Peter Jackson has become a house-hold name in recent years. The reason: he directed the highly rated and highly popular Lord of the Rings trilogy, which eventually made it onto the videogame scene and has become a huge hit with gamers around the world. 2005 saw the second remake of one of the most venerable classic films of all time, King Kong, directed by Peter Jackson, but not only has he directed King Kong, a game has now been released titled: Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie.
For those unaware of what the film is all about, I'll give you a very brief description. Carl Denham is a film-maker and the year is 1933. When a film-maker wants to do something, they always get their own way, and King Kong is no exception. Wanting to shoot on the mysterious Skull Island about a giant ape who once lived there, Denham evades the law and sets sail for the isle. However, things don't quite go according to plan.
Setting off from the ship 'Venture', Carl, Jack Driscoll (who is the screen-writer and the main playable character) and Ann Darrow (actress who is seen thieving an apple earlier on), find themselves on an island inhabited with weird creatures and of course, a 30-foot gorilla. When in the shoes of Jack, the game is set in first-person perspective with no health-meter nor any cross-hair on-screen when a weapon is armed. Jack and co. must find their way off the island by killing animals (giant centipedes, flying enemies, etc.), overcoming obstacles and so forth. While all this is largely straight forward, the game doesn't really kick in until you get to the King himself, but not only do you see him, you also get to control Kong from a third-person perspective and must protect the human you love, Ann, from the monstrous creatures that lurk on Skull Island.
When in control of Jack, the game can at times become a tiresome affair. At the opening of the game, you must shoot the enemies which come at you (predictably), find levers to open doorways and burn thorny undergrowth which is in your path so you can progress to the next 'part' of the level. Further on in the game, you must solve puzzles and constantly kill the inhabitants of Skull Island, a repetitive task to say the least. As aforementioned, playing as Kong is much more thrilling as you battle the beasts that lurk on the island, swing and climb, these simple actions bringing the game to life and making the experience far more diverse than the man-against-the-world dynamic of the Jack sequences.
The game is split into chapters with a map showing your progress through the island. While the HUD is bland as nothing is on-screen apart from your hands or weapon, this gives the game a more immersive feel to it. When you have got a weapon, you have a limited amount of ammo, and can only have one gun at any one time. Guns on offer include a pistol, rifle and a shotgun, but scattered around the levels are spears which can be found in the form of wood and bone and can be used as a torch-light when entering darker stages of a level and to burn the thorny undergrowth.
King Kong comes across as visually stunning. The team at Ubisoft Montreal have really captured the film in game-form. Locations too look beautiful, even if they appear somewhat 'blotchy' at times. The atmosphere is simply superb with the great realisation of the characters, Kong and the huge enemies such as the T-Rex - all of which are animated expertly. From both perspectives, King Kong is a very well produced game, demonstrating the sheer power of the Xbox... even if it's on its dying legs. To coincide with the visuals, the sound in the game is excellent, especially the atmospheric sounds and the triggered music throughout the game. Along with the sounds, the actors have also leant their voices to the game and doing so meant a true adaptation of the movie.
Unfortunately, while the single player experience is at times astounding, Ubisoft opted against a multiplayer mode. The game itself is fairly short and even though there's a lot of chapters, they're too small at times. The game can easily be completed within a weekend, and hardcore gamers could complete it within a 6 or 7 hour period. What's on offer as extras is artwork, and since this review has been published after the release of the game, there is some great news for sensitive souls, those who cried when Kong was shot down from the top of the Empire State building. Ubisoft have revealed an alternative ending which sees players pilot an airplane and see Kong survive, discovered back home at Skull Island. Those who have completed the title first time around will gain 250,000 points, and upon the second time through the game, they'll get to see Kong alive and safe, back on the mist-shrouded island.
Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie is what can only be described as a success. While the experience is short-lived, the seven or so hours of gameplay you get from it are truly amazing and for once, I can say a film-to-game conversion has successfully been achieved. King Kong is a great experience for all ages and I'd recommend a rent of the game at the very least as it can be completed in a short space of time. Kong certainly earns 80 bananas and more for this endeavour.