Bug free, but lonely.
When Giants was first introduced several years ago at E3, it looked to revolutionize multiplayer gaming with an intricate balance of three distinct playing styles mashed into one cohesive effort. But when it was finally released a year ago, its myriad successes were matched by its plethora of bugs. The result was exciting and frustrating and a total nightmare to grade.
Fast forward to the present. With the highly competitive console market in full bloom, it's a fitting time for publishers to start moving PC games on to these powerful home rigs. In the case of Giants, it also gives them a chance to clean up some of the crash bugs once and for all. Unfortunately, while they were spraying Raid on the pesky critters, they also wound up killing off some of the fun that made Giants such an anticipated port in the first place.
Giants is an action game set on a big, beautiful planet floating about in space. Three races vie for control of the island - the macho, cockney Meccharyns, the exotic female Sea Reapers, and the brutish giant Kabuto. You'll play as all three over the course of the single-player story. In a sense, Giants is really three distinct games rolled into one due to the different abilities and mechanics of the three sides.
You start off as the Meccs. Having crash-landed on the planet on your way to a nifty vacation, you find yourself embroiled in a struggle between the indigenous Smarties and the oppressive Sea Reapers. The smallest of the bunch, the Meccs rely on jetpacks to fly and big guns to destroy. Zipping around blowing stuff up is quite fun, and their burly firepower more than makes up for their lack of endurance.
After wailing through a few hours of Mecc missions, you'll start playing as the Sea Reaper Delphi, who is out to stop the terrible ways of her evil mother, the Queen Sappho. Delphi is the magic user of the lot, using a collection of interesting spells and brutal bow and arrow attacks to beat down foes. She can also 'turbo' around the island like a ninja, blazing past opponents in a flash and gutting them before they knew what hit 'em. Obviously, this makes her a blast to play.
Last (and probably least) is the giant Kabuto. The big boy is the hulk of the litter, a towering, lumbering monstrosity who has perfected the art of smashing things. Playing as Kabuto is easily the most straightforward of the three, though a few power-up moves and the ability to hatch controllable offspring give him some variety.
Still, it's tough to play as the slow giant after zipping around as the Meccs and Delphi. It's not nearly as challenging or rewarding. Kabuto is also missing the base-building ability of both Delphi and the Meccs, though in honesty that's really not as big of a letdown as it should be.
In the port from the PC, the control over the base building portions of the game has been all but stripped away. You basically go out and gather Smarties and the meat (Meccs) or souls (Delphi) of the cow-like Vimp, which in turn feeds the Smarties, who in turn go about building up your little home base. The PC version allowed you to decide which portions to build first. Do I fortify my walls or build a gift shop to get new weapons?
The choice is gone in the PS2 version. You just haul back a few Smarties and keep feeding them until they've built up your base to the max, after which you either plant a pop-up bomb (Meccs) or cast the Tornado spell (Delphi) on your enemy's barracks. It's redundant and not well-implemented.
These base building bits are also far and few between. There is exactly ONE base building mission as the Meccs and only THREE as Delphi. That's it. This was okay in the PC version because the single-player was initially designed as a warm-up for the multiplayer (which, for a long time, was unplayable due to bad Mplayer matching and some of the game bugs).
The problem is that there is absolutely no multiplayer in the PS2 version. When you beat the game, you're done. Though the game is a decent length - around 25 hours or so - the only reason to play it again is to try it on a harder difficulty setting. There's no Skirmish mode or Quick play mode or any other mode at all aside from the Story. Plus, you don't get anything new after beating it on the Normal difficulty setting, which kills off the replay value. This game feels like a port instead of having some notable differences to reflect the different hardware.
Regardless of which side you're playing, the control is very well done. An intuitive auto-aim makes fragging enemies simple and holds up for all three sides.
The story is exactly the same as the PC version, which is a good thing since it means that this is still one of the funniest games around. The Smarties offer terrific comic relief. You'll meet Yan the Samurai Smartie, who may or may not be your father, Boorjoyzee, the grumbling Scottish Smartie and an assortment of other bizarre little dudes. The dialogue is very good and the humor is very British - couple that with top notch voice-acting and you've got wealth of very entertaining cutscenes.
But like the PC version, the hilarity peters off dramatically when you reach the Kabuto levels. The Meccs and Delphi have a ton of funny story elements, but then the Kabuto experience just sort of flings you from mission to mission without any new cutscenes. It's very odd and makes the game feel incomplete.
The PC version featured some jaw-dropping graphics, but the PS2 version will put your jaw back on. It doesn't look bad, per se, but it hardly holds a candle to the PC. Textures are somewhat flat (particularly the ice, which looks terrible), the colors are a bit washed out and several missions have frame-dropping sequences (apparently flying Sea Reaper guards cause the game to chug horribly). The planet is still colorful, though, and some of the explosions and smoke effects are neat.
The enemy AI has taken a turn for the worse, as Sea Reaper guards never really take cover and seem oblivious to the actions around them. I once decimated a squad of guards in a ball of fire and watched as another patrol group standing no less than 5 feet away continued walking along at a steady pace without paying me any mind. Dumb.
At least this time around you can save whenever you want, which is much nicer than the PC version that wouldn't allow you to save in the middle of a base-building level.
I can see why Giants was considered a good game to port, but it suffers in the translation due to weaker graphics, worse AI and the missing multiplayer game. Though the core of the game is intact and it's still got some genuinely fun moments, this is a much better game to rent than to own.