Developed By: Ubisoft Paris/Montreal
Published By: Ubisoft
Release Date: November 22, 2005
ESRB Rating: Teen for Blood and Violence
For: Xbox 360, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PC, Nintendo DS, PSP, and Wireless (reviewed for Xbox 360)
*In this epic adventure, you will experience the fateful legend of Kong from the perspective of both man and beast. Survive Skull Island as unwitting hero Jack Driscoll in first-person shooting action, and unleash the staggering power of the 25-foot-tall King Kong in third-person action sequences. Use everything in the jungle to your advantage, exploiting the natural food chain of the prehistoric predators and grabbing objects from the environment to kill those hunting you. *From IGN.com Peter Jackson\'s King Kong is created by the studios that brought you Beyond Good and Evil and Splinter Cell, and also directed by Michel Ancel. It is a truly epic first/third-person action/adventure game that sets the bar high for future movie to game adaptations. From the beautifully drawn landscapes, to the terrifying fights with the "V-Rex\'s" and various enormous bugs, this game has masterpiece written all over it.
Game Play: 19/20
The varying game play makes an accurate description hard to pin down, but Jack\'s game play almost seems like a mix of Metroid Prime (environmental puzzles, killing dinosaurs and bugs) and Carnivores (an older dinosaur "hunting" game for the PC), while playing as King Kong seems like a mix of Rampage and WrestleMania. You end up playing as Jack Driscoll about 75% of the time, while King Kong\'s segments take up around 25%. Although Jack\'s segments are extremely fun and intense, there\'s nothing like grabbing a V-Rex (exactly like a T-Rex) by the jaws and slamming it into the ground. With Jack you will be spearing and shooting dinosaurs and extremely large bugs while solving environmental puzzles to rescue Ann Darrow who has been abducted by the large beast known as Kong. As Kong, you will be protecting Ann from the V-Rex\'s (and everything else) as you try to escape to… well, anywhere peaceful. Overall the game play leaves nothing to be desired, except of course, more game play, which ends in a disappointing 8 or so hours with few extras or reason to go back through.
The graphics on the Xbox 360 are stunning. The vegetation, wet rocks, rivers, people, statues, and dinosaurs all look and react amazing. The tall grass moves aside as you push your way through it, the thick algae in the streams bobs along as you wade through it, and the bugs twitch and slither, especially when there is a spear pinning their midsection to a rock wall. The first thing you\'ll notice about the graphics is that there is absolute no HUD. This brings the immersion level through the roof as you interact with the characters as if you are actually there. There are no ammo counts, radars, life levels, or frag counts, you completely have to rely on the sights and sounds of the game. When a V-Rex has you by the leg and you are beating it\'s face with the butt of your rifle, you can be sure that another hit will end you, and if you\'re not completely sure the screen turns red and an eerie aria begins to play. I only took one point off because the Xbox 360 version doesn\'t look a whole lot better than it\'s brethren (although it still does), there\'s just so much power that it could have looked even better. Overall, very well done and definitely helps to keep the immersion level high and your pulse racing.
Ever hear the sound of a raptor-type dinosaur rustling through tall grass just behind where you and your friends are taking shelter? Well neither have I, but I\'m sure it would sound exactly how it does on King Kong. From the various environmental noises to the sounds of a V-Rex storming up a hill behind you, the sounds are crisp, clear, and occasionally extremely loud ( i.e. Kong roaring and beating his chest after snapping the jaw of a V-Rex). As I noted before, the storyline is all narrated during game play via conversations with your friends and just through the great visuals. So to keep the story accurate and interesting all the voice actors are from the movie. Jack\'s (Adrian Brody) calm voice is spoken rarely (usually when checking ammo and shouting for Ann), but Carl Denham\'s (Jack Black), Mr. Hayes\' (Evan Parke), and Jimmy\'s (Jamie Bell) voices are all perfect and rarely sound forced, if ever. This definitely helps to keep the storyline flowing and the game moving at a brisk pace.
