For serious gamers -- you know, those guys populating online chat rooms complaining about game adaptations of the latest Hollywood blockbuster or bemoaning the emphasis on graphics over gameplay -- playing Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie may be problematic.
Simply stated, Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie is not just a great use of the license and a wonderful movie tie-in, but it's a stupendous game to boot. And while other games aspire to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas-like open ended gameplay, Peter Jackson's King Kong happily offers a simplistic, on-rails experience with jaw dropping graphics and astounding, cinematic set pieces that will have you thumping your chest like King Kong himself.
Until the next generation of consoles, led by the Xbox 360, hit Australian lounge rooms, Peter Jackson's King Kong offers some of the best eye candy available on any console. Rays of light beam through heavy foliage and a thick, rolling mist brings Skull Island to life. Major characters from the movie accompany you through various stages of your journey looking and sounding (they are voiced by the actual cast of the movie) eerily like-life, marred only by the terrible lip-synching. Enemies, which consist predominantly of giant centipedes, gargoyle-like creatures and a whole host of dinosaurs, are also rendered in an incredibly lifelike fashion.
And to best show off all these fancy graphics, Peter Jackson's King Kong does away with the traditional first person shooter staple, the heads up display. You won't miss it, though, as managing ammunition is intuitive. Simply press a button and your character tells you how many bullets you have in reserve. And replacing the health bar is great system where if in danger, the screen turns sepia and blurs, while the action slows down and dramatic music pipes up. If you can't punch, shoot or spear yourself from the jaws (literally, in the case of a dinosaur attack) of death in time, the screen turns red and you die.
Players take the role of Jack Driscoll for the bulk of the game. Gameplay consists exclusively of using either guns or spears to fight off opponents and solving basic puzzles to open doors. Despite sounding awfully repetitive on paper, the cinematic way this is handled means that you'll be glued to your seat for the whole seven hours the game takes.
Most excitingly perhaps, you'll play as the mighty King Kong himself for several short sections. Assessed purely on game dynamics, these levels should be vaguely unsatisfying. The combat is simplistic, like a drastically reduced wrestling game or a one player version of Final Fight starring a wonderfully rendered Donkey Kong. The chases sequences too, only require you to push the thumb stick in the most obvious direction and press buttons at regular intervals.
But in Peter Jackson's King Kong, graphics, sound effects and outstanding production values make all the difference. Hammer your controller to send Kong into a rage and he rears up and unleashes a blood curdling roar that turns your vision sepia, distorts the screen and sends you cowering behind the couch.
Unfortunately though, while the heavily scripted gameplay and the constant set pieces makes King Kong play like virtual rollercoaster, it does mean that there is one, and only one route through each of the levels. There is never any ambiguity about what you're supposed to do and it's impossible to fall of the predefined path.
You'll certainly have a blast playing through Peter Jackson's King Kong the first time and you'll probably play through again, or at least until you unlock the alternative ending (lets just say you're able to save Kong) but there is little replay value after that.
Ultimately though, rent it if you must, but just play it. Peter Jackson's King Kong is the new 500 pound gorilla of the gaming scene.
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