Jackson's King Kong
Review by Old Rooster
"Mike, I'd Like You to Make a Game of My Film" Pete
Peter Jackson is fast becoming a legendary film developer. Michel
Ancel is moving in the same league with game designsee Rayman
and Beyond Good and Evil. Rumor has it that Mr. Jackson
directly requested of Mr. Ancel a quality video game be made of
his upcoming filmKing Kong. The quote above is, of
course, my own rendition of their opening line.
We're happy to report that Mr. Ancel not only accepted but has
triumphed with his production of one of the very best video game
tie-ins or adaptations of a film ever created. We've grown cynical
with the great majority of film-game translations. The deteriorating
quality of the Harry Potter licensed games and the disappointing
Batman Begins come to mind. Here, however, we have altogether
a different creation. The genius of Ancel coupled with the encouragement
and storytelling of Jackson plus voice-overs from his major film
stars has culminated in a thrilling action/adventure experience.
I'd played a good part of the game before going to the film the
other day, finishing it just a while ago. The two (film and game)
complement each other extremely well. Although the Kong saga is
well-known, with the game being released before the film, it helps
a good deal to have seen the film before playing the game. Certainly,
you appreciate Ancel's work more if you proceed in that order. Further,
there are some creatures and environments exclusive to the game,
placed there to "enliven" the experience. You may find,
though, that the additional nasty things do more to "endeaden"
"Jack, I'm Gonna Need Your Help with This" Carl
King Kong plays in two basic formatsfirst-person action
as Jack Driscoll (voiced by Adrian Brody) and third-person fighting
as Kong (voiced by Percy Kong). You'll spend about 75% of your efforts
playing Jack, 25% as Kong, with the experiences being radically
After a brief introduction, which makes more sense after having
seen the film, you're literally plunged into the waters just off
Skull Island. Finding your way to shore with your team, you'll explore,
open doors, pick up sticks, engage in various nonthreatening actions
that introduce you to the controls and your companions. Primary
among these compatriots are Ann Darrow (voiced by the lovely Naomi
Watts), Hayes (the first mate), Jimmy (too young to be there), and
the prat, Carl Denham (voiced by Jack Black). The interaction and
dialogue among the primary characters is well-written and entertaining.
Further, the party will act together, sometimes dragging you along
or suggesting a direction or activity. "C'mon, we have to make
it to that cliff," exclaims Hayes at one point, showing you
the path to take. Artificial intelligence seems well-done, with
bug/monster-shooting from your buddies acting as a real supplement
to what you're supposed to be doing. Of course, they can't die,
but you can, and do!
As Jack, the mild-mannered screenwriter turned hero, you play from
a first-person perspective, initially a bit disorienting. There
is no heads-up display, or inventory, or other onscreen information.
You can pick up one item at a time, check your reserve of bullets,
and call for NPC help. That's about it. The initial stage, prebug
attack, acts as kind of a tutorial. You'll discover there are tools
and weapons, some of them brought from the ship (pistol, shotgun),
some indigenous to the island (spears, levers). The screen will
display which is held by you at any given time.
Control, for a console action game, is quite smooth. Aiming takes
a bit of getting used to, but it isn't as hard as I thought it might
be, being one used to the efficient mouse/keyboard combination for
first-person action titles.
"Hang on, Jack, We'll Get out of This" Ann
One of my only criticisms of the terrific film was with the amount
of time spent fighting off crabs, dragonflies, giant leeches, megapedes
and other nightmarish bugs. Well, you encounter them early and often
in the game, and you'd best be ready! Fortunately, although you
may and will expire in your first trials, the save game points are
generous, affording minimal backtracking when you do have to restart.
