Review by sithmaster15

"Singing the Praises of King Kong"

Well, actually singing them would be a little difficult to do over discussion boards, and a fair bit more difficult what with arranging things into poetic stanzas and setting it all to music... but I digress.

I want to bring everyone's attention to what is possibly one of the greatest gaming achievements (IMO) in a long time. What is that achievement? Making a really amazing and appropriate movie-to-game adaptation.

I'll get the bad stuff out of the way first. The game is short. The New York kind of sucks. King Kong's textures are quite ugly. There is frame rate slowdown. There are a fair bit of odd graphical glitches (especially when playing in Horizontal Flip mode - I'm talking about those outlines and shadows which didn't seem to get flipped). And apparently, according to IGN anyways, the game has a number of fatal glitches that force you to restart the game. I myself haven't encountered anything remotely similar to that last one. The only glitches I've encountered have been of the graphical sort.

Now that I have that over with, time to get on to some the game's amazing accomplishments, and how it achieved them.

First of all, there is absolutely no HUD. Off the top of my head I can't think of any other game out there which does this, let alone movie-to-game adaptations, and especially first person shooter-style games. Health is represented by the screen going red (one hit it goes red, next hit you're done - at least that's the way it usually seems to be - this is another great aspect as it keeps you on you're toes, because literally any foe could bring about your demise). If you're worried about your ammo, just tap a button and your character (Jack) will tell you how much you have left. You can only carry one gun at a time, as well as one spear, but if you have a spear you have to use the spear before you can take out your gun - makes perfect sense and never causes a problem. Even picking up new guns and spears is expertly and cleverly accounted for realistically.

Second, the enemy AI and just how much you can actually interact with the world and its creatures. Enemies will swarm you if you're the most vulnerable target. However, kill another enemy nearby (I believe it only works if it's a member of a different species) and they will instead feed of this new carcass. Or you could prong yourself some bait and use that to draw the attention of the enemy away from you. Or you can set fire (if there's fire available for use) to vines and bushes to scare the enemy away, kill them or clear new paths.

Continuing right along, there is an excellent feeling throughout the game of being on your wits end. Of desperately trying to survive in a foreign place. This is likely aided by the fact that you can only sustain two hits before going down (unless you hide out and recover in between) which means that any enemy could bring about your end. It's the best survival game I've ever played.

The story is of course excellent, (it's King Kong for crying out loud!); although it's a slightly different take on things than what you get in the movie. It's still superb, and all the major events from the movie are included in the game (yes that includes the Brontosaurus stampede – get excited). There's also just so much more, but that's not the point I want to make here.

The point is that this is easily the most cinematic video game out there. And I don't mean the video sequences where you're not playing (I actually don't think there are any… other than those short videos in between levels, but those don't count). I mean in the actual game itself. I didn't think it was possible for a game to be cinematic like that before this game. The makers of the game seem to have a perfect understanding of the differences between movies and games, and how to deliver a powerful, entertaining and awe-inspiring story sequence in a game format. The perfect example here is the sequence when you first meet Kong. Watch the scene in the movie, then play the game's version, and you'll understand how each plays to its own medium's strengths.

I actually have to comment on one other great thing as far as how cinematic the game is. Peter Jackson was behind this title, and the first thing which made this clear was the options as far as widescreen options go. You can choose full and proper widescreen if you have a widescreen television. Or you can go with full screen if you have no appreciation for cinematic quality. Or, for those of us who love widescreen but are ill-equipped (have a standard television), you can choose to but black bars on the top and bottom to simulate widescreen. You don't lose anything by doing this, and you gain a whole lot. I definitely recommend it.

The graphics are simply beautiful. The game makers had access to all the assets of the movie, which includes digital doubles of all the main characters (did you know that? Some of the shots in the movie, even some fairly close ones, were done entirely with digital doubles of all the characters in the shot!) as well as access to miniatures, sets, and creature designs. And it shows. The game feels very authentic and very much like the movie.

They also must have had access to the animation work that was done on the movie. Again, in the scene when you first see Kong, observe both Kong and Anne (that was a digital double in the movie by the way). Their animations seem to more or less be the same in the game and the movie. Again, it contributes greatly to the authenticity and feel of the game.

The technical aspects are also worthy of mention. Beautiful lighting effects (the god rays are particularly beautiful), amazing locations and detailed character and creature designs. It's beautiful.

Equally stunning is the level design. Throughout the game you'll find yourself saying “Wow! How are they going to top this?” and they always do. I'm not going to elaborate on this, because I don't want to spoil things. But trust me, it's amazing. A more adrenaline-packed game you'll have a hard time finding.

Something I've been forgetting to talk about is the audio. It's amazing, along with pretty much everything else in this game. The actors from the movie reprise their parts in the game, and every other aspect sounds amazing. Apparently the soundtrack is new, not taken from the movie, but you wouldn't be able to tell (I couldn't) it's just that good. All the various other jungle sounds are excellent, as are the enemy growls, etc. I can't praise it enough.

All this time and I haven't really touched on the Kong aspects of the game. That's right; you get to play as Kong. But you probably already knew that, or at least guessed it – it's an obvious thing for the game to do. Everything I already mentioned about level design, graphics, animation, etc. still applies.

If anything, these sections are even more adrenaline-packed than the Jack sections. Although here because instead of fighting for survival (although that can occasionally happen in some of the rougher V-Rex fights) you are basically just trashing your way through the environment. Kong is master of the island, and this is reflected very well in the Kong sections.

Overall the game is absolutely magnificent. The shortcomings are easily looked aside, including and especially the length. It's short, but every moment is jam-packed and intense. Also, you can activate the Horizontal Flip mode, and it will almost feel like a new game, because absolutely everything has been flipped. It's definitely worth playing again. You can also activate a nice little filter which makes the game look like an old movie, if you want that 1933 Kong look.

This game is an amazing achievement, and I recommend everyone who has a Gamecube pick it up as soon as possible. If you want me to give it a score out of ten…

9.6

It's my kind of game. I love the how cinematic it is, I love how immersive it is, I love the graphics, I love the audio, I just really love this game.

Oh – one thing I forgot to mention that actually really struck me is the unlockable art galleries. Forget just screens of art that you can flip through. This game throws you into a disturbingly real museum setting from which you can view various pieces of concept art for the movie and game, as well as a “stuffed” creature from the game. If you've ever been to one of those natural history museums, this will almost certainly creep you out by how realistic it is. I love it.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 05/24/07


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