King Kong Review
Written : Saturday, April 19, 2008
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
The original game for gamerscore whores the world over to rack up a quick and easy 1000 points, often it’s overlooked in terms of gameplay and story simply because of that fact and that’s pretty harsh on a game that can be enjoyable if you let it. It’s also one of a very few games that had a direct collaboration between the film's director, Peter Jackson, and the game's main designer, Michel Ancel, which is a rarity itself as movie tie-ins often barely resemble the source material they are meant to depict. In this case though the bearded director's love of games led to him approaching Ancel directly (who can blame him, Beyond Good and Evil kicked ass) in a bid to make this game mirror the film as closely as possible.
It’s one of a number of movie based games Ubisoft have been involved with throughout their 360 career and, despite its short running time, is also probably one of their better efforts in the genre. That being said the game was obviously developed with last generation consoles in mind, with the 360 version given a few tune ups before being kicked out of the door. So there are obviously still going to be a few hang ups that really shouldn’t be present, not to mention the graphics in places have a rough edge to them that you wouldn’t expect to see. Still the developers have been given such close access to the film that this is a very good fit. The only question is how much can be had with a giant ape? LOTS – stupid question.
Pistol versus T-Rex - place your bets!
The story follows that of the movie pretty closely, though obviously with a few scenes added in order to expand the film into a proper game. The added scenes and plots have still been cunningly woven so that they would fill the gaps in the film exactly, so when you can’t see the characters on screen in the film the game will tell you exactly what they were up to during that time. Basically it’s about a woman and a big gorilla – as all true love stories generally are, though with a bit of fleshing out so that things make sense. The plot revolves around film producer Carl Denham in 1933, as he discovers a map to the mysterious Skull Island and sets out to make the film of a lifetime. He drags along screenwriter Jack Driscoll and wannabe actress Ann Darrow, plus a motley crew of armed sailors. As they head ashore and begin to get a few test shots Ann is called upon to scream like a damsel in distress, Kong responds with a roar of his own and events are swiftly set in motion. The story from then on is pretty well known to even the most jaded cinemagoer as Ann is offered up as a sacrifice to Kong and the others head off in pursuit to rescue her, ending with one of the most iconic scenes in history back in New York City.
The story plays out through the two main protagonists who are battling for Ann’s heart; Jack and Kong. The majority of the game is played out in first person view as Jack battles through the caves and jungles of Skull Island in a bid to rescue Ann from Kong’s grasp. Despite the viewpoint the game isn’t an out and out first person shooter as players are often called upon to use their brains rather than weapons to find their way forward. There is also a distinct lack of firearms on offer and more primitive means are often required to fend off the dinosaur inhabitants of the island, there’s nothing like a spear to the neck to dissuade even the hungriest carnivore. The puzzles are usually just a matter of finding items and switches, or using handily placed torches to set you spear on fire to clear a path. Nothing too revolutionary but at least the puzzles don’t seem out of place with the overall feel of the game. There are also some nice set-pieces such as your hasty escape from a marauding V-Rex (don’t ask me what happened to the T) but overall you just feel as if you are playing the same section multiple times as the lack of variety soon begins to show. When you step into the giant shoes of Kong himself though the scenes shift to a third person perspective and you are more often than not required to beat up on your fellow oversized inhabitants. They seem to have a habit of snatching Ann whilst your back is turned so Kong has to race along platform style sections and climb or bash his way after his prey. The end of each section usually sees him face off against a boss monster that he has to pummel mercilessly before delivering a special finishing move to end their pitiful existance.
On second thoughts I’ll take the gun.
Everything about the game is pretty simple and the same can be said for the difficulty, as you seem to have to struggle to die. Not that you want to of course but it is rather tiresome when every obstacle in your path can be brushed off in such a straightforward manner. The only time you might pop your clogs is when you aren’t fast enough through the timed escape sections with Jack or chase scenes with Kong. The same thing applies to your simpleton A.I. companions as well, not to mention that of the dinosaur opposition you’ll come across. Your friends, when they occasionally pop up, are really no help at all and will often just run around randomly doing nothing, when they do occasionally attack your enemies they will do so little damage that you’ll wonder why they bothered at all. This isn’t so big a deal as the dumb predators you are up against pose little threat. They’ll usually not see you until you stick a spear in their head and, failing that, they will proceed to run straight at you giving you an ideal opportunity to smack them in the head again should you have missed the first time around.
Graphically this game has obviously been developed for the 360 as an afterthought, as although the 360 version is supposed to be in a better definition and have improved graphics and features it really is hard to point out exactly what separates this version from that on the other consoles. It’s not hideous looking by any means and Kong himself is pretty fluid and moves like a 30 foot gorilla should do, probably. All of the enemies you beat on look neat enough and the finishing moves are fun to watch. Still you can’t help but notice the dubious scenery and jagged edges that creep in, not to mention the fact the human characters are slightly square around the edges. At least most of the voices are true to the film and actors involved, but other than the nice cut-scenes you’ll see then there isn’t too much dialogue while you play. Jack does occasionally speak to you (himself?) to point out what you should be doing, but it’s hard to get lost anyway and he soon becomes an irritant rather than a help.
Mysterious jungles are always bad news.
While the game does have its flaws it’s still an enjoyable romp while it lasts, which is sadly only a matter of hours. On the plus side this game should now be available on the cheap so it would be easy to pick it up and play for a quick blast. There is zero replayability to be had, other than the fact that you get ‘points’ for completing parts of the game and those points unlock bonus content. Finishing the game will get you most things but if you want to play through the alternate ending a second go will be required and, to be honest, it’s really not worth the time or effort. Play it once and see all there is to see then move in, the game really is like the kind of throwaway big budget movie that it is based upon – popcorn fodder that for all its pretensions is soon forgotten.
The achievements here are probably the game's main selling point amongst most 360 owners as you get them all just for playing through the game and nothing can be missed as events are very linear. Pretty much zero thought has been put in but that’s a flaw that can be levelled at the majority of launch titles. If you have a spare 4-5 hours though you can add 1000 points to your total with very little trouble, as the game is extremely easy and you may well secretly enjoy it. Go on – you know you want to. Strangely enough some people consider it a badge of honour NOT to have this on their gamer cards so read into that what you will.
With voices and cut-scenes taken straight from the film most of the work here is spot on, though hearing Jack telling you what to do swiftly gets annoying. He must be under a lot of stress to talk to himself so much.
Rough around the edges, with the PS2 version looking remarkably similar you know that not enough has been done to improve things to really differentiate the 360 version. To be honest if it wasn’t for the achievements most people would have probably picked up a cheaper version on an older machine.
A fun concept of first person puzzle solving and fighting, plus some king sized fighting sequences. Sadly the game as far too short and easy to grip you in the long term.
Sticks closely to the source material and uses clips and scenes from the film to add to the atmosphere. A good example of how to marry a film and game together but sadly let down by the fact it was clearly developed for the last generation of consoles.
Play the game and get all of the points, it’s really not that hard and anyone with a big points tally is liable to have this game gracing their card. A lot more variety could have been added and the lack of effort is thankfully something Ubisoft have long since addressed..
A fun game while it lasts but far too short to justify shelling out full price, that being said it’s a lot better than its status as a ‘points only’ game would lead you to imagine. Pick it up on the cheap or rent it and have a blast for a few hours.