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Giants Citizen Kabuto (PS2)

Giants Citizen Kabuto was a magnum opus with its debut on the computer a couple of years ago. It seems tastes haven't changed as much as you would think in two years because Giants, in a virtually unchanged form, has only now been ported to the Playstation 2, yet it still enjoys with a lot of the critical acclaim it had on the PC. A lot of Giants success had less to with graphics, and more to do with its challenging gameplay.

Here is the lowdown on the story. The story is set on the Island, a massively massive fragment of a long-forgotten planet. This island was once ruled by its main inhabitants, the magical Sea Reapers. They ruled over the Island with an iron fist. To consolidate their power and defend the Island, they summoned Kabuto. That was a bad move considering that Kabuto defended the Island so well he tried to drive everyone off it, including the Sea Reapers. The Sea Reapers rather ironically took cover from Kabuto fleeing to the sea. Enter Sappho, Queen the Sea Reapers, and by association, the most evil person in the land. She wants to return the Sea Reapers to their former glory by "any means necessary" (which in video games and movies is a code word for evil). Sappho's daughter, the not-so-evil Delphi, isn't drawn in by the world domination angle as much as all of the other Sea Reapers; consequently, she sets out to botch her mother's plans. If only she had help. Wait, look over there, a crashing space ship. Yes, in another twist of events, we are introduced to four partying soldiers who have been sidetracked from their vacation. On their way to planet Majorca, a planet filled with cheap booze and promiscuous foreign women, five soldiers called Meccaryns crash land on the Island. It needs no explanation that in the process of getting their ship fixed they are embroiled in the Island's local conflict, and thus our story begins.

Giants is equal parts action, platformer, and real time strategy. The gameplay variations kinda remind me of another good Interplay game, MDK Armageddon. As with MDK, the gameplay variety is a big draw to the game. In one of the Sea Reaper levels, you take control of a Reaper-ski (jet ski), and in an RTS level you are forced to set a pop up bomb under an archway. Though in this level, bad control implementation, not obscure mission objective, is the main impediment.

As a general rule, it's impossible to port a PC game to a console keeping the control scheme simple and intuitive. Alas, Giants is no different. While not exactly horrible, (like, for example, Unreal Tournament PS2) the controls are relatively difficult to use with any proficiency and even harder to master. The main problem is the use of the analog sticks for aiming in the default control scheme. Although I realize that this is the only logically implementable control layout to allow for easy aiming, the analog control is unwieldily and imprecise at best. It's definitely no replacement for a good keyboard and mouse. Another point of frustration came when I noticed that in one of the RTS levels, no matter how precise I was, I could never plant my Pop Up bomb in the right place under the archway. The default control scheme "config A" is the best for the job, but it's nowhere near perfect.

In spite of its age, Giant's still shines visually. The engine gives you the impression of a huge world, making the scope of the environments vast and many times larger than they really are. The reflective water is beautiful. As a matter of fact the whole background is like an oil painted landscape. Although the same can't be said about the textures (especially the ground textures). It's not that they're bad, it's just that they are on par with the rest of the visuals. The enemy designs and textures are pretty dull and banal in the first few levels. Case in point: the piranhas that attack your characters if they stray too far from shore; they look like they've been designed with one polygon each. Aside from that, there're few graphical problems except for the jaggy polygons during cuts scene. I'm no sure this could be counted as a problem per se, the Smarties were purposely made incredibly ugly. So ugly that my eyes almost physically hurt looking at them, so can't help but call their design a "flaw".

Will work for meat. That's the slogan of the easily appeased Smarties who subjugate themselves to a life of tireless toil making trinkets in your gift shops for Vimp meat. The Mecc base (the place where you bring your Smartie pals/laborers), and the pit is where you bring you the viands that satiate them. So, when they finish a hard day's work, they kick back and inhale a nice Vimp shank. Smarties only work as long as there's food on the table. As Delphi, your Smarties are powered but the souls of your slain enemies. As Kabuto, you ain't got time for jibber-jabba with no Smarties. With Kabuto, you don't cater to them, you eat them and grow more powerful.

Though usually straightforward, I found myself ambling about for 10 periods at a time trying to find my objective. Most of the time it was due to a control problem, i.e., I slid down a mountain, or lost track and turned my self around. At other times, however,
I was running around aimlessly, to my surprise, through no fault of my own. Several level objectives aren't as clear as they should be, and without a map getting back on track is difficult and sometimes impossible. I suggest that you don't stray too far away from the predetermined path unless you know exactly how to get back.

The Bottom Line: Bumbling alien marines with British accents delving in the political intrigue of an entire world in conflict. How does it get any better? Come on people -- British accents!

Overall: 7/10
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