Posted:2006-03-11 By Master Chief Number of View:7115
By :Master Chief
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Peter Jackson\'s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie
Genre: Action / FPS
Minimum: Pentium III 1 Ghz, 256 MB RAM, Win 98SE/ME/2000/XP, 3D Graphics Accel.
There has been a ton of ballyhoo surrounding Ubisoft\'s recent release of Peter Jackson\'s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, a combination of first-person shooter, third-person brawler, and action-advanture. Unlike many other game review sites, I purposely waited until I saw the movie, Peter Jackson\'s King Kong before I played and reviewed the game. Part of the reason for this is that it would be hard to determine the innovativeness of the software release until I could compare it with the movie. Well, I loved the movie, but all of us have experienced the pattern where a movie can be excellent and a game poor, or (admittedly more rarely) the reverse. So how does this latest effort fare?
The story in this game is relatively close -- though by no means identical in all respects -- to that in the movie, which itself is relatively faithful to the original 1933 film classic. Filmmaker Carl Denham (played by the spunky Jack Black) is desperate to make a great film, and so drags a motley crew, including the attractive Amm Darrow (played by Naomi Watts) on a wild goose chase. You play the role of screenwriter Jack Driscoll, (played by the Oscar-award winning actor Adrien Brody). The action begins right as their ship reaches the mysterious SkullIsland, a legendary locale filled with monsters of all varieties. You mission appears to be from the outset largely focused on figuring out how to survive.
The action is divided into a set of short juicy segments, most of which can be completed in less than fifteen minutes. Brief cut scenes that provide transitions for the plotline connect these segments, and often you see your progression on a map. The advantage here is that the gameplay never drags, and you do not have to worry about backtracking here if you are killed; the disadvantage is that you never have a sense of real depth in terms of subtle character or plot development. The pace is indeed a lot tighter and more streamlined than that in the rather long movie.
As in the movie, you do not go through this play experience alone. Your comrades surround you most of the time, and their realistic reactions contribute to the dramatic tension. As in the movie, Carl Denham\'s singleminded obsession with capturing film footage during most of his time on SkullIsland constantly gets him (and you) into trouble. Often you are trying to protect the others in your party, and occasionally they try to help you. More often than not, however, you (as Jack) are the one expected to undertake the most daring action. The others do help keep you on task, and the emotional impact on you of their terror is palpable.
In stark contrast to most virtual shooters, in Peter Jackson\'s King Kong your weaponry is extremely limited. The most common weapon you have available is a spear, which is surprisingly effective, and bones are not far behind. If you light spears on fire, they are even more lethal, and you can also use them to set fire to nearby brush and incinerate your enemies. For conventional arms, you have occasional access to pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles and Tommy-guns, but for limited periods of time and with limited ammunition. A seaplane periodically drops crates full of weapons every now and then. In any case, you may carry only one weapon at a time. Because of the tactical limitations imposed by your meager arsenal, the combat is extremely tense and ultimately necessitates intelligent choice on your part.
More than any shooter I have played since an old DOS PC title appropriately named Creature Shock, you encounter here an unending series of the most relentlessly ferocious creatures imaginable. These include huge bats, crabs, dinosaurs, millipedes, and scorpions. Their exclusive desire appears to be to rip you to shreds and ultimately devour you. A few, like the tyrannosaurus rex, simply cannot be killed by humans, so all you can do is to run and hide (until King Kong enters the picture). The battles with these creatures are usually at quite close range, and usually downright riveting.
The puzzle elements in Peter Jackson\'s King Kong are decent but not dazzling. Perhaps the most common type requires you to find missing levers to insert into posts so as to rotate open huge primitive wooden gates to proceed on your journey. These levers are not usually very hard to find, but often you have to place yourself in harm\'s way to pick them up. Another type of puzzle challenge is when you are facing mammoth adversaries and you have to find ways to kill little creatures as bait to lure foes hungry to devour them in a different direction, with the underlying goal of keeping your large foes distracted. Furthermore, you need to figure out when to burn the brush as a way to fry your enemies (if you do this at the wrong time or in the wrong place, you could block you own path or even kill yourself).
While the first-person shooter elements of Peter Jackson\'s King Kong are fun, it is when you play in third-person mode as King Kong -- only a small proportion of the action -- that this title really packs a punch. You fight a surprisingly challenging set of gargantuan adversaries. Although the first major battle against a swarm of bats is a bit repetitive and not the most enjoyable, the rest of the clashes constitute a pure unadulterated thrill ride. If you think fighting against one tyrannosaurus rex is a chore, try battling three at once. You also have to deal with swarms of pesky natives. The moves you can undertake are amazing: you may swing from vines, climb steep slopes, swat and pummel foes, throw them around, and even -- after they are weakened -- split their jaws open, rendering them lifeless. Primal animalistic impulses dominate the action. Sometimes you have Ann Darrow in tow, and when you put her down she often helps you out.
