Peter Jackson's King Kong
The Last Time I was planning major monkey coverage in PC, I was phoning a zoo asking if we could dress up one of their simian inmates in gangster clothing and pose alongside them with a copy of the magazine. Interestingly, the clothing wasn't an issue for the lady monkeywrangler. It was more the fact that apparently, chimps can be unpredictably violent, with a tendency to bite your face off - obviously a disadvantage if you're the editor of Britain's best PC games rag.
Whicji brings us to King Kong - another aggressive ape, that again I imagine would be difficult to get into a sharp suit and force to smoke a cigar. Ubisoft's game is a film tie-in featuring Peter The Lord of the Rings' Jackson's latest spectacular and stars one of Hollywood's most famous monster icons.
A videogame based on a movie is usually something to Ixj extremely wary of, but this is no ordinary title, lieing a genuine creative collaboration between Michel Ancel (Beyond Good & Evil), Peter Jackson and his talented special FX crew Weta. The result is a short but extremely polished rollercoaster-ride of a game packed with genuine awe-inspiring moments of fear and wonder. And a f**-off big monkey.
Set in the 1930s, King Kong tells the story of film-maker Carl Denham (played by Jack Black - all of the movie's actors voice characters in the game), searching for the mythical Skull Island to make the epic that will save his career. In the game, he's accompanied by the Venture ship's Captain Hayes, struggling actress Ann Darrow, young sailor Jimmy and New York screenwriter Jack Driscoll, who you play in first-person. Right from the opening sequence, when you're being lowered in a rickety rowing boat onto an angry ocean, King Kong plunges you into the action - the intensity of the seasickness-inducing dash for the shore is actually reminiscent of the Omaha Beach landing in WWII games such as Medal of Honor.
Your AI-controlled compadres join you at certain points in the adventure and really contribute to the atmosphere and immersion of the game, even helping out in scraps with the local prehistoric wildlife, shooting enemies with spears and firearms and dragging injured parties to safety.
Each of the four characters has a distinct personality, ranging from Carl Denham's heartless wisecracks ("We desperately need to find the others - they'll have three cans of film with them!"), to Hayes' doommongering ("Had your fill of real-life yet?"). They also bicker between each other, shout and scream when they're in trouble and give you hints of how to solve puzzles and progress in the game. As always though, keep an eye out for their welfare, as a death results in a restart from the last save point.
Gameplay is straightforward and linear, guiding you through the dense jungle as you progress by finding wooden levers to insert into vertical wooden poles, then turned by you and a team-mate to open gates.
Hear Them Roar
Fire is a major element (ahem) too, and is used to clear harsh, spiky foliage from your path, as well as scare off or bum to death any carnivorous predators - of which there are a fair few lurking in the bushes and long grass of tlie island. These include bitey insects, bitey giant bats and bitey dinosaurs, which are without doubt, the most impressive in-game prehistoric lizards yet seen in a videogame - they make Turok's Io6k like household pets. Tlie T-Rex has to be seen to be believed - a hulking meat-eating killer, wonderfully animated with salivadripping from its jaws and a terrifying roar that physically distorts everything in its vicinity. Fortunately, Jack has access to various meaty weapons (carried one at a time) such as shotguns, rifles and Tomniy Guns that can be fired by holding down the spacebar and pressing the left mouse-button. (Default left mousebutton only is for melee attacks, and for other stuff such as smashing through debris-blocked passageways.) Extra weapons and ammo can be gatliered from parcels dropped by Captain Englehorn, a character who pilots a sea-plane and flies into the action from time-to-time.
Enter The Monkey
Obviously, however, the main attraction in King Kong is the 25ft giant ape himself, who yon control in third-person and view with a fixed cinematic-style camera. Kong is a massive lumbering animal, and yon really feel his huge weight and power when you're controllint) him in the game, but the silky controls mean you're soon deftly leaping from branch to branch, clambering up walls and jumping Chasms like a hairy Prince of Persia.
Hie Kong sections of the game involve the growing relationship between the big fella and Ann, as he protects her from nasty natives, dinosaurs and other enemies by flattering them about the head and neck with his fists. You can use a combination of left and right mouse button presses to punch, grab and use tree trunks and other objects to hurl at distant foes, while the mouse wheel can be used to charge up Kong for rage attacks. Yep, comliat is brutal - fur flies, limbs collide, claws rip into skin .md lilts' heads are bitten off, in wliat could a subtle tribute to Ozzy Osliotirne. The finishing moves are particularly excellent too - you can force open a (lino's jaws until they snap, for example, liefore Kong roars loudly with approval. Despite their button-mashing simplicity, the kittles are always spectacular events that will stop anyone passing your PC monitor in their tracks with a winceinducing display of animalistic violence. However, there's beauty in the beast -the way that Kong can gently pick up Ann with his right hand and place her down safely away from trouble is very touching and reminiscent of the non-verbal relationship between the laoy and girl in classic PlayStation 2 adventure Ico. Ann also learns through the adventure in the jungle into the urban sprawl ot NY to care about Kong's welfare, and will throw spears at his enemies and clear obstacles in his path.
It's obvious that I like this game - it has a big monkey in it for goodness sake - but is King Kong worth your Christmas cash? In cold analysis, you can criticise the fact that the shooter parts are somewhat unsophisticated compared to a dedicated FPS such as F.E.A.R., not possessing jump or lean keys, for example. Plus, the fixed camera in the Kong sections sometimes manoeuvres into an awkward position. There arc moments of dumb Al with dinosaurs running on the spot too, and you can die from simply walking into sharp jungle shrubbery if you're not careful.
