STAFF REVIEW of Peter Jackson's King Kong (Xbox 360)

Monday, December 5, 2005.
by SilverOak

Peter Jackson's King Kong Box art Standing and shivering in line at my local Best Buy for 17 hours the day before the launch of the highly anticipated Xbox 360, I had a lot of thinking and wondering to do.

First and foremost in my mind was what in the world was a semi-intelligent, semi-successful man doing in a line of desperate folks that seemed ready to riot if not given an opportunity to buy the new console. But beyond that frightening and quite realistic thought, I was firming up in my electronic shopping mind which new games I was going to buy once I made it past the security guards at the front door.

Of course I would grab ?Call of Duty? with all the press attention it was garnering, and ?GUN? was a natural for me since I really am a fan of the Old West. And then I saw a Best Buy advertisement, a picture of the cover art of the ?King Kong? game that was being released by Ubisoft, right before the release of the new version of the movie by Peter Jackson.

On a whim, I picked up the game, and after many hours of gaming pleasure later, I can give this title my humble ?thumbs up? for an addition to your Christmas wish list. Peter Jackson teamed with designer Michel Ancel and the results are excellent, and at times, even breathtaking.

The game gives a player time as both Jack Driscoll (hero), and also as King Kong himself (simian hero). I had more fun playing as Kong, but that may be it?s more in line with my mental abilities than any predisposed favorite of mine.

After an uneventful arrival and anchoring at Skull Island (I love that name!), the party makes its way through the jungle. Before long they of course find themselves the target of the resident dinosaur population and the not-so-friendly indigenous natives of the island.

The game itself plays like a hybrid first person shooter, with a healthy dose of puzzle solving thrown in for good measure. Puzzle solving may not be the correct term to be using here. Suffice to say that there are points in a game when must use your brain for other than just a place to rest your headset. I love the way that FPS games challenge a player ability to reason his way through problems instead of just turning the game into another shooter fest in which everything warm blooded and not friendly to you is blasted away. This is one of the games finer facets and one I enjoy thoroughly.

For the killing that Jack and his posse are forced into doing, they are given the option of using any of the spears lying about the island, or weapons airdropped by their partners. The spears will eventually break after repeated use, and there is a limited supply of ammunition, but using both can get you through any level. A convenient and handy gift that Jack has, is to ask any member of his party for the weapon they are carrying and they happily hand it off to him. Apparently they feel ok about walking the streets and paths of Skull Island without a weapon handy.

I knew that I would be given a chance to play the role of The Big Monkey himself, yet when it arrived in the game, I was still as surprised and pleased as I was in Halo 2 when I got to play the Covenant. The point arrives in the game when Jack comes up short trying to rescue the heroine Ann from attacking prehistoric fowl. Kong takes the reigns, and after whooping up on the attackers, earns Ann?s trust rather quickly.

Controlling the Super Simian takes some getting used to as the camera view switches to a third person view upon role switches, but once you do begin to understand how to control his movements, it becomes apparent that KK is not a monkey to be trifled with. He is the baddest dude on Skull Island and if an enemy doesn?t know it already, then Kong can set them straight quick. He can jump, swing, punch, melee run, crush, or whatever else it takes to get the job done.
Allowing players to play as Kong was a great move on part of the designers and Peter Jackson, and one that enhances the games enjoyment many times over.

?Yuck? was what I thought and maybe said aloud when I began playing King Kong. At first look, the graphics were unimpressive and at times even poor, but that soon gave way to better things for my optical pleasures. For some reason, the beginning chapters leave a lot to be desired but following chapters soon pick up the slack. The graphics guys spent considerable time on things like characters faces and bodies as they come off looking much like those you would find in a movie. I?m unsure if this is a question of which came first...the chicken or the egg? Did 360 make these launch games better with its impressive hardware, or did games like ?King Kong? always have this capability and are just now able to use it to their advantage. Either way you?ll be amazed at not only the cinematic portions of the game, but also the art inside the game itself.

Chance Thomas really shines with his composing on this game. I mean that with all sincerity. The musical score sets moods so perfectly, it is yet again difficult to figure out if this is a movie or a video game. As in a movie theater, the music can warn you of impending danger or lighten the mood and allow you to relax a bit, so does the game score.

The sound effects were equally impressive as illustrated by Jack?s breathing which show his severity of wounds. I got a kick when he would audibly sigh to try and relax himself after battles. Jungle sounds were all so realistic, it was wild! The sounds you would expect while traipsing through a jungle are all present as well. Wildlife and human noises, both from up close or far in the distance have credibility to them. Big ?thumbs up? to the sound guys on this game!

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.8 / 10
Sound: 9.4 / 10


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