Peter Jackson's King Kong - The Official Game of the Movie... damn, what a title! Just rolls of the tongue, doesn't it? To be honest, when I first heard that Peter Jackson's next project after the Lord of the Rings trilogy was a remake of the classic film King Kong, my reaction wasn't "cool" or "awesome", it was more like "why?". Then many months later, I was sitting in the theater what else shows up but a preview for the Peter Jackson's King Kong. It had lots of action, great looking sets, and killer special effects such as one clip showing Kong fighting a Tyrannosaurs Rex. After seeing that preview, I then really had no desire to see the film. I don't know why, exactly. Perhaps because I already know exactly how the story plays out? Perhaps because I've already gotten enough of people running from giant dinosaurs from Jurassic Park and its two sequels? Whatever the reason, the movie just didn't interest me.
A little under a month ago I was offered a review copy of Peter Jackson's King Kong - The Official Game of the Movie. Typically, games based on movies are crap, however I am a gaming fanatic and so you'd have an awfully hard time trying to convince me NOT to try a game, even if I do think it will be no good. Plus, there have been some recent successes in this area, such as the two Spider-Man games (Spider-Man & Spider-Man 2) which play exactly as Spider-Man games should, and the two Lord of the Rings games (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers & The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King) which play a lot like the old Golden Axe classic. Still, movie-based games usually do suck, and the fact that this game was primarily a first person shooter type game didn't help things much either, because I am really not a fan of first-person shooters.
So when the game arrived about a week ago, I was in no hurry to get started on it. I didn't even put the disc in my GameCube until the next day, but then once I actually started playing it, I just couldn't get enough of this awesome title. And once I finished it only a couple days later, I just started right back into it. Normally I don't do this, even on great games, but this one has a point system which encourages re-playing it. But I'll get to that later. First lets start at the beginning. After a short scene from the movie which explains the basic plot, you find yourself in a rowboat being lowered into stormy seas next to an island with a lot of jagged rocks on its coast. All of this takes place in the first-person perspective, which really pulls you in to the environment giving you the sense that you're actually experiencing all of this.
Soon you find yourself on the island along with three other members of the expedition team, and it's here that the adventure truly begins. You play the role of writer Jack Driscoll, who must now step up and do a lot more than write if your team is going to have any hope of escape from this dangerous place. But you're not alone. With you is Carl Denham, the director, Ann Darrow, the lead actress of Denham's film, Hayes, the first officer of the ship that brought us all to the island. And unlike in some games, this team is actually useful... and entertaining. All through the adventure to come they'll be talking to you and to each other, which really helps to keep the mood feeling real. Plus, before heading out anywhere, they'll each usually try to pick up a spear or sharp bone that they'll then use whenever a creature gets too close for comfort. These people will actually fight along side you, and succeed in killing things!
As mentioned, spears and sharp bones are the most common weapon that you'll encounter on the island. You can keep them in hand and poke at creatures with them, but they're much more effective when thrown as they'll completely spear the enemy, usually bringing it down... though stronger enemies may require more than one. You will also occasionally encounter crates which offer a small variety of different firearms, as well as ammunition. In total, there are four different types of guns, a pistol, a shotgun, a sniper rifle, and a machine gun. All are a great asset to have, though you can only carry one at a time, and most of the time you'll find yourself still trying to use spears whenever possibly to conserve on you're limited number of bullets.
Of course, those weapons only apply when you're playing as Jack Driscoll. When you're playing as the legendary Kong himself, your weapons are your fists and any creature or loose piece of environment that you can pick up and hurl. In this mode, the perspective changes to third-person and the gameplay becomes more of a beat-em-up type of style, though there are sections when you'll be required to chase after something. I actually found those sequences to be much more fulfilling that the fighting, which felt very clunky. When moving, Kong has the ability to crawl along certain types of walls and swing on anything that will support his weight. Jumping back and forth between walls and swinging to catch up with some monster was fast-paced, exciting, and quite enjoyable, where as the fighting felt a lot like just plain button-mashing.
