Night of the Giant

by Tom Chick

December 15, 2000

We played the Meccs for a while in teams of two.  For all the guys at Shoot Club knew, this was the extent of Giants: some little blue guys with guns and jet packs setting up their bases and occasionally making a grab for each other's "Shorties".  They're actually called "Smarties", but no one heard me right when I was explaining the game.  So somewhere along the way, they started calling them "Shorties".  They also referred to them as "the Mars Attacks guys".

"Is this TRIBES?" they asked a couple of time.

"No, this is Giants," I would tell them.  Lucky for Trevor they didn't ask why it was called that, because he wanted to surprise them with Kabuto.  They didn't ask why a game about little blue men carrying bug-eyed big-headed Shorties on their backs was called Giants.  They did, however, ask about the Sea Reaper on the loading screen.  "Is she in this game?" they asked.  There's nothing like nipples visible through thin fabric to pique male curiousity.

There was a fairly common progression for all the guys at Shoot Club getting used to the Mecc arsenal.  They started out using the Millennium Mortar to indiscriminately sling rounds at the enemy base.  This was a great way to clear out clusters of turrets without exposing yourself to return fire.  But then the other team figured out that turrets should be spread out a little.

The next step is realizing that the sniper rifle is the best weapon for harrying an enemy base and taking out its defenses.  Unlike the smoke trails from the missile weapons and the colored streaks behind a Millennium Mortar, the sniper rifle doesn't draw a clear line back to the attacker's position.  It also does a lot of damage and holds more ammo than many of the other weapons.

For straight Mecc-a-Mecc sluggery, the Proximity Missile quickly became a favorite.  It doesn't require a lot of precision, which comes in handy during the jerky framerates you'll get on slower computers.  "Why is this game so jumpy?" one of the new guys asked.

The Shield Pack was also a favorite.  There were several attempts -- some successful -- to fire up the Shield Pack and make a beeline through enemy turret fire to grab the other team's Shortie.  And once everyone realized how mines worked, they were also great favorite, strewn liberally around the map.  Princess Diana would have been mortified.

After a few rounds, Shoot Club was comfortable with Mecc vs. Mecc games.  Then Trevor quietly set up the four computers for a game with three Meccs vs. one Kabuto.

"Okay, now it's three of you guys against me," Trevor announced, suppressing a giggle, "If I get your Shortie, I score.  I mean Smartie.  If I get your Smartie, I score.  It's called a Smartie, not a Shortie."  Trevor was the only one who insisted on calling them Smarties.  'We should respect the developers' creative vision,' he had said, even though he keeps accidentally referring to 'Kabuto' as 'Kabuko'.  He still thinks Shenmue is called 'Shem-nue'.

"And we're trying to get your Shortie?" one of the guys asked.

"I don't have a Shortie in this game," Trevor said.  "All you have to do is kill me.  If you kill me, you score." 

While the game was loading, a process that took upwards of several minutes for the slower computer, I whispered to Trevor, "Shouldn't you explain Kabuto's weak spot?  That green codpiece where you have to shoot him?"

"Naw, it'll be more fun this way," Trevor said.  The level loaded and he ran for the Shortie spawning area.  He gobbled them up and started growing Kabuto towards his most powerful form.

"What the hell is that?" one of the other guys asked when he saw this.

"That's Trevor," I said, "Try and shoot him in the crotch".

"Dude, don't tell him that," Trevor said.  The cry went out: "shoot Trevor in the crotch!".  And try they did, but to no avail.  Trevor didn't even bother going for the Mecc team's Shortie.  He was just having fun picking up the other players and eating them.  Every now and then someone would plink Kabuto's green crotch area with a gun, but then Trevor would just gobble a few Vimps to heal up. 

It was gratifying listening to the other players shriek and yell while an unstoppable behemoth plucked them up and noshed on them like popcorn shrimp.  I'm not sure it makes for very compelling gameplay, but Trevor seemed to enjoy it.  Giants is his favorite game of the year.

After a while, it became clear that there was no practical way to kill Kabuto, much less keep him away from the Mecc team's Shortie.  Eventually the guys playing the Meccs gave up and wandered over to the TV to play Virtua Tennis.

"Hey, c'mon, where are you guys going?" Trevor said, "Here, I'll let you take a free shot.  I swear.  I won't move.  One free shot, over here."

In looking at the readme, I see that the developers of Giants recommend four Meccs to one Kabuto.  Even then, I can't imagine it would make a difference.  Giants is a game without balance.  As long as it's cool, who cares if it's fair?

We tried the Sea Reapers later that evening.  "Okay, I won't be Kabuko anymore, I swear," Trevor promised. 

But we ran into the same problem, which is why the readme reccomends a two to one ratio of Meccs to Sea Reapers.  It was a pretty simple matter for a Sea Reaper to ride her ski to the rear of a Mecc base, waltz in with a Cloak spell to snatch the enemy Shortie, and then swim back to her base with impunity since the Meccs are devoured by Piranha if they get in the water.  Even though Interplay removed their nipples, the Reapers are still powerful, fast, and versatile.

After Shoot Club was over, I was gathering beer bottles, Ho Ho wrappers, and errant chips from out of the rug.  It was 7am. Trevor was sitting at the Playstation 2 trying to do a full flip in SSX. He had to be at work in an hour.

"Man, you're really picky," he told me, plowing Elise into a snowbank, "Giants is the best game to come out in a long time, at least since F.A.K.K. 2.  And you're all hung up about nitpicky issues.  Giants rocks hard and long and all night."

"Actually, it crashes a lot," I said.  Several times a player would get dumped to the desktop and he'd have to restart the game and rejoin.

"Dude, there's no such thing as bug-free software.  Welcome to the real world where the rest of us live.  Don't be so picky."  Trevor skidded into a metal post.

"Well, there's also the balance issue," I ventured.

"You know, it's not someone else's responsiblity to balance the game for you.  Quit trying to play it the way it's not designed to be played.  The readme says four Meccs to a Kabuto.  If you can't honor that, don't bitch about it."  Trevor landed in mid flip and bounced off the course out into the forest.

"But there's no skirmish AI to put in more Meccs and I only have four computers."

"It's not their fault you don't have the right hardware," Trevor said, trying to find his way back to the track, "You are really picky."

"And then there's the graphics."

"What are you talking about?  The graphics in Giants look great."  Trevor banged into a rock.

"We had to turn the detail way down to get a good framerate and it's still not very smooth.  I'm used to how well stuff like Rogue Spear and Unreal Tournament runs."

"Like I said, it's not their fault you don't have the right hardware," Trevor said.  He did a belly flop onto the track and slid into a pipe. "Man, the AI in this game isn't very good."

"You know you're supposed to let up on the buttons before you land?"

"Now you tell me."  Trevor crossed the finish line in last place.  "SSX is serious ass.  I think SSX is short for 'sucks'.  Are you done screwing around?  Let's get some breakfast. You know that cute waitress at Denny's? I think her shift started an hour ago."

"Aren't you going to go home to take a shower before work?" I asked.

"Why?  I haven't been jogging or anything.  It's not like I sweat at Shoot Club.  I bet my breath stinks, though. Can I use your toothbrush?"

"No way."

"Dude, you are so goddamn picky."

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