ISSUE #8 FEB 06

Chris

Peter Jackson's King Kong

Peter Jackson's King Kong reviewer: Chris
developed by: Ubisoft
published by: Ubisoft
released: 17th November 2005
rrp: £29.99
formats: GC (tested), PS2, Xbox, PC

Movie-based videogames can be hard to judge fairly. First of all you have to consider the restrictions imposed upon the developer, whether they be gameplay related, target audience or development time. This means that the majority of these games are shit and to be avoided like the plague. They either fail on a basic gameplay mechanic or they fail to properly portray any cinematic experience. However they sell because people want to feel like they are in the movie themselves, so studios keep pumping them out. If you haven’t followed any of the development of King Kong it would be fair to say that you wouldn’t be expecting all too much.

Let's get the messy stuff out of the way. Yes, this is horribly linear. You are pushed down one route and one route only. Puzzles (if you can call them that) are functional at best, and for more hardened gamers both the shooting and action are adequate (you don’t have to aim precisely and the 3rd-person combat involves the use of only 3 buttons). The game is easy, short, and everything about it screams average.

“It's your wisdom teeth, Mr. Rex”
“It's your wisdom teeth, Mr. Rex”

However, it is only when you play it that all those ‘faults’ begin to make sense. Puzzles are not meant to be taxing because they serve as a choking point for set-pieces. The 1st-person shooting allows for inaccuracy not because the developer was unable to properly implement it, but because it is meant to be. You have to rely more on quick survival-based decisions than worrying about accurate head shots. 3rd-person combat using Kong again doesn’t allow for elaborate manoeuvres because Kong is about raw, brutal power; he is meant to feel slightly unwieldy but gives an impressive feeling of power.

Ultimately though, what the game does so brilliantly is make you feel like you are on the island; as yourself or as Kong. There is no on-screen information, your character tells you when to reload and can tell you how much ammo you have left. When you get hit the screen starts to flash red (a feature better implemented than described) and you quickly learn to tell when one more hit will kill you. All little gameplay features that help to raise the cinematic experience

This is helped by the impressive visuals on display. The jungle on Skull Island feels like a living, breathing space when it gets the chance to open up. The animals can be seen fighting each other and will go after easier prey in preference to attacking you. They feel like they behave ‘realistically’, even if it may not necessarily be the case. The characters themselves resemble their real-life counterparts suitable enough and Kong not only feels good to play with but looks mighty as well (especially alongside a pair of tyrannosaurs).

King Kong won’t be winning too many awards for gameplay. When broken down to its bare bones the game mechanics are no more than average at best. However, the gameplay is not the most important part of the game. The developers, with hand-on work from Peter Jackson, know exactly what they are aiming for. To make you feel like you are on Skull Island and to make it feel like you are controlling Kong. This is something they pull of expertly and without fault. This is, indeed, one of the most cinematic experiences I have come across in a game.

Ultimately, how you judge King Kong will depend on why you are playing it. As an out-and-out videogame it fares as average – good, but in an age where more developers are aiming for a cinematic experience, you won’t find much better.