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Game review: King Kong

01 Dec 2005

King Kong made his cinematic debut in 1933 thrilling audiences with a powerful storyline and groundbreaking special effects and Peter Jackson’s remake looks to take the movie to a whole new level.

However what is a welcome change is the amount of care Peter Jackson and his crew are putting into the video game adaption.

Working closely with respected game designer Michael Ancel (Beyond Good and Evil fame), they have brought the perilous world of Skull Island to life for gamers.

Jackson and Ancel set out to create a game deeper and more immersive than ever before so that those playing it didn’t even realise it was a game, but a cinematic experience.

One of the unique tricks to accomplish this is the removal of a HUD (heads-up display) in the game and health and damage is represented via effective vision blurs, blood red splashes, ringing in the ears, pounding heart-beats and a change in the tone of the music.

The end result is staggering and makes the old-fashioned health bar look very obtrusive.

This same realism transfers to other aspects of the game as well and to check your ammo supplies, a press of a button lets you look at your gun chamber.

Throughout you play as both Jack and Kong with the idea of triggering different emotions from the player – from vulnerable, miniature human to the King of the beasts.

From stress and struggle to mighty power and freedom.

As Jack, the player will have their share of running from the colossal beasts such as the T-Rex; but as Kong, the player will be able to take full revenge and go head-to-head with them.

The action also switches from first-person view as Jack through to a third-person, mounted camera angle mode as the giant Kong.

There is no difficulty setting as such, instead, the difficulty level scales fluidly to your performance and will grow more challenging as you improve.

Every technical decision for Peter Jackson’s King Kong has been made to immerse the player in the world of the game.

Spears can be grabbed from walls or dead bodies, lit on fire thanks to a nearby torch and then thrown into a grassy patch which will work as a protective shield of flame.

Or you can shoot down nearby smaller animals to distract the larger ones, allowing you time to recover and find a better position.

This interactive environment will constantly keep you on your toes as you struggle to survive.

Also, a rare technique called “inverse kinematics” adds frightening realism to the behaviour of Skull Island’s predators.

This technique varies and synchronises the animations used for each type of creature, depending on the creature’s Al.

For example, if you’re detected by a T-Rex, you’ll see the monster turn its eyes and head directly toward you, lunging over rocks and smashing through the jungle in a convincing attempt to make you its dinner.

But techniques like inverse kinematics would mean little without a sophisticated Al system governing the behaviour of Skull Island’s denizens.

Some species attack alone, while others use clever pursuit tactics to attack in groups.

Fortunately, your enemies aren’t the only intelligent creatures on Skull Island.

Your crew will protect you, suggest solutions to problems, and generally react as real humans — real scared humans — would.

It is also your responsibility to back them up as well as losing your team can mean instant death.

Add to this incredibly surreal graphics, sound and music taken directly from the movie and a digital Naomi Watts – the official King Kong game is very impressive, very intuitive and could easily be one of the best movie licensed games ever.

The only question that remains is – do you wait to see the movie before playing it?