One of the more unusual and innovative looking games lurking amongst British publisher Virgin Interactive's impressive line-up is "Giants", the debut game from Planet Moon. As the company was formed by the brains behind Shiny's hit third person action game MDK, it came as no great surprise to discover that Giants features gorgeous graphics, a bizarre science-fiction plot, a quirky sense of humour, and of course a sniper rifle.
Set on the remains of a shattered planet, Giants is an action-strategy game which sees you battling your way across a series of islands as one of three factions - the Meccaryn, the Sea Reapers, and Kabuto, the giant flesh-eating monster of the title. Let me introduce you...
Fear The Reapers
The most visually striking of the factions is undoubtedly the Reapers, a race of half-naked blue-skinned women who are natives of the planetary fragment on which the game is set.
As well as serving to ensure that the game receives an 18+ rating when it is released in Europe this Christmas, these lovely ladies also have a wide range of devestating spells at their disposal. They might look harmless enough at first sight, but the Reapers can call up tornados and spectacular walls of fire to drive off their enemies, or even shrink attackers down to a size where they are no longer a threat. The special effects unleashed by the Reapers' magic border on the stunning, and with over a dozen different spells to learn throughout the game you should never be short of interesting new ways to reduce your enemies to a pulp.
One of the most impressive spells which the Reapers can use creates a globe within which time passes at one eighth of the normal rate for everyone apart from the caster. This opens up the possibility of having Matrix style "bullet time" fights, watching your opponents moving around in slow motion within the sphere as you effortlessly dodge their attacks and fire in at them using the Reapers' bows.
At the opposite end of the scale is Kabuto, a giant creature who looks like a cross between Godzilla and King Kong on a bad hair day, but is far less friendly than either of them. Originally created by the Reapers to defend them, he has now gone on a rampage and forced the Reapers to flee back into the seas surrounding his island.
Kabuto relies on his sheer size and brute strength to give him the edge in the game, running around smashing stuff up with his bare hands, trampling on buildings, and eating people whole. And if you're not feeling hungry, you can always impale your victims on one of Kabuto's horns and save them kebab-style for later dining. You can also pick up objects and throw them around, jump up and down to create earthquakes, and generally cause death and destruction on a suitably massive scale.
Amusingly the game also includes a "Kabuto cam" mode, which allows you to see the world through the giant's out-sized jaws. As you can imagine, watching your gaping mouth descending on some terrified opponent as you prepare to gobble them up is certainly a satisfying experience...
For The Lads
The third faction which you can control in Giants are the Meccaryn, a group of five cockney space marines who have set down on the Reapers' planet after an unfortunate run-in with an alien lifeform on their way to a holiday on Planet Majorca...
Baz, Tel, Reg, Gordon and Bennett are now stranded until they can gather the resources they need to repair their ship, but they're certainly not helpless. With jet packs, shields, mines, homing missiles and a wide range of guns, they rely on their technology to hold their own against the other factions. Equipment varies from the useful to the downright ridiculous, including the wonderfully tongue-in-cheek "stealth bush", which is a cross between a Monty Python sketch and the cardboard boxes from "Metal Gear Solid". Activating the stealth bush causes it to unfold around you, cunningly disguising you as a small garden shrub, which is usually enough to fool your enemies as long as you stay still.
"Aliens : Special Edition" style automated guns are another highlight of your arsenal, but the Meccaryn's ultimate weapon is the rather silly Millenium Bomb, which is almost as big as you are. Having lugged it across to your target, you simply put it down, light the blue touch paper, and run like hell. When the bomb explodes a few seconds later is causes the ground around to cave in, producing a vast crater which will swallow anybody unfortunate enough to be in the area.
The Meccaryn, Sea Reapers and Kabuto aren't the only creatures you will come across in Giants though, as the planetary fragment on which the game is set is home to numerous other species as well.
Top of the pecking around are the "smarties", strange man-like creatures with big heads who will build things in exchange for food and protection. The more smarties you win over, the more impressive the equipment they can build for you becomes. They can construct vehicles, weapons and entire bases for the Meccaryn, and provide new spells for the Reapers. Of course, Kabuto just eats the smarties, but doing so enhances his abilities.
Meanwhile at the bottom of the evolutionary ladder are the vimps, big dumb herbivores that are used for food and resources by all of the races, usually by blasting them into little meaty pieces. There are also a whole range of other creatures, both indigenous life-forms and creations of the Reapers, ranging from sea dragons and giant bat-like animals to humanoid bodyguards and out-sized bull-like creatures.
Giants is shaping up to be one of the best looking games of the year, with bizarre and intricately detailed creatures, impressive open terrain to fight over, stunning skies to admire, and a whole shed load of excessive weapons and magical effects to set loose on your enemies.
The gameplay itself is also very promising, with a range of missions to carry out, all manner of unusual weapons and equipment to use, a strange new take on resource management, and a more than healthy dose of humour. With the game currently set for release in the UK in mid-December, we should know soon whether it can live up to that potential...