Game Over Online ~ Peter Jackson's King Kong

GameOver Game Reviews - Peter Jackson's King Kong (c) Ubisoft, Reviewed by - Stephen Riach

Game & Publisher Peter Jackson's King Kong (c) Ubisoft
System Requirements Xbox 360
Overall Rating 82%
Date Published Monday, January 9th, 2006 at 08:23 PM

Divider Left By: Stephen Riach Divider Right

Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie; not exactly the sexiest name for a videogame. Could you imagine if others followed suit? Madden NFL 06: The Official Game of the National Football League. How about Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None - The Official Game of the Novel. Thankfully, despite its redundant title, King Kong is actually a pretty good game, which is saying something considering how poor movie to game conversions often can be (just check out Phil's recent review of the first-person shooter Starship Troopers for the PC). So grab your camera, we're heading to Skull Island to get a closer look at Peter Jackson's King Kong.

After a brief trailer sets the stage, Peter Jackson's King Kong picks up during the movie's second act, as director Carl Denham and his cast and crew strike the shore of the myserious Skull Island. Players take on the role of playwright Jack Driscoll who, after leading lady Ann Darrow is captured by the island's natives and sacrificed to Kong, takes it upon himself to rescue our damsel in distress from the clutches of the 25 foot tall ape. Joining him for the ensuing chase is first mate Hayes and the director Carl, who seems more intent on shooting his film than saving the girl.

When controlling Jack, the game is played from a first-person perspective with one big difference: there's no HUD. How are you supposed to know how much ammunition you have left? Press the B button and Jack will tell you exactly how many rounds he has remaining for his weapon (a feature also used in Condemned: Criminal Origins, another Xbox 360 launch title). How will you know when your health is low? Well, there's no button for that but let's face it, you won't be able to take too many bites from these prehistoric beasts. Jack can take two or three hits, depending on the creature doing the damage, and you'll know when you're close to death; the screen will glow red, your heart will start to beat through your chest, and the orchestral score will ramp up a notch, giving you more than enough warning. In Halo fashion, your health will regenerate as long as you stay out of harm's way for a few moments.

Thanks to a friendly seaplane dropping supplies all around the island (what?), you'll have some firepower to fend off the megapedes, crabs, ventosaurus', and other fierce creatures that populate Skull Island. You can also use spears and carcass bones to fend them off, though these weapons tend to break with use. If you can locate fire nearby, you can even light the spears and bones on fire for added damage. Or, if you prefer to avoid combat altogether, you can catch small larvae, dragonflies and other inoffensive creatures with your spear in order to set a trap or simply divert their attention with a tasty treat. The spears also come in handy during the puzzle elements of the game. These elements often revolve around locating a lever to open a door, diverting the V-Rex's attention while your teammates complete a task, or locating and/or transporting fire in order to burn bushes that are blocking your path.

King Kong doesn't advertise "Play as man, play as Kong" for nothing. For approximately a third of the game, you'll get to control Kong from a third-person perspective. As Kong, you'll get to go head-to-head against the island's deadliest creatures, fend off the island's natives and solve puzzles with the help of Ann (she quickly realizes Kong isn't going to hurt her). Controlling Kong is simple enough: there's a button to climb/swing, a button for melee combat, a button to grab and hurl enemies, and a button that when repeatedly pressed, sends Kong into a rage, allowing him to perform finishing moves on the boss creatures. When Kong is eventually captured and taken back to New York, you'll also get the chance to wreak some havoc in the big city, climb up the Empire State Building and...well, I think we all know what comes next. Rotating between Jack and Kong is one of the highlights of the game, though I wish there were more Kong sequences.

Visually, Peter Jackson's King Kong is a very good looking game. Skull Island is fully realized as a harsh and deadly environment, full of dense jungles, deep caverns and fierce inhabitants. The characters are well animated, as are the creatures. The only downside to the graphics is how generally dark the game is. This problem is most noticeable when you enter a cavern and you have to find your way out. The head of Ubisoft even admitted that if you don't own a HDTV, you might be better off playing this game on one of the older consoles. Personally, I didn't really experience this issue much but then again, I have the brightness level on my TV set higher than normal.

In terms of audio, King Kong greatly benefits from its silver screen counterpart. You'll instantly recognize the voices of Jack Black as Carl Denham, Adrien Brody as Jack Driscoll, and Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow. The game also features James Howard's epic soundtrack, which helps create tension and excitement throughout the game. Both the visuals and sound come together best when the V-Rex makes one of his many appearances. Each step he takes causes a vicious rumble and together with his war cry, you know you're just one mistep away from certain death.

That's basically King Kong in a nutshell. It's a short game for certain. A veteran gamer should be able to finish it in approximately 6 hours. With no multiplayer to speak of, replay value is zilch, unless you wish to see the alternate ending that doesn't involve Kong plunging to his death. King Kong can also seem more like a thrill ride than an actual game, but there are more than enough exciting moments for me to recommend it, perhaps more as a rental than a purchase, especially to those gamers who enjoyed Peter Jackson's film and want to learn firsthand what it's like to survive Skull Island.


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