Giants: Citizen Kabuto Preview

Interplay is bringing its PC hit, Giants: Citizen Kabuto, to the PlayStation 2 with a wealth of console-exclusive changes. Read our hands-on report of this first- and third- person shooter.

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The PlayStation 2 is quickly becoming a home to some of the PC's biggest games. Tribes 2 is on the way, Half-Life will finally see its console debut on the PS2, and now Giants: Citizen Kabuto is going consoleside courtesy of Interplay. As seems to be the story with most PC games ported to consoles, Giants for the PlayStation 2 will undergo a wealth of changes before it sits on store shelves, suspended in its DVD case. After spending some time with the game, it's evident that Digital Mayhem, the game's developer, is simplifying things a bit for Giants' console debut. But this simplification will only make an already appealing game all the more inviting to console players.

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Click for full-size image

Citizen Kabuto follows the trials and tribulations of a handful of races that inhabit a tropical piece of geography perched on a planet that's plummeting headlong through space. There are three different character races that you play as during the game. The Meccaryns, or Meccs, is the first playable race and uses traditional gaming armaments, such as rocket launchers, laser pistols, and laser machine guns. Meccs can also use jetpacks to scale huge cliff faces, whose uses are limited by a boost meter that gradually recharges while the jetpacks aren't in use. The sea reaper named Delphi is a white-skinned female character who has the ability to cast elemental magic spells, hack away with a sword, launch a variety of projectiles with a bow and arrow, and teleport. The spells that Delphi casts are her race's most deadly ability--one spell slows down time, creating a sphere of influence that Delphi may jump into and slash away at helpless enemies. Another devastating spell sends a fireball hurling toward the enemy, which splinters into several secondary blasts upon impact. Delphi can traverse the sprawling terrain more quickly than the other playable characters, thanks to her point-and-click teleport interface. Kabuto, a towering blue giant, is the game's namesake for good reason. Easily the most intriguing and fun character to play as, Kabuto relies on melee attacks to stomp enemies, trees, and buildings. The giant can also perform cannonball attacks that ripple the terrain or grab objects and hurl them as a projectile attack. The most interesting aspect of playing Kabuto is that he grows a bit after eating several evil smarties. To complete a good number of Kabuto's levels, you must grow him to a size that will let him break down a wall that leads to the next area. The good smarties, designed to resemble the stereotypical alien with a big head and bulging insect eyes, guide you along your quest by providing you with objectives.

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Click for full-size image

As expected, Giants has undergone the biggest change from its PC version with its control system. Each of the three playable characters follows the same general control scheme with a few tweaks to suit their specific abilities. Like in most other first- or third- person shooters for the PlayStation 2, the left analog stick controls movement, and the right analog stick changes the direction your character is facing. The directional pad lets you zoom your projectile weapons from a great distance. Digital Mayhem stated that there are currently no plans to support a mouse and keyboard. To avert any sort of frustration, though, an auto lock feature has been instituted to make targeting much easier. Character-specific moves--such as the Meccs' jetpack and Delphi's spell abilities--are mapped to the shoulder buttons, while pressing down and clicking the left analog stick lets you get a frontal view of Kabuto choking down enemies. And while Giants for the PC has an extensive interface that lets you build special object-constructing factories and control sidekicks, all of these features are included in its PS2 incarnation, albeit in vastly simplified forms that require no separate menu screens.

Fifty different missions are stretched over 18 different tropical locales. You begin as a Mecc and play through a wealth of levels before switching over to Delphi. In a similar fashion, you must play all the way through Delphi's levels before taking control of the hulking Kabuto. Mission objectives throughout the three characters are varied but tend to repeat for each race. Some missions require you to kill sheep-cow hybrids called vimps and take their meat to a smartie. Other objectives ask you to rescue smarties and return them to their homes or simply make it from one side of the island to the other in one piece.

While it's not included in the burn that Interplay is distributing, a map screen will eventually be available to consult when you're lost in Giants' massive levels. In addition to the combat and strategy elements included in Giants, Delphi must enter and win Jet Ski races to obtain objects or abilities essential to making headway. Small shops located throughout the terrain facilitate stocking up on valuable items. Another change in Giants' gameplay for the consoles is the ability to save mid-level. Considering the size of some sections of the game, this certainly increases the game's pick-up-and-play characteristics. Sadly, Giants will not include multiplayer support. While it wasn't a big draw with the PC version, it would definitely have added significant replay value.

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Click for full-size image

When we last saw Giants at E3, the game didn't look promising from a visual perspective. It was running at a low resolution, and there were some antialiasing issues. The resolution has been improved by 50 percent--to 640x448--in the latest version we received, and it makes a world of difference. The textures have been the primary beneficiary of the resolution's beef-up. The washed-out colors and blur found in the Giants of old have given way to a much more vivid game with some startling spell and weapon effects. The gargantuan and highly aquatic worlds are littered with palm- tree-covered islands complete with sheer cliff faces. The character models used in the game feature a wealth of polygons, but small details like bumpmapping have been removed, making them slightly inferior to their PC counterparts. The game's visuals will also be changed so that the game will receive a T (teen) rating. The red blood that squirts profusely out of enemies will eventually be changed to green, Delphi is no longer to be topless, and Kabuto can't spear enemies on his tusklike horns and save them for a snack.

There are approximately 20 enemies included in the game, and Digital Mayhem stated that they will be a bigger presence in the PlayStation 2 version to provide constant action. The enemies shown thus far include millipede-like creatures that dwell beneath the ground, hovering spellcasters cloaked in black robes, and gun-toting evil smarties. Delphi's spell effects are the visual highlight of the game--she can cast a spell that slows the action down to a crawl, which closely resembles the bullet-time sequences in The Matrix, and her melee spells are robust with particle effects. While the levels are absolutely huge, the majority of them consist of little more than land and water. Buildings and trees can often be scarce, resulting in some barren environments. Giants moves at a respectable frame rate, but it can get choppy when several spells are cast at once. When the game is finally optimized and acclusion-culled, though, the frame rates will improve significantly. The plot, finally, is moved forward with real-time cinemas complete with facial animation synched to streaming dialogue.

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Click for full-size image

The sound still has a ways to go before being completed, but the few songs included in the latest version stray into ambient territory and are high on atmospherics. The sound effects are one aspect of the sound that is in place. Kabuto's roar is especially convincing, as are the thundering booms that are emitted as he stomps houses and enemies. The voice acting is heavy with thick British accents, and the actors deliver inspired performances that give the game a campy, comedic tone.

Giants was hit on the PC, and Digital Mayhem is doing everything in its power to bring the same refreshing experience to PlayStation 2 owners. While it's disappointing to see Giants lose its aggro edge for a T rating, the variety of gameplay included in the game will attempt to satisfy fans of many genres. It's also good to know that the game is being tailored toward the console audience by simplifying the gameplay and increasing the intensity. Giants: Citizen Kabuto is currently scheduled for release at the beginning of September, but with a number of bugs left to squash and features to implement, that date may be optimistic on Interplay's part. We'll have more information on Giants for the PlayStation 2 when we receive it.

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