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Peter Jackson's King Kong - PC - Review

Here we are - a game that has a Hollywood director’s name above the title. It’s not the first time Hollywood has invaded the video-game industry but the involvement of a director to this extreme probably hasn’t been seen before King Kong. Peter Jackson has admitted to his love of video games in countless interviews and it seems he wasn’t entirely pleased with his last video game involvement. Instead of just letting a developer or studio make a game with little-to-no input from Mr. Jackson, we’re treated to a collaboration with the director and publisher/developer Ubisoft. This results in a game that is as close to the movie it’s based upon as possible since the creative visionary is the same for the movie and game.

I will leave you to discover the story of King Kong on your own but you’ve probably heard enough to know the basic premise. A huge ape/gorilla falls for a beautiful girl then goes crazy and destroys a city in search of the girl. The game starts off with you playing the role of Jack Driscoll as you land on Skull Island. You soon discover that Skull Island is crawling with strange creatures and prehistoric dinosaurs. You have to defend yourself and your friends any way possible from becoming dinosaur food.

 

In order to defend yourself from the creatures you will need to use whatever weapons you can find on Skull Island. The game plays similar to a First-person Shooter (FPS) but with a few twists. The first twist is the weapons in the game. You won’t always use a gun during certain parts of the game. The game allows you to pick up spears that you can use to attack with or you can even go old school by attacking with your bare knuckles. Honestly using your fists in the game isn’t the best way to survive but for those that are truly brave then have at it. The guns and spears are usually scattered throughout the levels waiting to be picked up. If you run out of ammo with a gun then a spear should be somewhere nearby to pick up and use.

The controls are unique when compared to the traditional FPS. In order to fire a gun or throw a spear you must first “arm” the weapon by holding down the space bar. Once you’ve armed the weapon you can then attack with the weapon. This setup was confusing at first, especially when I tried using a USB controller (the Xbox 360 Controller for Windows) to play the game. The default settings were way off with the controller; I was holding a shoulder button down to arm the weapon and then had to press the start button on the controller to fire. Even when I tried changing the button layout for the controller nothing worked as well as I thought since the game didn’t recognize the shoulder triggers of the 360 controller. But regardless of the controller problems the game will keep you on your toes at first until you’re comfortable arming the weapon first and then firing.  

The next twist with the gameplay is the lack of the traditional health meter. Yes, you didn’t read that last sentence wrong, the game doesn’t have a health meter to show you how much damage you’ve taken. Instead the game offers a few not so subtle clues as to how much damage you’re taking during combat. The first clue is the game will slow down temporarily once you’ve taken damage. You can still attack during this segment but your abilities are drastically reduced for the next few seconds. If you take no damage then your status returns to normal and the gameplay returns to normal speed. But if you get damaged again then this usually indicates your dead and it’s time to play again. It’s very easy to know when you’re dying, the screen turns red and you’re dead.  This creates a not-so-stellar sense of realism for the game.

 

During several stages I was swarmed by creatures and had no chance to recover in order to attack. It was usually two attacks and I was dead, which gave me only a few seconds to figure out what I needed to do. Sure that is the standard formula for countless other games but remember there isn’t a health meter in King Kong. The lack of the health meter had me playing the game cautiously since I knew I could only take damage once before I was in immediate danger. This even resulted in having to play certain stages over and over and over again because it was one, two and done for Jack. Some of you are probably saying that the health meter isn’t a big issue but its removal will play a significant role you how you play the game.  

Another twist with the gameplay is the involvement of the other characters from the film. During the game you can switch weapons with another character by looking at them, pressing the E button and then pressing the E button again. You can think of it as having a roaming weapons store at your disposal but knowing that you could either a better or worse weapon during the trade. The game starts off by forcing you to use this feature so you’re familiar with it and it can become extremely useful during certain parts, especially when you’re out of ammo.