This is a good time to talk about the wonderful pacing and degree
of tension King Kong offers. Reminding me at times of the
classic Alien vs. Predator game series, you'll have only
a bit of a lull, or problem to be solved, when, suddenly, the jungle
explodes with monsters big and small. Much as in the film, machine
guns don't work really well on dragonflies, and such a weapon may
not be near at hand, so you'll learn to use stakes and spears, sometimes
fire. Make sure you've taken your cardiac medication!
"Follow That Ape" Jack
Of course, you all know from the legend that Kong takes our Ann
on a wild journey through the jungle and cliffs of the island, encountering
more than leeches along his way. As you switch, on and off, to playing
Kong, you'll move to a third-person perspective, which allows you
to clearly view the death and destruction you bring to the storyin
the hugest of fashions! Your enemies now become the mobile, vicious
venatosaurs and almost invincible V-Rex. Only Kong can deal with
these guys, and he has a range of choices.
Moving the controller to Kong, we find the options to gently drop
Ann to the ground, out of the way, and dodge, swing, grab and throw
an enemy, bite, and hit with a jaw-breaking finish! There's no subtlety
with Kongno exploring, wondering what weapon to use. He is
the weapon. My wife found mild-mannered me grunting and growling
along with Kong as I worked to dispatch a V-Rex. Goodness, the animalistic
violence this can bring out in a person! Some of you, I'm sure,
will avoid the game for that reason, hoping to keep your inner ape
The graphics, settings, voice acting, music, sound effects are
all superb. I can find no fault with any of these technical aspects,
with the game looking almost as good as any on the Cube (Resident
Evil 4 is number one, in that regard). I'm sure the XBox 360
displays an almost photorealistic rendition of King Kong, and
that's nice, but I'm more than satisfied with this iteration, particularly
on my 43-inch TV with 16:9 ratio enabled.
"Kong Takes Broadway" N.Y. Times Headline
You remember, I trust, without my giving any secrets away, that
Kong is ultimately captured and put on display, at least for a short
while. All this before he runs away with Ann to the Jersey shore
(just kidding). This sequence of events and play is quite short-lived
(literally) and a bit disappointing. I had expected more of a Godzilla,
destructomaniac approach, and I felt a bit let down. The film is
far superior in the New York City portion. Relatedly, the game,
like this review, ends quickly. I spent about seven hours in actual
play time, perhaps half of what I had expected. Let's sum up.
"It was beauty who killed the beast," exclaims Carl at
the end of the film. Although primarily an action title, King
Kong successfully captures this spirit of emotion and involvement.
We care about the humans, especially Jack and Ann, but we also care
Moving to the highest rank of film-game complements (it's more
than a "spin-off"), King Kong comes highly recommended.
It's best to see the film first, but the game also stands alone
in its own right as a fantastic experience. It's gorgeous, wonderfully
scripted and acted, extremely tense and involving. What keeps it,
primarily, from a Gold Star award is the length, and perhaps the
degree of linearityas in "don't wander, only go this
way." Yet as a rental or reduced-price purchase, I would enthusiastically
urge you to experience King Kong the game. Just be prepared,
for as the first mate Hayes would say: "Had enough excitement
for one day?" Kong is great fun but not a calm game
by any stretch!
What I Liked Most About the Game
- Well-integrated complement to the film;
- Peter Jackson clearly involved; great script;
- Professional voice actors really make a difference;
- Graphics and settings beautifully done;
- Playing as Jack controls smoothly;
- A quality, first-rate production.
What Disappointed Me a Bit
- Lengthseven hours went by very fast;
- LinearityI'd like to explore the island more;
- N.Y.C.It would be fun to throw more cars.
Release Date: November 21, 2005
Four Fat Chicks Links
Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP (only)
1.0 GHz (2.5 GHz recommended)
256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended)
64 MB DirectX 8.1 compliant video card (128 MB recommended)
DirectX 8.1 compliant sound card
DirectX 8.1 (DirectX 9.0c included on disk)
8x or faster CD-ROM drive (32x or faster recommended)
1.5 GB free hard disk space
Where to Find It
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