Review by TheGameFeed

"Overall, Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie is a solid rental game, given lack of variety among the rest of the launch titles."

With the large selection of launch title for the Xbox 360, gamers are flocking to the stores for the most anticipated titles such as Call of Duty 2 and Perfect Dark Zero. However there are several other titles that get lost in the hype; one of those being Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie. I know what you're thinking, movie games turn out to be big flops most of the time, and that's true, most of the time. But with the combination of Peter Jackson himself and Michael Ancel of the Montpellier Studio, can this game really go wrong?

Throughout most of the game, you play as Jack Driscoll trying to save Ann Darrow from the ferocious 50 ft. gorilla, King Kong, and trying to get off the dense jungle of Skull Island. I haven't seen the movie yet, so I can't really say if this game follows the movie closely, but with Peter Jackson's involvement with the development of the game I'd say it's a pretty good bet. After all, Peter Jackson picked Michael Ancel to develop this game after he had such a great time playing Beyond Good and Evil.

The majority of the game, say 75% of it, has you playing as Jack in a First-Person view, but this isn't your typical First-Person Shooter. There aren't 30 weapons to choose from or lists of objectives to accomplish. You have one objective: get off the island with everyone in your group. There are only a few guns that you'll come across ranging from the normal pistol, machine gun, and everyone's favorite shotgun. However, believe it or not the main weapon of choice will be the spear. That's right, a pointy stick. Ammo is very limited in the game and there are endless supplies of spears lying around the mountain to fight off predators.

However, what really makes this game different from normal FPS games is the lack of a Heads-Up Display (HUD). There are no visual icons on the screen telling you your life, weapon, or remaining ammo. The intent of removing all these items is to help put you into the game or movie in this case. The use of a HUD would obviously make some people step back out of the television from time to time. So the big question is without a HUD, “how do you know what your life is?”

Well the developers have put in some very unique visual and audio cues in the game to help tell you how you're doing. Instead of a life bar, the screen will turn red, you'll start to breath heavily, and you'll start moving at a slow motion type pace to indicate you've been hit. For weapons, you can only hold one gun and a spear at a time, so no real need for a cue there, and for ammo your character will talk to himself letting you know that you have “three clips left” or that you're “almost our of ammo.”

These cues actually work pretty well for the most part, but the cues for being hit can get very annoying. I don't mind the screen getting a little red and I don't mind the action getting a little slo-mo, but the combination of both makes it very hard to continue the game when a V-Rex (for some reason they replaced the T-Rex with V-Rex) is chasing you. Nonetheless, neither of these compare to the ‘Troy' like vocal hymns that begin to play when you near your death. I just got eaten by a dinosaur, no need to get dramatic.

Playing as Jack consists of a mix of navigating around the island while fending off the predators trying to have you for lunch. The levels are designed pretty well given the majority of the game is played on the island. However, it gets to a point where you really can't wait to get off that island. As beautiful as the scenery is, a little variety wouldn't hurt. The game is also very linear in design. There aren't too many areas for you to stray off too, and don't worry, the non-player controlled characters do a good job of leading you off to the next location.

Of course the big part of King Kong is being able to play as King Kong himself. These levels switch to a Third-Person view. As King Kong, you can charge, grab, slap and bring down a raging thunder on your enemies. For most of you, including me, the whole reason for playing this game is to play as Kong. Who doesn't want to be a 50 ft gorilla destroying everything in his path? The most thrilling part of playing as Kong is the great finishing moves to kill his enemies. There's the body slam, the torn limb, and my favorite, the snapping of the neck.

The first thing you'll obviously notice in the game are the visuals. Whether or not you are playing in High Definition (HD), the game looks great. Is it next-generation great? That's debatable. Nonetheless, this will probably be one of the better looking games out for the Xbox 360 right now. Everything is rendered beautifully from the cracks along the mountain side to the tiny hairs covering King Kong's arm. The environments are also beautifully done from the plants up to the clouds in the sky, but the animal models in the game are probably what shine most. The detail that was spent on King Kong and the other animals on the island are what really brings realism to the game.

The controls are as simple as can be. Playing as Jack, you hold the left trigger to bring out your weapon and fire it with the right trigger. Don't have a weapon? Grab a gun off the ground or pick up that spear by tapping the right trigger and reload with the right shoulder. Nothing too complicated. As Kong, each face button either grabs/throws, punches, jumps, or puts Kong into a primal rage for limited time mayhem. The controls are intuitive and easy to pick up. On screen visual icons also appear at times (especially at the beginning, obviously) to help let you know what you should be pressing.

Minus the aforementioned ‘Troy' like hymns, the music and sound within the game are pretty good as well. There isn't anything particularly exceptional with the music, but when it does play it fits the mood well. The voice acting is acceptable given the fact that most of the theatrical actors including Jack Black lent their voices and likeness for the game. However nothing compares to the sound effects for the two animal stars: King Kong and V-Rex. Their screams and roars are so lifelike you might even shiver a little the first time you hear them.

Most importantly, when games are costing up to $60, you want to make sure you're getting your money's worth, which is why it is a little disappointing that King Kong can be finished between 6-8 hours. Other than the intro, there aren't any cut scenes and having the game so linear defiantly causes you to speed through. There are a few areas you have to look around to find objects or try to set some brush on fire to get through, but these are pretty simple and don't take much time even if you were to get stuck. As far as replay value, there is very little. Replaying levels will let you accumulate points and the more points earn the more extras that will be unlocked. However the majority of these are artwork. A couple of these unlockables are interesting (especially the last one), but it won't be long before you'll earn enough points for these as well. For the most part, they aren't worth the time and effort.

Overall, Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie is a solid RENTAL. This is a solid game for the Xbox 360 especially given lack of variety among the rest of the launch titles. King Kong is easy to pick up and play through. You immediately get pulled into the game as if you were really on the island, and best of all you get to play as King Kong. So why shouldn't you buy this game? First of all it's way too short. Any game that can be beaten in one day with very little replay value shouldn't be worth pulling out your wallet. Secondly, there isn't enough Kong. King Kong is the real draw for this game and you only spend about 25% of the time playing as the giant gorilla. Third, there is way too much jungle. Only the last few levels aren't set on Skull Island. However the game would have seemed much less redundant if more of the game was set in New York City. So this is definitely a game most of you will enjoy and it's definitely worth your time stopping by the local Blockbuster or queuing up in your GameFly account if you have a free Saturday. Just don't cash your paycheck for it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/09/06

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