Monday, December 12, 2005

VG Review: King Kong

for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, GameCube and PC
rat­ed T for Teen (blood and violence)
$49.99 (PS2, Xbox and Cube), $59.99 (Xbox 360), $39.99 (PC).

Show of hands everyone. Whom would you rather play as in a video game: Adrien Brody or King Kong?

Yeah, me too.

Peter Jackson and his entourage seem to think otherwise, however, which is why the bulk of the new video game adaptation of Jackson’s upcoming "King Kong" remake is spent in Brody’s shoes.

You do get to take control of the giant ape in several stunning sequences, but these sections are piecemealed out between lengthy bits involving Brody running through the jungle shooting at monsters.

The game opens with Brody, or, I should say, movie scribe Jack Driscoll, arriving at mysterious Skull Island with a movie crew led by producer Carl Denham (all of the film’s actors, including Jack Black as Denham, Brody and Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow, reprise their roles here).

Trouble sets in right away as your team is beset by giant insects, vicious dinosaurs, unfriendly natives and, of course, the King himself.

Driscoll’s sequences take the form of a first-person shooter or FPS. Everything is viewed from his perspective, and you make hash of your enemies by using the guns and ammunition dropped by a seaplane, or using the spears and bones found on the island.

One of the nice things about these segments is that there are no health bars or game icons to speak of that would distract you from the experience. Driscoll lets you know periodically how much ammo he has, and you’ll know your health is low when the screen turns red and you start moving more slowly (recovering is just a matter of heading to a safe spot and staying still).
These FPS segments are very well-done. It’s quite exciting to have to try to distract a giant T-Rex while your comrades try to open a door, or protect Watts’ character from a marauding band of predators.

But let’s be honest. Despite the high quality, this is just another FPS shooter, and you want to play as Kong. The good news is that the chapters where you do play as Kong are great. The giant gorilla can smash just about anyone or anything in his path, climb along steep cliffs, swing on branches or work himself into a real fury.

These sections underline one of the main problems of the game. The Brody/Kong ration is weighted heavily toward the former to take the game from very good to exceptional.

Don’t get me wrong. If you’re a FPS fan or even just a casual gamer, you’ll be thrilled with "King Kong" regardless of which character you’re portraying.

It’s just that playing as Driscoll isn’t the same as rampaging around as 25-foot tall ape. I mean, Brody’s a great actor and all, but to my knowledge he never swatted biplanes from the top of the Empire State Building.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2005


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