Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 12.06.05
Introduction:Peter Jackson's epic remake of the classic King Kong has found its way across all the gaming consoles this holiday season. Pumped full of Hollywood actors, giant dinosaurs, wild natives and the big man on campus Kong, we have one impressive game. Ubisoft gives gamers one hell of a ride and accentuating Peter Jackson's sensational adaptation of King Kong.
The Game:Developed by Beyond Good and Evil's, Michel Ancel, King Kong follows the path of Peter Jackson's upcoming adaptation of King Kong, of course with some liberties thrown in. King Kong is a guaranteed holiday blockbuster and if the game is anything close to the movies final product we should be treated to nice suspenseful ride. Peter Jackson's King Kong is an epic sized adventure that had this gamers adrenaline pumping for the whole ride.
For the most part you won't be playing as Kong; you will be one of Carl Denham (Jack Black) crew members Jack Driscoll (Adrian Brody). I know the lack of Kong isn't what any one expected, but Jacks adventure is pretty eventful and he crosses path with the giant gorilla several times. The only reason why it's a little disappointing is because Kong is so damn cool. You will have to sit through a good two hours before you reach one board as the King, then it's back to the foot. or no feet of Mr. Jack (look down, no feet).
The story of King Kong follows the exploration of Carl Denham's directing dreams as he shoots footage on a mysterious hidden island. The crew and leading lady Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) find themselves in a world that's larger then life, filled with Dinosaurs, giant insects, hostile natives and one big black gorilla named Kong. It so happens that the plot twists, the crew gets captured by hostile natives and they are set up to be sacrificed to the giant beast Kong. When Kong shows up for his tasty meal of Ann Darrow, he surprised, and Kong's heart is filled with love. Kong lustfully steals her away and it's up to the remaining cast to track Kong through the jungles and attempt a heroic rescue.
Being human on this strange Jurassic Park styled island is a constant fight for survival, and the sense of scale is amazing. Jack is really like the size of peanut compared to the massive creatures on Skull Island. Tagging along with director Carl Denham is a tough job as you track Kong through the jungles, and eventually arrive back to the Big Apple. You have to be resourceful to skim pass the obstacles on the island without your being a tasty treat for some oversized creature. You really need to play the game to understand the sense of scale, urgency and survival, at times it's truly amazing, just wait to the V-Rex level and it will all be clear.
Some of the coolest aspects about the design of King Kong are that they decided to go without a HUD (Heads Up Display) and standard gameplay aspects like a health meter. You really don't have health, and you can be killed by one or two major hits. The screens goes blurry, red, and your disoriented right before you bite the bullet, so if you have time, hide out and recover. The no HUD approach is to covey a sense of realism and it helps combined with the movement of the characters. When go through a thick section of the jungle, the characters will actually push away the think brush as the walk through. You also can't just jump up levels, you climb out of areas, and the whole approach is nice to make you feel more endangered as if it was real.
Two minor hiccups I discovered had to do with your teammate AI. One is when your team mates run ahead of your character towards objectives, not staying in line with your character. This can prompt you to get a little lost if you're not in tuned with action. Secondly they can get locked up on terrain and not be able to meet the next scripting points which will cause you to restart the level. This only happened to me once right before I went down the river chased by the two V-Rexs. Other then that, it seemed to be very good as gold. The team mate system is unique in King Kong and the way they worked with the AI characters. They will often shout commands at your character, pick up and use the weapons off the terrain, or even suggest and toss you weapon if you're running low on ammo. Team mates that are helpful, what an idea! Sarcastic tones aside because of their human like nature they help make the whole scenario more believable.
The enemy AI on the other side is very well done, and animalistic. These creatures are beasts and will attack you in several different formations. They also will feed on the carcasses of other beasts which can work as a distraction. You can also use some of the life forms like larvae and fish to distract the smallest to the biggest creature. Again, this is another distraction that sometimes is your only option for survival.
