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November 23, 2005
Peter Jackson’s King Kong - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
17/11/2005UbisoftUbisoft Montpellier1MMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Drop the spear, and run!
Have you seen the latest trailer for the upcoming King Kong movie from Peter "Lord of the Rings" Jackson? If not, we suggest you head over here and have a look - it's simply jaw dropping. As one would expect a deal was made to ensure a game would be released around the same time as the movie. Actually the game has made it out a month before the movie which is a nice bonus for those looking for every scrap of information. As has been reported often Peter Jackson had a major input into the game, so much so that he chose Ubisoft, and in particular game designer Michel Ancel, to head this project after playing his superb Beyond Good & Evil rather then going to other publishers who couldn't, or wouldn't, allow the same level of collaboration. This game follows the events of the movie pretty closely which is as follows...

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The King is in New York!
Skull Island. A place thought to exist only in myth, crawling with prehistoric creatures and ruled by a beast of legendary power, King Kong. The perfect setting for Carl Denham's (played by Jack Black) next film - a movie he hopes will save his directing career. But when Carl and his cast disembark on the island no one is prepared for the dangers that lie in store. Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), the start of Carl's ill-fated film, is kidnapped by natives and offered to Kong as a sacrifice. The scriptwriter Jack plunges into the jungle after them, flanked by Carl and the surviving sailors. Their epic fight to rescue Anne will take them through perilous jungles, up against savage predators, and ultimately back to the streets of New York.

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Some stunning graphics.
Peter Jackson's King Kong game is split into two very different styles of gameplay, those on foot as Jack Driscoll and those as King Kong himself. The game starts with the Venture crashing onto skull island. After a brief row to shore you take control of Jack Driscoll (played in the movie by Adrien Brody) and for the most part follow Carl around as he tries to film his movie starring Ann. Jack's sections of the game are played from a first person perspective. Jack can only carry one weapon at a time including a pistol, shotgun, sniper rifle, or tommy gun, however the ammunition is very low and conserving it for more intense moments is imperative. For smaller enemies you're much better off picking up some spears which are littered around the world, or even bone fragments.

One aspect of King Kong which did disappoint was the lack of puzzle solving, with the game certainly developed with a younger audience in mind. Most puzzles involve finding the lever to go into the switch or burning some bushes blocking your path or similar basic tasks. Unfortunately there is little change to the types of tasks to be complete. You need a lever? In all likelihood it will be in the scrub. Time to burn it and so on. From the great mind of Michel Ancel this is a little disappointing.

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T-Rex moments are electric.
The second gameplay style is controlling King Kong himself. It takes quite a while to reach this point in the game but when you do you'll love it. The way he lumbers around the levels is impressive and you really get a sense of his power when he swats away most dinosaurs with a quick sweep of his hands. By pressing the triangle button repeatedly you can put Kong into a rage mode where he becomes far more lethal to enemies. While Kong is quite slow to move around he can perform some pretty impressive moves such as jumping from tree to tree, or running along walls and combined with a dash button he does look and act the part in the game. I just can't wait to see him in action on the big screen, it should be sensational.

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Kong punching T-Rex.
There are some interesting aspects to Peter Jackson's King Kong. Firstly there's no HUD at all. You won't see a life bar, ammunition count, or even a map. In our opinion the exclusion of a map makes the game a more realistic exploration experience. You'll have to discover where to go in the lush jungles, although the game is quite linear in its paths which is a little disappointing. We would have loved to see some more open areas to explore. In terms of determining your health basically when you get hit the screen turns gets a orange/red tint to it while your vision blurs. Health is regained over time so you always end up back at full health after a few moments. Finally the ammunition. The only way to determine how much you have is to press the circle button and you'll head a voice "you have 4 clips remaining" and so on.

The developers have also included a host of extras in the game. As well as a trailer for the movie you'll discover artwork, interviews with Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens, and even special ways to view the game such as playing in 1930's styled black and white tones. The presentation of these extras is superb. The artwork, for example, sees you walking though a dimly lit tunnel with various artwork presented on the walls, almost like a museum, or walking through an exhibition. It's this kind of attention to detail and style that oozes through the entire game.

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You'd better to stay low I think.
In terms of graphics Peter Jackson's King Kong is a mixed bag. On the one hand the game seems to very faithfully recreate many sets and locations from the movies (well, from what we can tell from the trailers and behind the scenes doco's we've seen anyway) and there's no denying the amount of atmosphere in the title. Some aspects of the graphics are simply gorgeous. The water when the ship first lands is gorgeous, the dinosaurs, and indeed King Kong himself, are superbly realised in the title. It's clear that the development team's access to WETA Digital (who did the special effects and modeling for the movie) has ensured the game retains as much authenticity to the movie as possible. The human characters look very much like their real-life actors and while the lip synching is sometimes a little inaccurate it's good enough to get the job done. While the game looks spectacular the game struggles at times in terms of frame rate. Turning around or looking up or down while aiming can be a little awkward while there were some busy sections, such as while being chased down the river by two T-Rex's that it really struggled. As a result the game looses a couple of marks. It's also nice to see that the developers have included 4:3, 4:3 Widescreen and 16:9 Widescreen mode to play the game in.

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Hiding in the cave
One of the great things about developing a game beside a movie is that the development team have access to the same audio. Be it the voice actors (of which all the main cast provided voice work for the game), or the sound effects this is top quality stuff right the way through. When the T-Rex roars you really hear it, and the way in which the screen blurs is spectacular. One slightly negative surprise with the audio is that there is no option for any surround sound at all. We would have loved to hear the enemies running around with Dolby Pro Logic II directional sound, but it's not an option which is a shame. Perhaps the PS2 was already pushed to its limits with other aspects of the game such as the graphics engine. Due to the fact that the movie score is still being written, and that Howard Shore was only very recently replaced by James Newton Howard, the developers have used an entirely original score for the game which was composed by Chance Thomas from HUGEsound. It must be said that I was so impressed with the music that I thought it would be from the final movie.

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Kong really is spectacular.
There's a reason why this is one of the biggest reviews we've done this year, it's because this is one of the biggest games this year. Ultimately this isn't quite the greatest game on the PS2, and not quite up there with Michel Ancel's brilliant Beyond Good & Evil, but it's pretty damn close with plenty of tense moments to get your heart racing. As a movie tie-in it's setting new benchmarks and is one which you can enjoy before you go and see the big screen version. Just keep in mind that obviously the game contains some spoilers for the movie. A very solid title.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSThe PS2 version looks great, but some frame rate issues at times.
SOUNDSpeech, music and effects are all superbly integrated into the game.
GAMEPLAYA good mixture of action, puzzles and story keeps this intersting.
VALUENot overly long, but some great unlockables that you'll certainly want!
OVERALLPeter Jackson's King Kong is one of the best movie tie-ins of all time and is a perfect appetiser to the upcoming movie. A fantastic game that PS2 owners, and fans of the movie, will do well to pick up.

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