reviews\ Dec 18, 2005 at 7:00 pm

Peter Jackson's King Kong - XB - Review

In the past, gamers have been plagued with movie-based video games that fail to meet expectations. The blame can be pointed to many things including lack of time, resources, and talent to develop the games when the film releases. Luckily, King Kong does not follow the same path, harnessing the great talent of Peter Jackson, his eye for quality and detail. And although the game is quite short and lacks in certain areas, King Kong is an immersive and exciting adventure never before seen in a film-based title.


Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (hence forth to be called King Kong because typing it all out is just torture) starts you out on a ship in the 1930s. Filmmaker Carl Denham, a failed director in desperate need of creating a movie hit, and his screenwriter Jack Driscoll are in search of a leading lady for their latest project. They find a little known actress, Ann Darrow, and head to a mysterious island believed to be home to a dangerous civilization. Lovingly known as Skull Island, the film crew soon realizes that the land is inhabited with more than just the cast of Gilligan’s Island. Huge creatures including bats the size of Volkswagens, prehistoric dinosaurs, and the big ape himself keep Jack and Co. on their toes at all times. This does, in someway, detract from enjoying the lush environments on the island that vary from sandy beaches with rocky cliffs to wet and muddy jungles.


Peter Jackson's King Kong Xbox screenshots


Through the game, you will play as both Jack (seen in first-person) and King Kong (seen in third-person). When you play as Jack, more time will be spent moving around than actually fighting. In fact, calling it fighting is a lot like calling a kickboxing round between Chuck “Iceman” Liddell and Stephen Hawking a fair match. Everything Jack does to survive consists of shooting less-than-effective guns and throwing bones and spears to merely buy him more time. Although this may sound less like a game and more like old school memories trying to run away from wedgy-delivering bullies, it works pretty well and adds a huge amount of suspense.


All creatures will attack you and when you are eventually hurt, the screen flashes red. There is no health bar, but as long as you don’t get multiple hits when damaged you wont need to keep tabs on the status of your health (of course, larger beasts like the T-Rex will kill you in one bite and you can watch as he swallows you whole). While playing, you will immediately notice the lack of a cross-hair which feels awkward at first but adds to the realism of life (although it’s debatable if one would ever encounter a living Tyrannosaurus Rex in the near future). The weapons that Jack is capable of using are scarcely available throughout the levels. Although ammunition is dropped from a sea plane in crates, bones and spears can be found all around the island. King Kong also features a few puzzle elements to the game including searching for wood logs to open large rotating doors and lighting bushes on fire to clear a path.



Though the majority of the game will be played through the eyes of Jack, the coolest parts of the game are when Kong and T-Rex battle. The fights between the massive beasts get extremely intense when Kong is outnumbered, even though battles consist of button smashing and a few camera problems when in its cinematic view. Besides fighting, jumping around the island really feels like a 38-ton gorilla (I googled it) is flying through the vines and cliffs carrying a 100 pound blond in your arms. It really is a shame that more time wasn’t put into developing gameplay for Kong, because the game is pretty short even for a movie-based game. I just received the game and was amazed I played through it so fast (about 6-7 hours). This leaves the replay value almost non-existent.



Where the game really pulls through is the graphics. The designers have created a dreary atmospheric tension on the island that I haven't seen in games for a long time, adding a level of suspense and doom that many games neglect to include. I don't know about the rest of you, but breaking away from the "super-soldier" mentality that developers are fond of (where heroes can take dozens of bullets to the chest and then shake it off) is like a breath of fresh air. In King Kong, you know death is just one wrong step away. And although some character and weapon models are lacking, for the most part the environments and lighting effects on Skull Island (New York City looks as if it was thrown together rather quickly) are top notch on the Xbox. All of the main actors from the film cast their voices for the game. Jack Black who plays Carl definitely hogs most of the voiceover scripting, which is good considering Adrien Brody who plays Jack is pretty much mute in the game. King Kong and the other creatures sound better than they look with the ferocious roars and chest beating. Adding to the sound is the visual blurring effect any time a beast roars in your direction (Are those goosebumps? Oh, yes they are). The game also features an outstanding soundtrack.


Altogether, Peter Jackson helped this game in a big way by making you feel apart of the movie. King Kong is too short to enjoy for more than a couple of weeks. But if you are looking for something different than just a typical first-person shooter, this is definitely one of the best film-to-game translations ever released and worth renting.


Review Scoring Details for King Kong

Gameplay: 8.3
Besides being way too short for comfort, the gameplay features suspense at every turn. I also liked the simplicity of the game such as the exclusion of a cross-hair and health bar

Graphics: 8.4
The creature and weapon models aren’t very detailed but the lush environments and effects help make up for it

Sound: 8.7
T-Rex’s never sounded so good since Jurassic Park (Number I, not II, and especially not III). The entire King Kong soundtrack is composed of original music scores written and orchestrated by award-winning composer Chance Thomas, who previously worked on Vivendi-Universal's Lord of the Rings series as musical director.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 8.5
People thought Peter Jackson was crazy making Lord of the Rings into a movie. Looks like the crazy man is at it again!

Overall: 8.4
For any of you that are looking for a new experience for your Xbox console, Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie is something you should check out. Although it’s only worth renting because of its briefness, Peter Jackson has made sure his game is one hell of an adventure (Did I mention he lost weight? It’s probably from all the hard work he spent on this title).



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