marathon of watching cartoons, monster movies, and pro wrestling. Then you'd start to get an idea of Giants: Citizen Kabuto, one of the most wildly imaginative, funny, and enjoyable action games to date. Actually, to simply call it an action game would be to do it an injustice. While it's played from a first- or third-person perspective in the fashion of a typical shooter, the game also has resource-gathering and base-building elements that are similar to those in real-time strategy games. These elements are linked together by the game's distinctly stylish and goofy sensibility, which is immediately likeable and entertaining. While Giants does have a few problems, you'll certainly want to look past these since the game itself is so inventive and so much fun.
The game's action is set on the Island, a planetoid hurtling through space. It is covered with lush, tropical islands and brilliant azure seas and is at least a temporary home to numerous strange creatures, including the game's three playable races. These are so different that they can make Giants seem like at least three different games in one. First, there are the Meccaryns, or Meccs, who were swallowed by a giant space fish while heading to a vacation planet and then unceremoniously defecated onto the Island. They have access to a full range of traditional shooter weaponry such as machine guns, missiles, sniper rifles, grenades, and more. Meccs also have special backpacks, including a default jetpack that lets you fly short distances before having to recharge. For higher flying, there's a gyrocopter that can be piloted by one Mecc while you carry others in multiplayer mode.
Whereas the Meccs use high technology, the nymphlike Sea Reapers rely on mystical powers. Delphi, their princess, wields a sword plus various bows for long-range attacks, but her real power comes from her spells. For instance, her teleport spell not only instantly moves Delphi to another location, but it also creates stationary clones to confuse the enemy. The slow-time spell temporarily decreases the movement and attack speed of creatures caught in its sphere of influence. These are just a couple of the many imaginative Sea Reaper spells. The Sea Reapers also have a jetski vehicle, which you'll have to race around on in several misssions.
The third playable character is Kabuto, a Sea Reaper experiment gone awry, who uses his massive size as a weapon. Instead of spells or gadgets, he lashes out with pro-wrestling-style moves. Using a special adrenaline boost, Kabuto lets loose with elbow drops, foot stomps, cannonballs, and the butt flop ("like the body slam, but with less dignity," according to the game's funny manual). Kabuto can also make missile weapons out of handy objects, like boulders - or even Sea Reaper guards. In a laudably bizarre twist, Kabuto can also use a special gemstone, like a magnifying glass, to focus the sun's rays and scorch anyone in his path. Furthermore, you actually have an option to view the game from inside Kabuto's mouth or from beneath Kabuto's foot, in case you want a very close look at the carnage.
A gameplay element that sets Giants apart from other shooters is its incorporation of base-building and resource-collecting elements from real-time strategy games. There are two basic resources - Smarties and Vimps - which are two of the many indigenous life forms on the Island. Smarties are little munchkinlike fellows with oversized heads, and they act as workers; Vimps are lumbering alien cattle. The economics of these resources is different for each of the three playable races. Meccs gather Smarties to build their bases, including workshops, gift shops (armories), command centers, perimeter defenses, and so forth. They gather Vimps to feed the Smarties and keep them working. Sea Reapers surround Smarties with magical bubbles and lead them back to the sea to create their bases while gathering Vimp souls for more energy. Kabuto has no need for a base and simply eats Vimps and Smarties; the former restores health while the latter lets Kabuto lay miniature offspring that fight along with him. To save meat for when he might need a health boost later, Kabuto can skewer creatures on his horns.
Fortunately, the base building and resource collecting is subservient to the wild combat action, and it's very easy to learn and control. Unlike in many real-time strategy games, you never feel like a harried bureaucrat when playing Giants. In fact, given the perspective of the game, the base building actually seems very different than in most real-time strategy games, as you can actually walk around in your base and look through and fire remote turrets.