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ups: Beautiful graphics, cinematic feel, yet still solid gameplay. Tense.
downs: Repetitive gameplay, relies on, "Find A, take to location B."

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King Kong Review
game: Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie
four star
posted by: Aaron Stanton
publisher: Ubisoft
date posted: 11:46 AM Sun Nov 27th, 2005
last revision: 05:33 PM Sun Nov 27th, 2005

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Click to read.The Xbox 360 is the first of the \"next-gen\" game consoles to come to the market, and King Kong is one of the best games to prove what it\'s capable of.

Directed by the minds that brought us the brilliant Beyond Good and Evil and The Lord of the Rings films, King Kong is both cinematic and breathtakingly beautiful, yet still manages to be a game at the same time. As so rarely happens in movie-based games, King Kong successfully combines the high-minded artistic direction of the movie with the gameplay elements necessary to make it an entertaining interactive experience.

Though it suffers as the result of stretching a two-hour long plot over 15 hours of gameplay, King Kong is possibly the best action title in the launch line-up.

It\'s so very, very beautiful...

The most obvious element of King Kong is its visual presentation. The game has an uncanny way of tricking you into believing you\'re watching a cut-scene, only to leave you waiting for something to happen; nothing does until you pick up the controller and start moving around. Without any sort of heads-up display of any kind, indicating your life or otherwise, a screenshot from nearly any point in the game looks like it\'s been carefully chosen to highlight the best graphical features. In truth the graphical quality simply never drops, and everything looks great. As will be increasingly common as we move into the next console era, King Kong\'s sense of reality is distorted more by its physics than by its graphics.

Graphics great, physics not so much:

As developers get better at taking advantage of the Xbox 360\'s power, you\'ll see less clipping issues - character\'s arms will collide with walls instead of passing through them, and debris will finally crumble the way it should.

Physical interactions will become more realistic. King Kong\'s graphics are fabulous, but its attention to detail and lighting make it all-the-more obvious when King Kong walks through a tree. One of the biggest hurdles in making games look like CGI movies is perfecting physical interaction; even minor physical objects should realistically interact with each other.

Since everything in King Kong is so well presented that errors that would normally go unmentioned get our attention. Because of how good the rain looks falling from the sky in the opening scene, you\'ll notice that your oars don\'t actually touch the water while rowing. Because of the quality of the lighting in the environment, you\'ll notice that the flames of your ignited spear don\'t cast light on the walls.

Regardless of these minor oversights, King Kong is a truly engaging package, and reminds us why we\'re excited to have the 360 in our hands at last.

Like a movie that you play:

Graphics are not nearly as impressive if there isn\'t a sense of style to go with them; in this, video games can learn a great deal from the movie industry. Elements that help build suspense in movies, such as how a camera is placed, are the same elements that build suspense in a video game. To the extent that it does not interfere with the ability to play the game (such as in the original Resident Evil titles), artistic direction can make an average game a great one.

Between the slow motion leaps through the air as Kong and the stylistic effects of the environment when V-Rex roars, King Kong is not only one of the best looking games you\'ve ever played on a console, but one of the most skillfully presented, as well.

Yeah, but how does it play?

After you get past the pretty graphics, what ultimately holds up is the gameplay. Thankfully, King Kong\'s gameplay shows nearly as well as its presentation. King Kong is played partly as a first person shooter from the perspective of the humans attempting to get it away uneaten, and partly as Kong, pursuing his doomed love affair through the jungles of an apparently never-ending mythical island. While playing as Kong is entertaining, it also represents the minority of the game; you won\'t play as Kong until about 40% of the way through the title, and then only in brief segments. Considering that the time spent as the giant ape is the weakest part of the experience, it\'s probably good that the majority of your time will be spent looking through the eyes of Jack Driscoll, a human trying to survive.

Play as Man, Play as Animal:

And extremely tense.

Ammo and Atmosphere:

While you\'ll have weapons, mainly guns collected from crates dropped onto the island by air, you\'ll quickly find that relying on them will get you killed. You can ration your ammo by using spears and bone fragments from the environment as weapons, and death waits if you don\'t. Without relying on these secondary weapons, you\'ll quickly find yourself defenseless and easily chewed upon. Throwing your spear, and then racing to find a replacement adds a level of tension to the gameplay that wouldn\'t exist otherwise.

It adds desperation.

Tension is also built through design, such as not being able to aim or fire your weapon when in deep water. You\'ll still be attacked, you just can\'t fight back. Not really. You know that you\'re into the gaming experience when you feel actual, real dread, a physical clinching of the heart, when coming across a river that has to be crossed. After all, you never know what might lean out and pluck you out of the water on your way. You spend your time dreading the possibility, and every once in a while it happens.

Multiplayer features and design holes:

There are no multiplayer features in King Kong. This wouldn\'t be surprising if it were not for the little label on the back of the box that says, \"Players 1-2.\" It\'s lying. Don\'t purchase this game expecting to find yourself able to use a second controller for anything, let alone something that would constitute an actual two-player mode. Misprint on the box? We\'re still waiting for confirmation from Ubisoft, but yeah.. we think so...

Another difficulty with making a game cinematic is that it\'s hard to synchronize in-game events so that the player is sure to see it. The solution is often to simply have the event repeat endlessly. For example, there is one scene in the game when Jack comes upon dozens of huge, harmless dinosaurs in what appears to be a mass migration of some sort. One after the other, these massive creatures, several stories tall, amble by... after another... after another... it never ends. It\'s interesting to discover that the entire island is apparently able to support the feeding habits of an infinite supply of these creatures, and they have to eat a lot. Not so much a problem, seeing an endless flow of creatures sort of takes you out of a game in a moment that should have been filled with wonder... and was, until you realize that the dinosaurs are just a sophisticated version of the animated gifs you see on websites.


King Kong is beautiful to be hold, and fun to play. It suffers from somewhat repetitive gameplay, mainly because the plot itself was not designed to support 15 hours of gameplay, but not so repetitive that you want to turn it off. In between finding glorified keys to open doors, you\'ll find gems of extraordinary gameplay. Unless you go out of your way to avoid it, you\'ll be drawn into King Kong\'s world and be held there; though it\'s not a horror game, it delivers a sense of dread that many horror games would envy.

King Kong is one of the most intense games you\'ll play, and easily makes it into the list of games worth owning.

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