UbiSoft – Peter Jackson’s King Kong review

you even get to control the great ape
Photo of UbiSoft – Peter Jackson’s King Kong

It’s inevitable that when a big film comes out, the adult movie industry will come up with an alternative title. You know all the classics… Shaving Ryan’s Privates, Good Will Humping and so forth. However, it’s almost as if Peter Jackson is making it too easy for them with his latest blockbusters. Lord of the Rings? That doesn’t even need changing. King Kong? Just change one letter.

While he might not be doing anything for the creativity of porn marketing execs, Jackson is certainly banging out (sorry) some impressive films, which, given his stature, are inevitably being turned into multi-format games. Ubisoft has grabbed the Kong licence and produced an intriguing mix of a first-person shooter (FPS) and third person beat-’em-up.

The action begins (and indeed the majority of the time is spent) in the FPS mode, in which the player fills the shoes of intrepid scriptwriter Jack Driscoll. The very first scene, where you sail towards the shore of Skull island in a tiny rowing boat buffeted by the stormy seas, is extremely atmospheric, and the game just builds from there.

It quickly becomes apparent that the developers have given the FPS element a realistic flavour. There’s no crosshair to help you hit the monsters here; you just have to judge your aim as best you can. In fact, there’s no HUD at all. Jack Driscoll doesn’t need a health bar, just a simple rule: two hits in quick succession and he’s dead. If you take one hit, you get disoriented, but as long as you can avoid further damage for the next five seconds or so, you’re safe.

We found this a refreshing change of pace from the norm, and the adrenaline certainly courses through the veins when you’ve been bitten once in a fight with multiple dinosaurs. And wait until you’re chased by the huge V-Rex dino, whose very roar literally tears through the air with a superb visual effect. Mention must be given to the graphics as a whole, as both the environments and monsters are depicted with an excellent attention to detail.

The game’s biggest weakness is that the path you tread across the island is very linear. True, there are some puzzles to face along the way – some gates to open, impassable brush you can burn, and bait that can be used to lure large beasts away – but it’s generally pretty obvious what you have to do next. But in this particular game that really doesn’t matter too much.

The pace of the action, the high quality scripted scenes, the sometimes genuinely panic-inducing monster attacks, which are made more tense by your limited ammunition (Jack can only carry one gun and a spear), the witty comments from your film-making sidekicks, the graphics, the whole atmosphere… all this combines so you tend to forgive any faults and just kick back and enjoy the ride.

Which, incidentally, takes another turn in the “that’s cool” stakes when you get to control Kong himself. This third-person monster rampage is the lesser part of the game, and although your route here is completely channelled and linear, with occasionally awkward camera angles and rather clunky controls, it’s still a blast to send the beast into a rage and pound sixteen monsters into a bloody pulp in three seconds flat.

Aside from the linearity, the other downside of the Kong experience is that it’s over too soon. We finished the game in approximately eight hours (and we stopped to smell the decomposing dino corpses, too). There is a challenge mode which lets you tackle the levels again, attempting to unlock various goodies by getting high scores, but that’s of limited value. Even so, we found the game to be a thoroughly entertaining one while it lasted.

Company: UbiSoft

King Kong is a roller-coaster of a game with unusual attention to detail. It's fast and action-packed; a short but thrilling ride.