Most importantly, King Kong is a game you can rattle through in no time - there's nothing here to challenge you if you found Far Cry "a bit easy". This is a console game at heart, and one to play sat on the couch in front of the TV in the afternoon, rattier than hunched over a keyboard and monitor at 4am.
However, even though we're yet to see Peter Jackson's King Kong movie (and can't say whether the game closely follows the film or not), Ubisoft has already delivered a cracking action-adventure packed with jaw-dropping (and jaw-breaking) set pieces, such as a truly frightening T-Rex attack on a rope-bridge and a brontosaurus stampede. Even though some of the textures aren't great - up close they can look rather blocky - there are still some beautiful jungle and city scenes with atmospheric lighting, cool particle effects and superb character and creature animation, as you'd expect from a development team with unfettered access to the might of Weta's special effects and art direction departments.
Kong is the ultimate anti-hero, and now you can play as him, you'll empathise with his tragic predicament oven more. Yep, King Kong is one very slick package and certainly the best movie tie-in game since TIk Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay. If only they'd thought to slap a wig and roller-skates on tlie big monkey fella, we could've been looking at a classic...
Download Peter Jackson's King Kong
We ran a full review of King Kong's PS2 and XB outings in last month's issue, and after playing through this next-gen version, we can say that it's the same great game, just slightly prettier. Except when it's not--though we didn't run into issues ourselves, Ubisoft President Yves Guillemot told BBC.co.uk, "We have a problem on the 360. The screen is dark on some TVs and it totally changes the experience." Furthermore, the U.S. branch of Ubi is "actively investigating isolated reports of resolution issues on specific plasma screens," according to a spokesperson.
Kong, Kong! I think that filmmakers responsible for the original King Kong would've been floored that not only was their film being remade by one of this era's greatest directors, but that it'd also accomplished one of the most difficult o all things. King Kong has been made into a good video game, something nigh-unheard of for a franchise game. Joining few other titles, this is a franchise title that isn't just fantastic, it's a movie with video game legs. Light in some parts, and generally sparse in ways you wouldn't expect, this game survives on the strength of its narrative feel, and the sheer beauty of the visuals of this game.
Set almost entirely on the fearsome Skull Island from the motion picture, King Kong is a game of survival, both as human and as beast. The interesting part of this game isn't so much that you'll play through an interesting FPS, but rather that you're walking through a story that parallels the film in a way that makes the game enjoyable. There's actually very little narrative in the game, not a whole lot happens in terms of story; when the game plays through each scripted scene, it is stunningly entertaining. And in addition, getting the chance to play Kong is perhaps the most fun I've had in a very long time. By portraying him as a playable character, it makes him such a strong protagonist. It gives him the personality, the empathy that you need to tell his story so well. And make no mistake, this is Kong's story.
I cannot overstate that this game is beautiful on a level rarely seen in video games. The only drawback to this game's graphics are the human character modes, and even when they don't quite match the rest of the visuals, they're still quite excellent. Kong himself looks stunning, and the first time you see Skull Island during a storm, you'll wonder when you bought a ticket to the film. There's one scene, where Ann first gets taken by Kong, that shows light streaming through a sky thick with smoke, and it's simply beautiful. Let me put it another way. This game looks so good, I frequently mistake the beginning of a level for concept art. Paired with this is a stunning soundtrack, Hollywood quality voice acting, and several incredible roars delivered by the Ape Wonder of the World.
This game is beautiful, and sad, if only for the ending of the story itself. It doesn't offer much additional gameplay, has no multiplayer, and in exchange, a small smattering of bonus features. But then again, this game is like having a good burger. It might not be quite a meal in and of itself, but done well, it is truly one of the best things you could have. Definitely worth purchasing, if you're looking for a good Xbox 360 game.
Giant monsters getting modern-day makeovers--it happened to Godzilla and Anna Nicole Smith, and now it's King Kong's turn. Director Peter Jackson (the Lord of the Rings trilogy) is bringing the big ape from the 1933 and 1976 flicks back to the big screen this December, and Michel Ancel (Beyond Good & Evil) is doing the honors on the videogame adaptation. You play part of the game as Jack Driscoll, a squishable human (Adrien Brody in the flick) exploring King Kong's crib, Skull Island, a land lost in time. When you're not first-person shooting and adventuring as Jack, you're third-person pounding and smashing as Kong himself.
Awesome! We're as tired of movie-to-game lameness as you guys, but this one's different. The first-person bits were exciting and tense...with a sense of dread as you and your human companions are running through the dark jungle, escaping toothy dinosaurs, giant centipedes, and other lost-world dangers. But you're not just shooting anything big that moves. Rampaging Tyrannosaurus rexes nipping at your ass? Light a grassy field on fire with your spear torch to reroute them...or drop a juicy pterodactyl to get them to stop and chow, buying you a few precious moments. You're constantly thinking about the situation around you, because pure force isn't going to help you survive on Skull Island. Playing as King Kong could've been a game-design disaster, but when he's smashing through skyscraping wooden doors, lifting massive stone pillars, or tearing a velociraptor's two jaws apart, you really feel the raw sense of power and strength surging from the TV screen to your controller.