Unfortunately this is one area where the game falters. Since your friends are following you the whole way and are needed to advance the story, there are rare cases (it happened to me twice) where one will get stuck and you will have to start from the beginning of the chapter. Thankfully these chapters are only 10-20 minutes long (with multiple checkpoints in each), so if this glitch does occur, it\'s not too hard to get back to your spot. The reason I took 3 points off is that a game as polished and hyped as this one should be bug-free, especially of glitches as serious as this one. A little disappointing.
As mentioned before, there is a complete lack of a HUD. This makes for a very interesting interface and it even pushes the controls to places that the usual FPS controls don\'t go. The face buttons are rarely used when you play as Jack. You occasionally press one to check your ammo or talk to one of the characters, but Jack\'s segments are basically played through the shoulder buttons. You press the right trigger to pick up a spear or other weapon, you hold the left trigger to bring the weapon into view and you press the right trigger again to fire. This is very effective when you are carrying a rifle or machine gun as the gun is not always in view and there is nothing covering the corner of the screen. As Kong it\'s pretty much the opposite. You use the face buttons to punch, grab, dash, jump, build up your rage, and lift heavy objects. Although these segments are usually passed by button mashing, the amazing graphics and pure power of Kong make it feel like something much more. This is also where the WrestleMania comparison comes in. When you fight the V-Rex\'s, you lay the smackdown on them. Hard. You pound them into the ground, fling them into rock walls, and pile drive their bodies into the hard rock. The controls are simple and effective, while the interface is boldly simple and works perfectly with what this game tries to accomplish.
The majority of the violence in this game is against fictional dinosaurs (which some look like the long lost cousins of the "Elites" from the Halo series) and gigantic bugs. You spear them, riddle them with bullets, snipe them, set them on fire, bash them, and snap their jaws. That being said, this game is fairly violent. If anyone has seen the movie they would know of the creepy (almost possessed-looking) natives that inhabit the island, thankfully they play a small part in the game and the only time you are forced to kill them is from far away and all you do is break bridges that they are on and they fall into rivers or tall grass (when you are playing as Jack). The ESRB description of "blood" is fair, as when you shoot the creatures, few bits and drops fly off (which aren\'t even noticeably red), but it never pools or shows anything more than that. Also, in the last chapters of the game while you are playing as Kong you destroy the Native huts and plow their people off the cliff, and you also wreak havoc in New York after you are captured by destroying cars, planes, and again pummeling police officers on your fight for freedom. One more thing to note is that you occasionally come across dinosaurs that have been killed earlier (not by the player) and they aren\'t in good shape. You can see their ribs other various areas, but unless you stop and study it, it shouldn\'t be that big of a problem.
Thankfully the game leaves out most of the cursing from the movie (especially Christ\'s name in vain), but unfortunately it still leaves in many minor swear words ("hell" and "d**n" around 10 times in total) and quite a few uses of God\'s name in vain ("oh my God" around 10-15 times). These are mainly spoken out of pure terror or frustration. As far as I\'ve heard that\'s the worst of it and considering the intense nature of this game I\'m just glad there wasn\'t anything worse (although the ESRB didn\'t think it even deserved a "mild language" rating…).
Sexual Content: 10/10
No nudity, no sexual dialogue, no sexual content whatsoever.
The Occult/Supernatural: 9/10
The Natives of Skull Island are creepy worshippers of Kong and they give him human sacrifices in order to "make peace" with the giant beast. The only act of human sacrifice shown is when Ann is offered up, but Kong only takes her away and doesn\'t harm her (intentionally). Still the aftermaths of some sacrifices are seen (skulls lying around, small skeletons chained up) and whole act of Ann being sacrificed is very intense and what is implied is troubling.
Although you are controlling a gigantic hairy beast from Skull Island, it\'s still a little unsettling to have to plow through police officers and destroy cars to climb up the Empire State Building only to have to take out planes and the pilots inside. This is a violent segment of the game and unfortunately portrays police as "the bad guys" because they don\'t understand Kong just wants to save Ann from the very people who are protecting her. Overall this game is an extremely beautiful and epic (albeit short) masterpiece that should please fans of the movie and fans of action or adventure games in general. A few bumps in the road but the innovation and immersion of this title has established it as one of the greatest movie tie-ins and also one of the best adventure games of the year.