If I were Peter Jackson, I’d be sitting like a big ape in a cage with that dumb look apes have when they’re puzzled about something. Reason being, why is the King Kong movie not reaching Lord of the Rings heights from reviewers and audiences alike? The movie has everything you could possibly want in a killer Hollywood hit, yet the movie is pretty much holding Narnia’s jockstrap these days. After playing the movie’s Xbox 360 videogame adaptation, Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, I think I have the same dumb look on my face. What we have here is a top notch movie-to-game adaptation. While not completely loyal to Peter Jackson’s epic remake of monster mayhem, Ubisoft has done an admirable job making King Kong a mesmerizing adventure.
When you begin playing Kong, you basically skip the first act of the movie and move to the longest and most epic elements of the King Kong movie. These take place on the dreaded Skull Island (with the game’s last few levels wrapping up in New York City). While the majority of this act’s memorable events are recaptured in someway in the game (the Brontosaurus stampede, the T-Rex vs. Kong battles, those nasty insects), the game stretches the storyline quite a bit. For instance, Ann comes to the island with your character and helps you before getting captured by Kong. What happened to the crazy village people hijacking her? It’s not a big deal, but it just makes you wonder if they exaggerate how much access the developers had to the actual movie.
Despite this misstep, I really enjoyed the game’s pacing -- where the game switches up frequently and levels are never overly. I felt like I was really accomplishing something and moving through the game quickly because loading screens occasionally pop up to let you know you have progressed to a new level. After about 12 of these, I figured I was close to the end of the game, but in turns out the game actually goes about 40 levels deep. The majority of these levels take place with you controlling Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), as he attempts to save Ann (Naomi Watts) from the clutches of King, as well as other beasts. In these levels, the game takes a first-person perspective where you blast dinosaurs, insects, and flying creatures. With no HUD to speak of, the game is one of the most cinematic FPS experiences I have experienced.
In the game’s other levels, where you control King Kong, the action is from a third person perspective and almost feels as though you’re on rails. You can simply press jump from time to time to run up and down walls and leap from branch to branch. While the King’s controls are pretty simplistic and quite forgiving, these levels seem like they were simplified to make the actions exciting eye candy. It really is something to see Kong scale mountains and leap from buildings, even if the controls can be a little sluggish. Also, it quite fun to smash opponents and throw things like cars and pesky critters.
The only other major complaints I have with Kong’s gameplay are that some of the scavenger hunts can be repetitive, and the indicator that you are dying is overdone and annoying. In regards to the scavenger hunt parts of the game, you will find yourself in various positions where you need to burn ivy bushes in order to find a lever to open a door. This kind of stuff belongs in Donkey Kong, not King KongWhile sometimes these scenarios feel tedious, many times there are actually decent puzzles in how you must progress.
As for my other gripe, I just can’t stand the motions the game goes into when you are in jeopardy of dying. After taking too much damage from a raptor or from an oversized scorpion, your vision becomes blood red and the camera jostles out of control. I see how this is realistic, but it make your chances of recovering quite difficult as you kind of lose control of what you’re doing. To make matters worse, the game starts playing some pretty annoying choir music that is reminiscent of music in the long, boring elf scenes in Lord of the Rings. I respect what Ubisoft tried to do here, not using a HUD display for health and ammo meters, but there had to be a better way to convey that your character days are nearly numbered (just look at Fight Night Round 3
One thing that I found interesting about Kong is that the graphics are much better than I expected. If this game really does look barely better than the PS2 and Xbox versions, well, they’re just damn good looking games. Several times with people over, people were amazed at how fluid this game looked. From overwhelmingly massive dinosaurs, to the beautiful jungle environments, King Kong is definitely worthy of the 360 in the graphics department -- at least in this early stage of the console. To top things off, the game’s impressive look is accompanied by touch notch music and surround sound -- making the game almost as thunderous to play as when I saw the movie at the theater.
If you’re one of those people that basically writes off licensed movies games, you might want to give King Kong. Even if Ubisoft didn’t get all the plot points right, it’s a fine looking game with fun gameplay for the most part. Now let’s just see the tables turn and hope that Peter Jackson can make Halo a decent movie.