XBOX 360 REVIEW: PETER JACKSON'S KING KONG

If you can only play one FPS/Giant Ape sim game this year, make it King Kong!. by Vaughn Smith

November 30, 2005 - Welcome to the intro paragraph of my review on King Kong. Correction: Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie. That's a mouthful, but luckily I'm typing. This is the part where I'd usually jump right in with one of those diatribes regarding how licensed games aren't usually very good yada yada yada, but I just don't have it in me to start another review of a licensed product that way today. Besides those kinds of intros go either one of two ways: Intro A) Licensed games are usually crap and this game proves it or Intro B) Licensed games are usually crap but this one is the exception. Since we're dealing with a huge pissed off mutant mammal (Peter Jackson, not King Kong) , let's go with Intro B for the sake of personal safety. Relax. I keed. I keed. PJKKTOGOTM is a whole lotta fun and manages to be almost as brilliant as designer Michel Ancel's previous work Beyond Good and Evil, which landed him this gig in the first place.

King Kong the movie won't be released into theaters for another few weeks but Ubi Soft knows that missing the all important November release date could spell trouble for game sales, especially if movie reviews are lackluster even if the game happens to be great; which it most certainly is for the most part. If you're a diehard Kong fan and don't want to ruin the movie experience I can only highly recommend NOT playing the game as it follows the events of the movie.

You'll be playing the part of successful New York scriptwriter Jack Driscoll who takes a gig with hasbeen director Carl Denham, voiced by Jack Black complete with all of that charming sardonic wit he's known to bring to his roles. Carl Denham takes his semi-reluctant crew to Skull Island where the adventure kicks into high gear. The year is 1933, which just so happens to be the year the original King Kong was released into theaters starring legendary Fay Wray and some guy in an ape suit. However I found a little time continuum error in the manual which states that Hayes the first mate on the ship Venture is a weapons expert from WWII which won't be occuring for another 6 years.

At any rate, the game assumes you have an inkling as to what's going on (because it assumes you'll see the movie) and wastes no time setting up the action. Your small crew arrives on Skull Island consisting of Driscoll, Ann Darrow (the actress who becomes the object of Kong's affections), Denham, Hayes and Jimmy (a sailor) in hopes of rekindling Denham's lackluster film career. Once you land on the island you'll find a need to instantly defend yourself as the large shrieks coming from God knows where are natures of way of telling you that you ain't in Kansas anymore Dorothy. Surely you'll want to take a moment and orient yourself while gawking at the awesome visuals (which look best on the X360, but manage to impress on the current gen systems as well), but there won't be much time for sight seeing as all kinds of trouble rears its ugly head almost instantly. Consumate professional Denham isn't phased in the slightest. His camera continues to roll even after they've encountered the first wave of giant crabs and megapedes.

The game limits you to carrying only one firearm and a spear at one time (plus a lever used for opening giant gates). You won't find extra ammo lying around on the island so you'll have to take firearms when you come across them (usually found in wooden crates conveniently littering areas of the island). Spears can be thrown at enemies but the aiming can be very hit and miss. You'll primarily use the spears for solving the games puzzles which are environmentally designed. You may need to light a spear on fire to burn brush away to clear a path or in a nice little touch of realism, use the food chain to take the heat off - stab an enemy lower on the food chain than the beasts in your particular situation and toss it in the opposite direction you want to go. You'll find it creates an excellent diversion.

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System: X360, X, GC, PS2, PC
Dev: Ubi Soft
Pub: Ubi Soft
Released: Nov 2005
Review by Vaughn