King Kong is a short game which can be completed in about eight-ten hours, give or take. Although short those hours are exhilarating and fun. The games conclusion, ended with the battle on the Empire States building (everyone knows that one) is a little bit of a downer, because it happens so fast. The part where Kong is in the city could have been a little more destructive but I can't really complaint because it's done well. After it's over I could have used a few more hours of Kong or Jack, but I guess its back to the start. King Kong is such a strong experience you could enjoy it a few more times around.
Every aspect in King Kong is developed to pull you into a more realistic world, and it works delightfully. Kong is a breathe of fresh air compared to other first person games on the market. No doubt, this be a game other companies study to try and relay the same feeling into a game. Besides the horror suspense games, Kong puts you in many situations where you heart will be pounding even on multiple runs. Although Kong is for every console, it really feels like the next wave in gaming, and once you pick it up you won't want the ride to end.
Graphics & Sound:King Kong on the Xbox 360 is a sight to behold. Ubisoft gives us near perfect experience considering the layout of the game. Starting off the environments are some of the best seen in a game, lush, full atmospheric lighting and sound. Climbing up a massive cliff and looking back to see where path you followed with miles of foliage spread across the island is amazing. The island seems to be alive and especially with the power of the 360. Effects like fire, rain and water are nicely done and impact the game in several ways besides visually. The level design is also a step above and even though you are restricted in how you travel the game feels larger then life. The path you follow is always interesting and rarely becomes stale. New goals are always set and you will be covering miles of jungle across rivers, through underground caves or high in the mountains. Ever step of the way has been meticulously planned out and has a good impact to the overall adventure.
What really impressed me from the first time I seen this game is the lead boy Kong. The animation with the dinosaurs, and more so in Kong is impressive and believable. I have never seen an animal move so fluid as Kong before and the really did an excellent job recreating this abnormal shape to react and move like the species it is. To see Kong swing and run along the Island is wild and when he clenches up with the dinosaurs to do battle the end result can leave you speechless.
Wrapping the graphics up is the flawless audio track, either it be in the background, sound effects, or voice overs. The audio is impressive and meant to be in surround sound. Like I mentioned the jungle seems alive and when the giant predators roll over the ground you will feel it, and hear the impassive stature of these beasts. The game just isn't the same with audio off, and instantly becomes a treasure once turned on. The voice work is excellent and the actors lent their likeness and voice talent to the game, which always helps. Ubisoft also added some nice touches like character breathing, and a sense of urgency in their voices. Although, I would be way more freaked then these folks let on to be. This project shows how well Ubisoft has been coming along over the years and it's outstanding that they keep improving on all their projects.
XBOX VERSION:For this review I focused on the 360 version because of its obvious graphical enhancements, but the Xbox version fairs just as well considering the platform. The graphics are the only real area where the game takes a hit and you can tell the difference in a glance. Graphics don't make the game, but the sure help bring this imaginary world to life. The Xbox version of the game shares the same score overall as the Xbox 360, with a one mark hit to the graphics. No so bad, and it still holds strong with a positive 9. Of course if you have to pick grab the 360 version or PC version, but fans will enjoy the Xbox one as well.
Mojo: King Kong is way better then I expected and this monkey sure has the mojo. I've been lucky to have a run at this a few times before it was released, and it wasn't until I was fully in front of my system that I was crushed. The totally experience is on full tilt and they really know how to push and pull the gamers buttons. I tend not to dig scripted games, but following around Jack Black's troopers as the fearlessly run through the jungle was accelerating. And the monkey. Well King Kong is just that, the king and it is no monkey business. All you need is one minute with the King and you will realize why the mojo hits a perfect score. A bushel of mojo filled bananas, long live the king!
Lowdown:Peter Jackson's King Kong is one of the most intense experiences I've had with game in a while. This is for sure buy for the Xbox, or Xbox 360. The plot doesn't let go, it grabs you and throws you into the heart of Skull Island, surviving as man and dominating as Kong. King Kong deserves you attention you will be amazed.