Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game Of The Movie

"It wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast." - Jack Denham.

IMAGE(http://gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/kong1.thumbnail.jpg)

Godzilla. Dracula. Frankenstein. The creepy old guy from Pet Sematary. Growing up, we all develop loves for certain movie monsters. For Peter Jackson, that love is for King Kong. He cites the original 1920s film about a 25-foot ape as his reason for becoming a filmmaker. He loved it so much that he remade it. While I didn't particularly care for it on the big screen, I had high hopes for the video game adaptation. Jackson had a direct hand in its production, personally selecting UbiSoft's Michel Ancel (of Beyond Good and Evil fame) to produce the game, and he seemed like just the sort of geek to pull off a movie video game and do it right.

But after seeing the movie and completing the game, you can imagine my lack of surprise when the movie's problems became the game's problems.

Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game Of The Movie takes the gamer through what I would call a "general overview" of the events of the movie. You begin the game on a raft, fighting the waters on your way to Skull Island. You are Jack Driscoll, voiced by Adrian Brody. I had to check to make sure I was actually hearing Brody's voice... while he sounds normal enough in the movie, his gaming voice-over work takes on a sort of stereotypical "gruff Main Character from every FPS you've ever played" tone. Contrasted with Jack Black, Naomi Watts and the others, who sound exactly like they do in the movie, and the difference can be a bit uncomfortable.

The game is gorgeous, and very immersive. While the facial models are nothing special (particularly while speaking: the expressions and mouth movements regularly became out-of-sync with the audio) the environments and beasts look spectacular. When a T-Rex roars at you, not only does the controller shake: the graphics distort as the hot dinosaur breath surrounds you.

One of the most notable features of the game is the complete lack of any sort of heads-up display. There is no health meter. There are no gauges showing how many bullets you have left, or a radar showing your next objective. As such, the game takes on an almost survival horror feel, as Jack hurtles through the jungle grabbing bones, spears, and any other available weapon to defend himself. This is both a help and a hindrance in many ways. I had no trouble immersing myself in the world, and found myself getting scared/nervous/excited at the appropriate moments. But some of the compensations for the lack of a heads-up display, such as requiring the press of a button in order to hear your character say, "That's okay, plenty of magazines left," or, "Two bullets left in reserve," grew a bit tiresome. There is a definite sense of vulnerability: your character can take a few hits from some of the smaller beasts, but at a certain point the screen goes red, the game slows, and the only sound you hear is what I would call the "Peter Jackson Chorus" of ethereal female voices. This tells you that you are about to die, and if you take one more hit while in this state, you do just that. Still, with no health packs or bandages in the game, your character simply gets better. If you can stave off any attacks while in the "about to die" state, you eventually recover and are back on your way. It's a unique feeling: the first time I can remember playing a game and feeling simultaneously vulnerable and invincible.

IMAGE(http://gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/kong2.thumbnail.jpg) IMAGE(http://gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/kong3.thumbnail.jpg)

The events transpire mainly on Skull Island, as you wade through water, navigate through miles of jungle, kill an assortment of dinosaurs and insects, and find levers so you can advance to the next zone. This last feature, while understandable within the confines of a video game, most certainly appeared nowhere in the movie. It is acceptable to a point, but after my 12th time finding a spear and a fire so that I could burn some bushes to get to a lever, the exercise got a bit tedious. Likewise, the Kong sequences, which were initially very exciting (and stayed that way for much longer than the Driscoll sequences) became old hat well before the end of the game. Grab Ann. Run and jump around. Set Ann down. Pick up a boulder and smash a door. Grab Ann. Run and jump around.

Ultimately, this is not a short game. For the level of variety the game presents (which is to say, very little) it really should have been hours shorter. I found myself killing beast after beast, running through the levels and hoping I would be done soon. It's not that I didn't initially enjoy the experience, but the game had no real sense of progress. As Kong, you might find yourself killing one T-Rex, then some villagers, then three T-Rexes in the next level, then off to some Pterodactyl type creatures, only to return to killing just two T-Rexes in a later level.

As in the movie, New York seems like an afterthought. After 7 hours on Skull Island, a ten-minute run through the streets and a two-minute climb up the Empire State Building (where your only goal before the game ends is to die) do not constitute a satisfactory ending.

The game has an interesting approach to replayability - after you have completed it once, you can replay for "points." Points are rewarded for completing levels and killing beasts, but taken away each time you die and, interestingly, every time you use a weapon. But while shooting a gun costs fifty points, using a spear only costs ten. Gamers who enjoy playing a game until it is 100% complete might find this a fun challenge. These points unlock game modes, including a very cool "Old Movie" mode that casts the game in black and white and a horizontal flip (in case you want to be left-handed and run the maps backwards). They unlock photo galleries and trailers and ultimately an ending where, with the help of Driscoll, King Kong meets a very different fate.

As I mentioned, King Kong is a beautiful game, even on my non-360-style Xbox. The events prior to Skull Island happen in 5 minutes (something I wish Jackson would have taken to heart when cutting the movie). The design is unique, and the gameplay elements (no HUD, playing as both Driscoll and Kong) make for a fun initial experience. The game suffers, however, in its length and repetition: those same things that were new and fresh 4 hours ago suddenly seem like fluff to lengthen the game's play-time. If you are a true fan of the movie (if, for instance, you bought Peter Jackson's Production Diaries because you just had to have every tidbit of information you could get your ape-loving hands on) you will probably like this game quite a bit. Others may find themselves putting the game in to marvel at the graphics, and then quickly wishing it was much, much shorter. It isn't the gameplay or graphics. It's languishing in the gameplay and the graphics that kills the game.

