If there's one thing that can be said about movie endorsed games, it's that they will more often than not, be unworthy of your time. This however, can not be said this time around for Peter Jackson's King Kong: The official game of the movie (and longest game title). Based upon the widely acclaimed movie of 1933, the new film produced by Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) is set to be another blockbuster smash in the cinemas, so of course there's going to be a videogame along with it. At first I was skeptical, then I was intrigued by the good press it was getting, and then before I knew it, there I was playing it with a smile on my face. King Kong is a game that works. Not only does it do its job of putting you inside the film properly, it serves itself as a great game on itself. Splicing both the paths of Kong and your main character Jack into a mix of 1st & 3rd person predator slaughtering action that never really seems to end, King Kong is a rarity of its kind.
The beginning of the game directly feeds you into the shoes of Jack Driscoll onboard a rowing boat with none other than the film crew hired by Carl Denham to help finish his new movie before the film studio pulls the plug on his project. Not only does the beginning sequence of the game immediately capture your attention but it makes you feel involved and directly within the film straight away; a theme that plays strongly throughout King Kong's gameplay.
Out of what appears to be desperation, Carl decides to head for : A place where civilization is known to have ceased existing long before our crew arrives. It's here that Carl hopes to film the material that is going to re-boost his career as a producer. During the short boat journey, things get a bit rough on sea and you blank out. When you wake, you see that you are onshore of along with Carl, Ann & Hayes. Naturally, most of the crew with the exception of the ever naive Carl want to get off the island as soon as possible and that's basically what the story revolves around for most of Jack's story. Infact for the first 15 minutes or so, you won't actually do much except soak in the great story and atmosphere placed before you. It's well done and successfully establishes that 'movie' feel.
In fact, as with most movie based games, the game practically sticks to the storyline of the movie pretty tightly but this time without all the annoying splices and teasers from the film itself. So is it any good? Well of course it is, it's based upon King Kong! If the story within this game wasn't any good then I think we'd have to seriously address Peter Jackson as to why the game claims to be 'the official game of the movie' when it's nothing like it. Good news though, there is no flaw here, it is what all King Kong fans would be proud of and never fails to captivate you within itself.
As the game's introductory phase comes to an end you will almost immediately be faced with the first of many battle scenes of which aren't that short of each other. After around 5 minutes of shooting small enemies, you will have to take down one somewhat Boss-Like version of those whom attacked you prior. The suddenness of this action will more than likely keep your adrenaline pumping and excited as to what happens next. Most noticeable within the game is its graphical interface with which you are presented with to use throughout your travels. The creators of Kong have decided to go with the simplicity approach and remove all signs of information and stats (such as bullet & health) from the screen display and instead just show the user what Jack is seeing. There is no inclination that this is a game at all, instead the developers obviously want you to feel like you're in this world which would undoubtedly be less striking than it is if there was ammo info and radar plastered on top of the atmospheric and wonderfully involving world in which you play. So by default there is no crosshair to tell you where you’re aiming precisely which can simply be turned on in the option menu but of course, this is not recommended unless you feel you really must have the aid. In order for you to check your ammo you must simply press a single button and Jack will talk to himself, essentially telling you how much clips or bullets he has left; "Four Magazines on Backup". The health system not only isn't display on screen but it instead takes on more of the role of some modern FPS games in which you only die if you get so many times within a certain duration. For example, when you get bitten by a 'V-REX' your screen will blur, sound will lower and things will tend to go a little slower; letting you know that you are injured. Take another hit before this effect ends and you will most likely die, take a step back however and take time out from action until you heal and you essentially be back to100% health. Not only does this save clutter on screen and help add to the whole cinematic feel, but it's a system that helps gameplay flow smoothly with less restrictions.
The games weapon system is pretty simple allowing you to carry only one gun at a time along with a spear or bone from a fallen predator. Whilst carrying a spear or bone, you cannot use your gun, again forcing you to make use with what you have around you to the best of your abilities. Throwing such weapons at enemies is just as good as shooting them sometimes and if you even decide to set your spear on fire, you might just get a critical hit, saving lots of precious ammo. There are no auto-reload functions available for you to turn on in options, leaving that all up to you and also there is no x and y sensitivity adjustment control available either. Which is a shame because it does seem a little too slow, especially when up against flying enemies which come at you from all directions at high speeds. Other than that however and the weaponry system is pretty basic with nothing much else to mention other than that you can probably shoot a good bit away from your enemy and still hit him thanks to the games very easy target system which automatically decides if you pointed your gun close enough to the target and determines the hit on that.
Some of King Kong's greatest moments are essentially within the battles with the larger and more intimidating predators such as 'V-REX' and the giant crab. Whether it's trying to distract REX from eating your crew or trying to escape from 2 of them whilst on a river raft, you will almost certainly feel the intensity created through the size and convincing nature of the game, established throughout. Although not exactly challenging, the battles themselves never really progress in terms of difficulty with the exception of a few stages that feel like bosses. Instead, you'll mainly be fighting the same ones over and over in order to progress. Funnily enough this doesn't seem to get boring mainly due to the fact that you will struggle to manage your bullets efficiently enough to avoid having to use spears. This can force you to create a different approach to defending yourself against enemies each time, helping to take that repetitive nature out of your ever repetitive encounters. Add to this the sheer scale and action of levels and you'll see why it never really gets boring.