 

The other characters in the game are non-playable but can be very demanding of your attention. Certain segments of the game require you to play protector and make sure the other characters remain alive during the stage. These segments usually involve you standing on one part of the stage and the NPC at the other side of the stage. There was even a segment where the NPC I had to protect was underneath me at a lower level of the stage. It took me a few times to realize just where the NPC was located in order to protect him. It was strange hearing the NPC begging for help one minute only to tell you to “I will meet you up ahead, I’ll be fine.”  What? - one minute they are hopeless and useless but the next minute they're full of courage?

The next twist is the biggest twist, which is the ability to play as King Kong.  Playing as King Kong changes the gameplay from a FPS to a third-person perspective action game. Kong is simply a brute full of rage and anger as you play him. The controls are much simpler for Kong with just a hit, jump, grab and rage button to control. The hit, jump and grab button are self explanatory but the rage button is unique. If you repeatedly press the rage button Kong will react with a rage of fury that temporarily puts the game in slow motion where all of Kong’s damage is intensified.  A couple of notes should be mentioned about controlling Kong. First is the lack of controlling the camera. The camera will move automatically as you control Kong, which can occasionally cause a problem when trying to attack as Kong. The second is the health meter is still missing when playing as Kong. Why is Kong so powerful yet so sensitive that after getting hit twice he dies?

Sure I’ve mentioned a few issues with the gameplay but I need to bring up that Kong is a true cinematic gaming experience. The game looks amazing with gorgeous details on all of the stages and the characters. The characters in the game look almost identical to the actors from the movie and all of the voices were done by the actors.  The way the game plays out reminded me of action scenes from blockbuster movies. You start out with the actors talking about certain events and then the next huge event unfolds in the plot. You then play through this huge event to get to the next plot development.  

At the end of the day it’s all about fun and how much fun you can have with a game. King Kong is a fun game to play and an experience that no one should miss. The unique gameplay, amazing visuals and movie tie-in should be enough to keep everyone entertained. However some gamers will probably find some of the gameplay ideas too innovative, a.k.a. too radical, for their taste. Or if you’re not a huge fan of the King Kong story then the game really isn’t going to offer that much that you have to play.

Review Scoring Details for Peter Jackson’s King Kong

Gameplay: 7.5
The lack of the health meter is a unique idea that you will either love or hate. The missing health meter will probably lead you to playing stages repeatedly. The control setup for the FPS segments will throw you for a loop at first since you have to hold a button down before you can fire a weapon. But these changes really can’t hide the fact that most of the stages can be very repetitive. You talk to the other characters in the game and then blast your way to the next plot development. You even start noticing the same creatures popping up at what seems to be the same exact spots in other stages. Playing as Kong was a great change of pace but didn’t happen until what felt like an eternity into the game.

Graphics: 9.0
I thought the graphics in King Kong were amazing with striking details and breathtaking scenery at times. Even with the specs of my machine, getting close to very low end, the game ran flawlessly with no frame-rate problems or slowdown issues.

Sound: 8.0
The music in game was incredible with a moving and expressive theme that set an amazing tone for the game. The music was always fitting to what was happening in the game and I never noticed any themes being repeated. The voice acting of the characters in the game was top notch but very repetitive during the most of the game. You will hear the same phrases being repeated over and over again by the other characters in the game. Hey, I’m a big Jack Black fan but even I wanted to tell him to shut up.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
Once again the lack of the health meter could be a make or break point of this game. Be prepared to take not just one or two steps back in how you play but several steps. The control scheme is another issue that will add a few extra frustration points since it’s a little unconventional.

Concept: 8.0
The concept of playing not only as Kong but as one of the regular characters from the movie is a great idea. However, King Kong turns it up to 11 by making the elements of both characters completely different when you play them. The regular game is played out via a FPS style while Kong is a third-person action game. The entire cinematic experience that Peter Jackson has overseen in this game is a sight to see.

Overall: 8.1
Peter Jackson’s King Kong is a solid and entertaining title that offers a great cinematic experience. The gameplay is a mixture of a quality FPS and third-person action game but with some interesting gameplay choices. The lack of a health meter is an innovative idea that works but not without some issues. But in the end if you enjoyed the new movie or want a great combination of gaming and Hollywood cinematic then look no further than Peter Jackson’s King Kong.

Great

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