Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"King Kong (Xbox 360) Review"

I know that the proper title is way longer than that. But "Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie" is too long to type out... nevermind. I was halfway tempted to title this "Rob Nava's Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie Un-official Review" but that's also too lo... umm.. OK...

So, anyway, this is the first Xbox 360 review I've done. In fact, I think it's the first game review I've ever put up on this site. But before I go any further, let me start off by saying that if you don't know that King Kong dies at the end, then I've just ruined it for you because King Kong dies at the end. Seriously, you should have known that. It's not a well guarded secret. I also hope you knew that the Titanic fucking sinks at the end too. I've actually run into people that didn't know that. And I don't care how old you are or what decade you were born in, King Kong falling off the Empire State building to his death is common knowledge people. Peter Jackson's version is at best, the 3rd version of the film.

Anyway, now that your caught up on things, let's get to the review.

Graphics - 7.5

Like most games on the Xbox 360, the graphics of King Kong can impress at times and under whelm at times. My first reaction was quite positive when I saw the detail on the ship's hull in the first scene. Nice textures. Keen lighting. Pretty. Then things sort of fizzled when I turned around and saw that the character models looked like ass. I mean, these things were barely better looking than the Xbox 1 models, and they animated like crap to boot. So the game then sends us towards Skull Island on a small row boat during a tumultuous storm, and I was again impressed. . . this time with the draw distance and weather effects, only to be disappointed by the crumbling rocks falling off the cliffs of the island. They just looked retarded. And that's pretty much how things went graphically: Oh, that dinosaur looks kinda cool. Blech, those plants look terrible. What a shame.

And when are developers going to stop with the shiny plastic look? Seriously, I know that its raining and things are wet, but it's ridiculous how shiny everything is in King Kong. And they must have an equally emphatic guy over in the Bump Mapping department because it looks like every single thing is bump mapped to hell. I'm sure it has its uses, but really, if "Next Gen Graphics" simply means "Bump Mapped with Shinies", count me out. I'd rather have a silky smooth frame rate than shiny bump mapping.

And really, I don't think I'm too far off from the truth. I played King Kong on Xbox 1 and it really looked close to the Xbox 360 version with the exception of the textures and lighting and possibly a higher polygon count that isn't quite as noticeable. And I'm sure that's what happened. They designed the Xbox/PS2/Gamecube versions and then added in some fancy bump mapping, lighting effects and a few more polygons. The game is essentially the same. It's akin to playing a PC game with all the graphics options turned off (Xbox 1) and then again with all the graphics optioned turned on (Xbox 360.) Does King Kong look better on the Xbox 360? Sure it does. But it's not next gen graphics to me if the game is identical in every way but a few graphical features. Next gen graphics should be completely re-done from the ground up. King Kong is Next Gen Rehash.

Gameplay - 6.5

King Kong plays mostly like an FPS for dummies game with a little shallow wresting game thrown in to break things up. Most of the time, you play as Jack, the screenwriter for the film being shot on Skull Island. Your mission, as far as I can tell, is to burn down thorny bushes that block your path and find handles for intricate door opening mechanisms. That's pretty much it. You can chuck spears at dinos and shoot some crappy guns, but that's pretty much it.

The game is designed to be played without a hud. Which means no lifebar or ammo meter. This was done in order to increase the cinematic feel of the game, but for the most part no lifebar just means that you can get hit twice: once turns the screen red and another hit while your screen is red causes you to die. Occasionally, bigger dinos can kill you with one attack, but you can really just think of the game having a 2 section lifebar that regenerates after the first hit. As for the ammo, Jack will tell you how much ammo you have left when he's either running low or you hit the 'How much ammo do I have left?' button. With regards to enhancing the cinematic feeling, hearing "Two magazine on backup" over and over isn't exactly any better than showing how many bullets you have on screen.

As I already mentioned, a lot of the time you are simply searching for ways to burn bushes that block your path. This is clever puzzle the first and maybe second time you have to do it, but it gets really boring after a while. They try to break it up by having spiders block your way instead of you know, the thorny bushes. When that happens you have to spear a random giant insect or fish and throw it on the ground away from the path the spiders are blocking so that the spiders rush to the bait. Wow. Who came up with that fantastic gameplay element? Exciting! The final gameplay element is finding these wooden handles that attach to these long poles that need to be turned in order to open doors. This is the silliest thing ever. Why can I just use the spear I'm holding in my hand to jam into the pole to turn it? Why do I need that exact piece of wood to jam in there before I can turn it? It's not like it's a key. It's a fucking piece of wood. Give me a break.

I addition to the FPS Jack levels, you also play as Kong from time to time. These are pretty fun, but mostly because you're given a break from burning bushes, and you can actually beat the crap out of stuff. But the controls for the Kong missions are simplistic at best. One button swings and grabs onto the sides of cliffs, another one punches and another one grabs. You can also thump your chest to power up, but most of the time you end up getting hit before you can completely power up so that's useless. The Kong levels boil down to a simplistic wrestling game. I mean, even more simple than NES Pro Wrestling. At least you had a variety of moves in that game. In King Kong, all you have to do is shoulder butt over and over. That's pretty much it. Give that beloved Beyond Good & Evil game designer a bonus! I know I couldn't have thought of something like that. I'd have thought of something much better.

Sound - 8.5

The music and sound effects are pretty good. Good job not fucking everything up over there. The voice acting is also pretty good. Jack Black, who plays the director in the movie, is still funny as shit. I love that guy. Jack (the character you play) sounds dull and, well, dull. He doesn't even get two different adjectives. He's just dull. Really, the biggest complaint I have about the sound is that the voices are waay too low in comparison to the music and sound effects. I had to turn the music and sound effects waaaay down and leave the voice level all the way up in order to make it sound right. I guess they realized they had that problem because the did put that option in the game so you can tweak each sound level independently. Then again, I might be giving them too much credit. They might have put that option in because they saw that option in other games. In any case, you'll probably have to fuck with the sound levels a bit.

Value - 5.0

There is almost no replay value in this game. I'm a big fan of short games. I have way too many games to go through to be tied up with 40-50 hour games. Fuck that. So the fact that King Kong is a short game was actually a selling point to me. However, usually short games give you some sort of reason to replay it. King Kong doesn't. All Xbox 360 games offer achievements (which give you Gamer Points) that can be earned by doing specific things in the game. Complete a level on hard mode, get a "Hardcore Gamer" Achievement and a few Gamer Points for your Gamer Card. Maybe finish a level in a certain time or without dying, get more points. Not so with King Kong. If you play through the game, you get all 1000 Gamer Points possible. To give you a comparison, you only get 150 Gamer Points for going through Call of Duty 2. By giving you all the possible gamer points for simply finishing the game (no game can give you more than 1000 Gamer Points), they remove any reason to replay the game. Pretty silly. Basically, once you finish this game, you're done. Trade it in or put it back on the shelf. Did I mention this game is a full $59.99? Luckily, I bought it used for $35, and they're offering me $33 to trade it in so I only lost 2 bucks on the game. :)

Overall - 6.5

I think too many reviewers are biting on King Kong's cock. There is no way this game deserves a 9. It's competent at best and boring at worst. If you love King Kong for some odd reason, you'll be disappointed in the fact that you don't really play much as King Kong. If you love FPSs, you'll surely be disappointed in this game. If you love adventure games, you don't have much to look forward to except hunting down wooden handles. Basically, avoid this game or simply rent it. It's cool for a day or two, but that's about it.