The graphics in the game were pretty good, but not outstanding. I didn't notice much difference between the GameCube version and the PlayStation 2 version that I also played briefly. I'm told that the PlayStation 2 version suffered from really bad pop-ins, where creatures, grass, and other objects would just appear when you were in range, and then vanish when you move slightly out of range. I didn't have this experience at all with the GameCube version. I should also mention about the in-game music and sound effects, which were spectacular. The music changes when danger is near, causing a fear reaction and prompting you to quickly become on-guard and scan the area for threats. This really adds emotion to the game, as well as giving it a more cinematic feel.
Unfortunately, the game feels pretty short, and the ending level in New York was a severe disappointment. However, once the game is over, the makers provided a point-incentive to replay the game. On the second time through, you start out with zero points for each level. You then play through each level again, earning points for killing different types of creates. Pests give you the least amount of points, where bosses give you the most. However for each bullet or spear that you use, a certain number of points will be subtracted from your total, as will getting injured, having an ally get injured, or the worst point-drainer, getting killed. So to get the best possible score on a stage, you'll find yourself replaying one area over and over until you can get it just right.
Getting certain scores will give you access to some unlockables, and the game also provides and internet code that you can type in and make your score available to everyone on the official website. But there is even more to this game than I've been able to reveal in this review, such as the whole "food-chain" strategy or the luring of creatures into dry brush and then setting it on fire. This game has a lot to it, and although there are a few disappointments here and there, overall it turned out to be a great game that I still look forward to playing. Even if you're not a fan of first-person shooters or Peter Jackson's King Kong, this game is still worth playing. Oh yeah, and it also actually gave me a slight desire to check out the movie.
Soon I will be receiving a copy of King Kong for review, but since videogames take so much longer to review than DVDs and movies, I've put up this preview of the title until I can get actually get the game and review it. This way you can check it out a little beforehand, plus Download The Demo, Download The Screensaver, and Enter The Contest. So the following all comes from UbiSoft. Once I get the game and play it through, I'll come back here and replace all this with my review.
Acclaimed game creator Michel Ancel and the Montpellier studio collaborates with triple Academy Award�-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson and visual-effects company Weta Ltd. to develop Peter Jackson�s King Kong. The game has amazing graphics which gives it a truly cinematic quality. The players are thrust directly onto Skull Island where the dark jungles, over-sized environment and lurking danger become reality! The video game, Peter Jackson�s King Kong captures the imagination, vision and emotion of the epic film.
Delve deeper into the film experience through alternative viewpoints designed to immerse the player into the action and truly �feel� the tension of the adventure.
- Unprecedented Alternating Gameplay
Battle for survival on Skull Island in first-person as Jack Driscoll AND experience the staggering power of King Kong in third-person taking on massive beasts.
- Cinematic Quality
By integrating Weta assets directly into the game engine, and taking a true cinematic approach, from both a visual and audio perspective, players are thrust directly onto the Skull Island where the dark jungles, over-sized environment and lurking danger become reality.
- Cooperate with Your Expedition Team
Each team member plays a crucial role and complements each other with valuable skills and abilities. The player relies on them and vice-versa to succeed. The unique resource management system keeps the action seamless and plausible while keeping items, weapons and assets readily available.
- The Power of King Kong
King Kong is one of the most powerful of all the creatures on Skull Island and players will learn first-hand what it means to be feared, respected and dominant. Kong will use both his agility and his raw, brute strength by any means necessary to battle enemies and navigate though the perils of Skull Island.
- Experience All Key Movie Moments and More
Journey through the explosive action of all the key movie moments, as Jack and Kong, and even explore the beautifully-rendered mysterious jungle environments not seen in the film.
- Engage in Climactic Battles
Intense and unbelievable battles with all creatures featured in the film challenge players� nerves and skills in fighting the savage beasts created by Weta � some of which are exclusive to the game.
- Film Cast Likeness and Voice
Full immersion into the dynamic King Kong universe realized via inclusion of film cast member�s likenesses and voice-over.
King Kong for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and several other systems will be released on November 22, 2005 by UbiSoft.