Blog 607: Giants

Giants: Citizen Kabuto was, believe it or not, my first ever experience of cockney banter. This banter, if nothing else, had a profound impact on my life and most definitely how I conducted my earlier Warcraft maps (if not the later ones too). Everybody goes on about finding the mythical Citizen Kane of games, but what about the Citizen Kabuto of films?

Funny, then, that I’ve never blogged about Giants. Maybe it’s because I don’t think I’ve actually played it for four or five years — in fact, I’m not even sure I’ve played it on Daedalus at all, who is now more than six and a half. (Sidenote: help me build a replacement, I have no idea what I’m doing and I want to play all the modern games.)

Giants: Citizen Kabuto

So, early 2000s third-person action game with the mix of playing as a cockney space marine, a (semi-)naked blue woman (long before Mass Effect did it) or a giant monster. Sign me up!

As befits its title, Giants is a big game. Well, a physically big game at least — vast tracts of sumptuously low-poly heightmap unfold the moment the game loads, first as background for the menu then as the actual levels. When I say “vast tracts”, I really do mean it; the levels are peppered with destructible houses and trees but most of the area is barren, pristine, textured heightmap.

See, that’s where you realise that this is unfortunately one of those games whose mechanics don’t quite live up to their concept.

It's funny because it's a British flag he's planted.
It’s funny because it’s a British flag he’s planted.

The Meccaryns, for example, play as a fairly straightforward third-person shooter for their campaign.  Except the hitboxes on the enemies are a bit flaky, or at least far too small. There are no instant-hit weapons, which is a plus for simulationists, but all too often the nigh-instant-hit RPG will miss even though you had a stationary target firmly in your crosshairs. Multiply this by the very long distances at play…

On the flip-side, even getting close and spraying the machine-gun around all too rarely results in actual hitpoints being deducted from your opponents, while the high-radius missile launcher doesn’t seem to do half as much damage as it looks like it should do.

That’s not to say it’s particularly difficult game under all that, it’s just a bit annoying.

Obviously, the enemies all have big meaty splash-damaging projectiles.
Obviously, the enemies all have big meaty splash-damaging projectiles.

The base building parts that come in a bit later unfortunately serve to magnify the distances.

As you’re the only character with any actual agency in the world, it falls to you to gather resources. First, you need Smartie workers — whom you can only transport one at a time (well, as the Meccs you can sometimes manoeuvre your disciples to pick them up too, but as Delphi you’re out of luck). Then you need vimp meat — herds of which have a tendancy not to replenish until you’ve slaughtered every last one of them, often requiring an arduous search for that one you missed last time you went hunting.

The grand vistas here serve only to make resource gathering trips long and boring slogs across the map. When the enemies start to march inexorably towards your base, before it’s complete and able to defend itself, the slogs get even worse as you have to run around being all things to all men.

The base building is also fairly dull. Buildings can only be acquired in a specific sequence; once you get to the end, you get the mission-ending nuke item/spell and run off to finish the scenario in five minutes. That is, once you’ve placed all the auto-turrets you don’t have access to up until this point, so that the base can finally defend itself from any unwelcome surprises while you’re racing towards the finale.

Amusing as the Party House is, it takes far too much effort to finally get it built.
Amusing as the Party House is, it takes far too much effort to finally get it built.

The massive landscapes begin to make more sense when you finally get to play as the titular Kabuto. Even so, his size doesn’t come across that well and he suffers from similar aim issues — the grab command, for example, seems to sometimes require you to be on top of a creature, and other times will let you swipe from the fullest extent of your reach.

Luckily, Kabuto doesn’t have to suffer through any base-building shenanigans. He’s all about massive, rolling destruction; though it takes a few maps of fairly boring build-up before you get access to the glorious pro-wrestling-style overkill attacks that allow you to carve through the hordes of Sea Reapers.

Alas, Kabuto does not have a walk speed to match his size and he'll take a lot of hits on his way to that barracks.
Alas, Kabuto does not have a walk speed to match his size and he’ll take a lot of hits on his way to that barracks.

Throughout playing this time, the game kept reminding me, strangely enough, of Morrowind. The soundtrack is studiously serious against the cartoon violence and crude jokes that abound, and in sound and style is exceptionally Morrowindy.

There’s also a lot of swimming around the coast and away from enemies when playing as Delphi — she regenerates health in deep water so if a fight gets tough it’s time to swim to safety, in much the same way that I once swam around half the coast of Solstheim to escape trouble.

… aaaand it turns out Jeremy Soule did the music for Giants, then went on to do the music for Morrowind later. So, actually, Morrowind sounds like Giants! See, I’m not daft after all.

I'm pretty sure this is where our imaginatively-named pig-shaped cushion "Piggles" got all his elbow-drop moves from.
I’m pretty sure this is where our imaginatively-named pig-shaped cushion “Piggles” got all his elbow-drop moves from.

The Verdict

So, uh, in conclusion, rose-tinted spectacles? The dialogue and the cinematics are still fabulous and the rude jokes are suitably timeless, but while the gameplay is not necessarily bad, it has plenty of niggles and does drag on a bit.

Maybe the game works better in multiplayer, when you’re all legitimately tussling over resources and only being attacked by one equivalent character rather than a constant stream of cannon fodder. I suppose nowadays the multiplayer framework will be deactivated, so there’s little chance of ever giving that a spin.

Oh well. At least it has a romance sub-plot!


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