Although around 80% of King Kong is primarily Action orientated, there is a certain puzzle aspect that's used at points within the story. It's this that actually brings the game down for the most part. Practically all of them are limited to throwing spears to burn weeds and looking for levers to open gates a lot of the time with the latter of the two being sometimes frustratingly annoying if you can't figure out where to go. Another small bad point to the gameplay is that even thought he developers have went to great effort to create a very realistic game for you to tinker with, your supporting characters which you must protect seem almost invincible for most of the game most likely because making them vulnerable to death would hinder the linear storyline or make gameplay too challenging. So yes, it is quite a shame. This is probably less annoying in terms of gameplay, but still a bit of a thorn in terms of simulation. Then again, I don't see anyone surviving a bite from V-REX and then going on for another 6 hours battling other beasts so who really cares?
So after all this reading you're probably wondering, 'what about Kong?' well, that's the problem. You see you actually only play as the overgrown gorilla himself for around 15-20% of the game. Yes, I did actually calculate. Out of the game's 6 hours of gameplay you play 1 of them as Kong altogether. The reason this is a problem is because playing as Kong is such a gift and very enjoyable. During your limited time however, you will undoubtedly feel like you’re the angry beast you were born to be. Swing around on ledges, scale huge walls, jump from cliffs in real-time to flatten your unknowing enemies, it's all you could wish for whilst controlling a 25 foot tall Gorilla. All of this handles superbly and feels brilliant as you rampage through the jungle carelessly while the game interprets your moves with care and beauty. Add to this the ability to tear a V-REX's jaw in half, watching pieces of walls and pillars collapse as you come in contact with them and feeling the rumble in your controller as you punch and power your way through countless opponents and you will probably be fuming with anger after playing this for 5 minutes then being forced to throw spears around for the next 2 hours. A unique feature to the battle system is Kong's 'Fury' ability in which he hammers on his chest then screams furiously before the everything slows down (as such with being hit when Jack). This not only helps you take out all those annoying little bats and such but also his blows become increasingly violent and very quickly knock out your opponents. Oh yes, it's as good as it sounds. Strike an enemy when in Fury Mode and you'll also be treated to neat camera movements to give that cinematic experience a boost just when it's needed, enrapturing your vicious blows in all their glory. One major problem I had whilst playing as Kong however is the camera positioning. Sometimes it will reposition itself at the wrong moment and suddenly you won't know where you are (or were). Don't let this put you off however because ultimately playing as Kong is highly entertaining and certainly does the game great justice.
Adding to King Kong's realistic feel is the way in which is presented. The graphics offer you tons of things to look at due to the sheer massiveness of the levels and the detail that’s gone into creating them so perfectly. Creatures within the game will either scare the hell out of you with their sheer scale and high detailed representation or make you squirm as you see them squirming their way towards you quite realistically. Use of light is used very efficiently through the game to give tone to enemies of great size which helps to convey that feeling of being pretty small when faced up against some of these guys. All of this gives off a fantastic atmosphere that furthers that feeling of being inside the actual movie and walking amongst these giants. Spookily it does a great job of doing so just as such well established games such as Doom have done in the past. Always keeping you on the edge of your seat, Kong not only delivers in visuals but also if not even more so in the audio department. Weaponry sounds powerful, enemies sound fierce, the acting by the voice actors is done fantastically as you would expect from a movie endorsed game, and the sound of Kong roaring at the top of his voice is sure to fill you with the sense of power that Peter Jackson wanted you to feel. The mixture of both media formats works fantastically, linking the blurring of the screen with the roars of Kong and Rex completes that feeling of power and size displayed in the game's action sequences. Smaller enemies sound just as good and will most likely leave you looking all around you as you hear rustling through bushes and slithering movements coming towards you. Everything is timed together excellently and adds a lot to the table in terms of atmosphere and realism.
After 6 or so hours of gameplay however and the game will quickly end on you, which is admittedly a little on the brief side. I'm guessing didn't want to give too much of his movie away. So ultimately the game does end a little short but to be honest, there wasn't that much else they could have done with it as far as I can see, at least in terms of the story mode. It would have been nice to some more features to keep you playing other than a few unlockable features that aren't really that interesting other than the alternate ending which I have yet to see and an online ranking system where you can compare your 'points' to other players across the globe. Needless to say however, don't let this small factor put you off giving this game a try. It's certainly unlike many move adaptations and is a game that stands on its own two feet effortlessly. Yes there's only about 6 hours of gameplay and then another 4 or so on unlocking things but ultimately its 6 hours of complete fun. There's hardly ever a dull moment and that's a hard thing to come by. King Kong is a game that takes you into its world and lets you experience something quite spectacular for a short but well spent time.
Final Grade: 8.2/10