Giants: Citizen Kabuto blends classic elements of real-time strategy and 3D action in an interactive, organic environment. Violent power struggles take place on over 25 island settings. Both first- and third-person views are available, as well as special camera angles like Kabuto's "mouth-cam." Gamers can choose to play one of three different species in the plot-driven single-player campaign or in customizable multiplayer battles.
Giants: Citizen Kabuto takes place on a life-supporting asteroid, far out in space. The game's namesake is an enormous bipedal creature who has lived upon the asteroid for as long as he can remember. The waters of this land are inhabited by Sea Reapers, magical vixens protected by strange, fearsome creatures. The Meccaryns began a group of vacationing young men who crash-landed on the asteroid and they now rule its skies with skill and technological superiority.
All three of these rivals now compete for power and control, making use of the Smarties, an indigenous race who can help their patrons to manage resources and build bases. Each of the three competing species has its own distinct powers and liabilities and players are challenged to use these differences to their advantage.
Giants: Citizen Kabuto (CK) is hard to explain. It's a Frankenstein's monster conglomeration of Survivor, the classic Rampage, Starship Troopers, Jurassic Park, Beach Babes from Beyond, WWF, Smurfs, Dallas and Monty Python's Flying Circus.
You start off in the role of Baz, one of five Meccs who've taken a slight "detour" on their way to Planet Majorca, a pleasure planet of sorts. They find themselves in unfamiliar territory. The indigenous inhabitants are in conflict; the Sea Reapers are bent on domination of the diminutive big-headed Smarties. Enter the Meccs, some romance and a giant beast, Kabuto, and things get interesting.
The action is spread across more than two dozen missions and you'll control all three races (the Meccs, Sea Reapers and Kabuto) to reach End Game. Each race has their own methods of attack and movements that must be mastered to successfully navigate the various mission objectives. Which, thankfully, the developers have integrated into the game. For example, one of the early missions has Baz rescuing Smarties hanging off stone ledges and to do so the jet pack must be used. The jet pack has to become second nature if you hope to avoid being eaten by piranhas or landing in bad spots, like under Kabuto's foot. The jet pack also has several modifications that can, for example, increase your range or provide camouflage with a holographic bush. The Meccs rely on projectile and energy weapons, but you can't hold an inventory of ten weapons. Four weapons is the limit, so you should figure out the pros and cons of each. To complement these weapons are three equipment item slots that can be filled with grenades, flares (to throw off those air-to-air missiles), mines and a hypospray. (All of these items can be found at various Gift Shops scattered about the island or given to you by your Smartie helpers.) As Baz, you also have limited control over your four team mates as they become available. You can tell them where to go, what to attack or to "Regroup!" If you don't give them anything to do they'll stick by you, firing at any target you fire at. They're stuck with double-peashooters but they still provide a lot of help. As the story moves on you'll become Delphi (a Sea Reaper) who is wildly different than the Meccs, using spells, magical bows and a curved sword instead of conventional weapons. She can also swim, which is a relief after playing with the Meccs who get eaten by piranhas if they stay in the water. Several missions and a plot twist later, you get to use Kabuto!
Kabuto is an army unto himself. He doesn't bother with guns, instead relying on brute force and wrestling moves to wipe out those that stand in his way. He can pluck enemies off the ground then hurl them at canyon walls or at buildings or spike them on his back for later consumption. Or just kick them into the ocean. He can even give birth, which calls into question my use of masculine pronouns. The offspring act like wingmen, attacking targets and bringing Kabuto food, and can even grow to half of Kabuto's size. Plus you get three kinds of roar!
All the characters are very easy to control. Some of Kabuto's moves are hard to pull off but the Meccs and the Sea Reapers control very well with the mouse / keyboard combination. Targeting enemies isn't a problem, but sometimes when you think a target is in range it's not and you'll waste precious ammo. Plus you have to account for the rise and fall of terrain. The missions that each character is sent on make sense in the overall story. Length of missions varies greatly - some are very short (2 minutes) while others can take more than half an hour with lots of careful sniping.
Giants has incredible graphics. Of course, there's a trade-off: framerates take a huge hit. With all the extras on "high" 8 fps wasn't uncommon on my machine, making accurate shooting difficult at best. With the frills toned down the fps is better. On the lowest settings the action is faster but objects are blocky and pop-up is common. The graphics are one of CK's strongest points. Palm trees sway, as do the leaves. The water effects are very nice to look at and I found myself trying to find the highest point in a mission to admire the vista. Kabuto leaves tracks and knocks down trees that get in his way. The lushness of the hills and cliffs has to been seen to be appreciated. Weapon and spell effects are good - explosions excessively big and bright, debris scattering high in the air. There are even cow-like Vimps to watch as they troop around the island. Most importantly, everything looks consistently organic.
The environments aren't just eye-candy though. Using cover to reach an objective is sometimes the only way to go. Backdoors and optional paths are there, you just have to find them.
A lot of effort has been put into the sound design. The music is reminiscent of a John Williams movie score, evoking images of Jurassic Park. Sound effects have been put to good use. Burrowing enemies rumble through the ground seeking you out as a sea breeze blows across the beach. The voice acting is pretty good, with just the right edge and accent to make the funny lines bring a smile to your face.
All of the above aspects combine to create a game that is very fun to play. But there are a few annoyances that can't be ignored. The first is that there is no way to save your game mid-mission. If you fail in the final moments of a mission you have to replay it. Some of the missions are very long and dying half or three-quarters of the way through becomes tiresome very quickly. This is most evident with the base building missions, which would be extremely difficult even if you could save your game. Companion AI acts erratically at times. Occasionally, they'll even go off on their own (even after ordering them to regroup), usually getting blown up or eaten in the process but sometimes creating good diversions. Enemy AI cheats. Expose yourself to the enemy at some point and they will always know where you are, even if you've dropped out of sight and circled the island to attempt a surprise attack.
Multiplayer is all right, but all my games were plagued with lag, probably due to all those rich graphics. I found myself having more fun playing the single-player game.
At the end of the day, Giants: Citizen Kabuto is a great game. The humour is consistent right from the start and nearly always borders on ridiculous, which is a nice parry to the action. The graphics are beautiful, especially if you have the latest hardware. But the reason you should buy this game is the chance to wreak havoc as a huge spiked monster and squash things! You'll enjoy the ride and come back for more.
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