Graphics: Peter Jackson\'s King Kong, available in normal or widescreen mode, absolutely excells visually in an artistic sense, but the title is deficient from a technical perspective. Perhaps the outstanding dimension of the graphics is the movie-like cinematic quality of most of the scenes, conveying a wonderful sense of place, size, and context. The style is very consistent in everything you encounter, particularly on SkullIsland. In the background you see jungle, mountains, wooden and stone structures, all integrated together beautifully. The scenery is gorgeous, and you feel as if you are a part of a living environment; even the streets of New York City are teeming with activity. Among the special visual effects, the excellent rendition of fire and water particularly stand out. The creatures are terrifying and extremely realistically animated, both when they are moving around and when they become wounded. Watching one monster devour another, you can almost taste the blood. Many of the action sequences are truly memorable, conveying the same intensity as the movie itself.
On the down side, the visuals are more than a bit washed out, flat, and faded, and in the end they are not nearly as vibrant and colorful as those in the movie. In addition, the depiction of human faces, while adequate, is not outstanding.
Interface: The control system for Peter Jackson\'s King Kong is totally intuitive when you are playing Jack in first-person shooter mode. The mouse-keyboard combination is standard and easy to use. However, when you play the role of King Kong, the controls take a little getting used to.
Peter Jackson\'s King Kong deviates from the traditional shooter/brawler in one principal way: the play screen has no indicators or status bars at all. In an attempt to make players feel as if they are really a part of the action, there is nothing artificial to clue you in that this is just a game. When you reload, you get an oral ammunition update, and when you are injured the screen goes red, your vision gets blurry, your hearing gets dull, and your breathing becomes labored (you heal quickly after resting). This novel system works extremely well.
The save system allows you to save wherever you want, but -- as is more typical of console titles -- if you quit and then resume playing later you can return only to predetermined checkpoints.
Like a movie DVD, the computer version of this offering includes several extras, including a lengthy clip on the making of the game and a nice selection of concept art from the film. While these do not contribute directly to the quality of the gameplay, they constitute interesting fluff.
Gameplay: Peter Jackson\'s King Kong contains some of the most intense and exciting action combat sequences I have ever experienced on the computer. The play is very fast-paced, and there is never a dull moment. Nothing artificial interferes with the exhilaration of the chase and the combat. Just like the movie, this computer game left me emotionally and physically drained.
However, the heavy scripting in the game is painfully evident, as you have more than a bit of a linear "on-rails" experience with few choices about where to go or what to do. The setting allows you to fantasize about unshackled exploration, yet you rarely can stray very far from the main path.
Despite the entertainment value, the whole play experience is rather short, under ten hours. It is especially disappointing that, when you finally make it to New York City, you have an unbelievably brief time there to do much of anything, without Jack involved at all (unlike in the movie).
Multiplayer: There is no multiplayer element in this game, so this caytegory is not rated.
Sound FX: The sound effects in Peter Jackson\'s King Kong are absolutely fantastic. The earth-shattering roars of the large creatures make you spring back in fear. Tons of realistic ambient environmental sounds -- including rain, thunder, leaves rustling, water dripping, and birds chirping -- add to the realism of the experience. The main characters\' voice work, by actors Jack Black, Naomi Watts, and Adrien Brody, is absolutely superb. Every noise you hear is crystal clear. There is specific support for Creative Labs\' EAX sound standard.
Musical Score: The background music in Peter Jackson\'s King Kong is as exquisite as the sound effects. The full orchestral score is completely original and designed by the group at HUGESound. It was actually composed and recorded before the score for the movie was even started. The games score sucks you in slowly but surely into the mood of the action. Never overwhelming what you see on the screen, the music is just plain sumptuous and perfectly suited to this kind of action-adventure. The melancholy tone suits the tragic ending. The soundtrack confirms that you are participating in an epic story.
Intelligence & Difficulty: Although Peter Jackson\'s King Kong has no difficulty settings, this title is clearly suited for people of all gaming skills and experience. This release has elements that would appeal to both meanstream and hardcore players. It is certainly the type where you can just install it, start it up, and jump into the action without reading the manual or even the "readme" file.
The artificial intelligence of the computer-controlled enemies is, as befits the creatures depicted, rather primitive. Usually enemies just run right at you, occasionally avoiding fire if it interferes with their path. Sometimes, however, they are smart enough to attack you in packs all at once from multiple directions. As to your artificially intelligent comrades, they behave intelligently, staying out of your way when necessary and even helping you in tough battles, and they always seem to know where to go next.
Overall: Peter Jackson\'s King Kong is full of novel ideas and ultimately is a magnificent action title. Unlike most formulaic games based on movies, what you experience here is always fresh and exciting. This release\'s combination of first-person shooting with third-person brawling, with a touch of adventure, exhibits polish and professionalism from beginning to end. Although not without flaws, such as the confining scripting and the disappointing New York City sequence, the world of computer recreation would be in a lot better shape if there ware more titles like this one. Flipping between Jack Driscoll and King Kong adds spice and diversity to the gameplay, and some of the encounters are so special that they have stayed with me long after I finished playing.
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