[i]Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game Of The Movie[/i]
Official Site
Release Date: November 2005 (Xbox/Xbox 360/PS2/Gamecube/PC)
Developer: Ubisoft

Comments

Great review, I may have to get certis to rent this just so I can see the T-Rex roar effect.

Godzilla. Dracula. Frankenstein. The creepy old guy from Pet Sematary.

Not to nitpick but shouldn't it be pet Cemetary? :p

Sinatar wrote:
Godzilla. Dracula. Frankenstein. The creepy old guy from Pet Sematary.

Not to nitpick but shouldn't it be pet Cemetary? :p

It should be, but apparently Stephen King doesn't care how he spells it.

Warlock, you echo something I've been noticing in my own experience with games lately - I quickly look past the graphics, the license and the story, to the game mechanics. This is why I believe games are a legitimate artform, because someone like Shigeru Miyamoto can take simple game mechanics like sticks and fire and repeat them almost endlessly and it is still fun.

And I think you mean "the creepy old guy from Pet Seminary."

oldmanscene24 wrote:
Sinatar wrote:

Not to nitpick but shouldn't it be pet Cemetary? :p

It should be, but apparently Stephen King doesn't care how he spells it.

Yeah, in the book, the cemetary was the place that the children brought their pets to bury them, and the children spelled it "semetary." Hence, the intentional misspelling of the title.

Nice review Warlock.

Sinatar wrote:
Godzilla. Dracula. Frankenstein. The creepy old guy from Pet Sematary.

Not to nitpick but shouldn't it be pet Cemetary? :p

Even better, it would have been "cemetery." no A's.
pronounced: "eh,eh,eh,eee" not "eh, eh, air, eee"

but yeah, it's for the kids.

souldaddy wrote:

And I think you mean "the creepy old guy from Pet Seminary."

That would be... a completely different movie.

And probably MUCH creepier.

I mean honestly... what would one do at a Pet Seminary?

(I'm so glad this is the part of my review that's receiving attention).

I mean honestly... what would one do at a Pet Seminary?

It's where pets study to be in the ministry. Like this recent graduate:
IMAGE(http://www.msgr.ca/msgr-9/Sophie.jpg)

Nice review!

Personally, the first thing that jumped out at me with King Kong was the on-the-rails kind of gameplay. The player is presented with these lush environments and a beautiful world, but the gameplay is completely forced - you have to follow the predetermined path, and do what the designers want you to do in the right sequence.

I can understand why they did that - scripting the hell out of gameplay gave them fine-grained control over pacing and delivery. The result feels very movie-like. But that's also my problem: it ends up being too much like a Universal Studios ride. Myself, I prefer much more open world, a world with which I can interact and which I can influence.

I've never actually read the book so I didn't know about that. Interesting to say the least.

doihaveto wrote:

Nice review!

Personally, the first thing that jumped out at me with King Kong was the on-the-rails kind of gameplay. The player is presented with these lush environments and a beautiful world, but the gameplay is completely forced - you have to follow the predetermined path, and do what the designers want you to do in the right sequence.

I can understand why they did that - scripting the hell out of gameplay gave them fine-grained control over pacing and delivery. The result feels very movie-like. But that's also my problem: it ends up being too much like a Universal Studios ride. Myself, I prefer much more open world, a world with which I can interact and which I can influence.

What would Roger Ebert have to say about this game?

Warlock, I was wondering about something in this game. You say that the reliance on spears and torchs gets kinda old. Other reviews state that the developers manage to use these simple elements to create puzzles that get more complex as the game goes on. Is that true?

souldaddy wrote:

Warlock, I was wondering about something in this game. You say that the reliance on spears and torchs gets kinda old. Other reviews state that the developers manage to use these simple elements to create puzzles that get more complex as the game goes on. Is that true?

Picture stairs with three steps.

That's about the extent of "more complex."

Yes, you might start off only poking things with a spear, then find out you can light it to burn things or throw it to knock things off platforms, but that's about it.

souldaddy wrote:

Warlock, I was wondering about something in this game. You say that the reliance on spears and torchs gets kinda old. Other reviews state that the developers manage to use these simple elements to create puzzles that get more complex as the game goes on. Is that true?

Puzzles? I don't remember encountering a single puzzle in the game. Unless picking up a handle in clear sight and planting it in post is a puzzle.

Just having hit the 40% mark and I'm having a blast spearing things and shooting things without a cursor. One thing that I think other game dev's should take notice of is how Ubi has created a persistent system containing spears, fire, flammables, predators, and prey with the pertinent rules applied and then made a game world with those elements. This as opposed to simply scripting the necessary actions for each encounter, a boring approach in my opinion. I do wish that Kong would take a less linear approach in how you could use these elements to proceed.

I would say that the spear system is used to create puzzles of increasing complexity. Though the puzzles haven't hit rubiks cube complicated yet, they're still fun.

Puzzles? I don't remember encountering a single puzzle in the game. Unless picking up a handle in clear sight and planting it in post is a puzzle.

I count it as a puzzle when the handle is hidden in brush that needs to be burned, but the only fire available is on the opposite side of a water fall which will extinguish the fire. What do you do, hot shot? What do you do?

*EDIT* Having now completed the game I would say that it is on the short side rather than the long. The last level was unnecessary, and to a lesser extent so were all the other Kong levels. Would've easily played twice as much of the human sequences, though.