King Kong (Video Game)
Available now for the Playstation2, Gamecube, Xbox, and Xbox 360 (Reviewed)
Released by UbiSoft
Welcome to the jungle! We've got fun and games. We've got everything ya want, but you had better know HIS name. Skull Island is like no other place on Earth or any other planet for that matter. Its inhabitants vary from native to dinosaur and everything in-between.
Unless you have been living under a rock since the 30's, it's very likely that you will indeed know the name of King Kong. He's captured our imaginations and is set to make a new movie appearance with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson at the helm just in time for Christmas. Also in time for Christmas comes the video game tie-in for the film, so let me start out by saying forget what you think you know about video game tie-ins. The book has been rewritten, and the playing field has significantly changed.
The fact is, most tie-in games end up being a large steaming pile of shit that only Kong himself could have shat. With the exception of the aforementioned Lord of the Rings games, which were surprisingly good, gamers usually have to sift through title after title trying to find one that is befitting of their favorite film. I'm still trying to shake off the memories of Enter The Matrix and Blade II, and let's not even get started in regards to that horrid Land of the Dead game. Ack! Anyways, King Kong is finally here and in top form! I'm willing to bet that has to do with the fact that Jackson himself is an avid gamer. Regardless of the reason, there is cause for much rejoicing!
Everyone knows the story by now. Boy meets girl. Girl meets giant gorilla. Boy gets girl back. Giant gorilla, boy, and girl travel back to circa 1930's New York City where said gorilla gets angry about not being able to fit in the local titty bar and . . . Well, okay, so I embellished a bit. You get the idea! After an opening that all but mirrors the film's trailer, we find ourselves crashing onto the shores of Skull Island and assuming the role of Jack Driscoll in the first-person perspective. Initially your goal is to catch up with the rest of the survivors and try to get to the circling rescue plane. Along the way you notice that this is anything but your ordinary island. The lack of sunblock becomes the least of your worries as before you know it, you are being hunted by dinosaurs and a host of swarming giant insects. Eventually everyone gets captured and the girl, Anne, ends up being giant monkey bait. Kong comes, and our dear Anne is whisked away. Frightened at first, Anne comes to trust Kong, and that very trust comes into the gameplay mechanics later on. That's where the fun really starts because after a few levels it's time for you to take control of the big guy himself -- Kong!
Once you're in control of the game's big bad, the view switches from first person to third, and as Kong you are required to engage into some eye-popping jungle acrobatics and fight some equally hair-raising enemies. More on that in a bit.
As Jack and in first-person action, your main initiative is to survive and help those around you to not become lunch. You're faced with some tricky tasks though. Being that this game takes place in the 1930's there aren't any guns powerful enough to take down the throngs of charging dinos. Instead, you have to rely on your wits. Spears are the weapon of choice and also serve to solve a lot of the game's puzzles. Sometimes you'll even find yourself having to skewer some local wildlife on the tip of your weapon, just so you can hurl it into the wall as a means to get the other predator's attention as you sneak by. This adds a wonderful realism to the game, and hell, who doesn't like to skewer things!?!
Once in the third person as Kong, you will be faced mainly with traveling by leaping and swinging a la Prince of Persia from one big fight to the next. Kong controls like a dream and never feels awkward. In fact seeing him in action is a thrill in and of itself. As a long-time fan, this is everything that I could have hoped for and then some.
Now let's talk about the graphics and sound. When the game first started I was like, "Cool! Great cinematic! I hope the gameplay looks nearly as good!" Then I realized what I was looking at WAS gameplay. I was astonished. My mouth literally dropped open and hung there agape while I processed all of this information. The jungles are lush. You can almost smell the plants. Every rock, every nook, every cranny is brought to life in stunning detail. Just look at the screens provided here, people. That's in game action! It looks that damned good! To see it in motion is nothing short of awe inspiring. You can even see the dinosaurs' breath when they roar! Speaking of roars, this game also implements -- bar none -- the best 5.1 surround effects I have ever heard. Something chasing you? You hear their footsteps behind you on the rear speakers. Plane circling around you? You'll hear every pass in every direction. Immersion is total. Immersion is complete.
King Kong comes as close to perfection as I have ever seen. There are a few hindrances though, the main of which is a lack of variety in the first-person missions. While fending off various creatures never gets old, having to go look for a lever to operate a door for the umpteenth time sure does. I also felt the New York level was over just a bit too soon. Destroying things is great fun after all! These are minor quibbles though. No matter what you are doing, be it hunting for levers or climbing the Empire State Building, you are being treated to simply amazing visuals and sound the entire time. If that's not enough to make it up to you, I can assure you that after a few rounds of wrestling multiple V-Rex's (as they're called in the game) and batting down planes, you will forget about any little thing that's been bothering you about the game.
I could go on and on about this game until you're sick of hearing about it. The joys of breaking open the jaws of a giant dinosaur with your bare hands alone is the stuff monster movie fans dream about. I will happily gush like the fan boy that I am. I know it is justified! As far as movie tie-ins go, Kong is king of the jungle.
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