Forgotten Treasures – Peter Jackson’s King Kong The Video Game

king kong gameplay

Back in 2005, there was no doubt that Peter Jackson’s King Kong was a box-office success. The film grossed over $50.1 million during it’s opening weekend, and over $100 million when it released on DVD. To be honest though, I was quite torn on the film; I thought it was a technical masterpiece for it’s time, but found the movie too long, too slow, and too over-simplified (aka popcorn-ized) for the audience. Whatever happened to the original’s invitation for audience interpretation?

On the other hand, I absolutely loved Peter Jackson’s King Kong The Video Game. Released for the PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360, and PC, King Kong was a fun interactive tie-in to the 2005 blockbuster film of the same name. King Kong’s fantastic production values ensured that players felt like they were Jack Driscoll (voiced by Adrien Brody) as he fought for survival on Skull Island whilst searching for Ann Darrow. Conversely, it also allowed players to take control of the mighty King Kong as he protected Ann from the most dangerous hunters on the island. 

king kong v rex

These V-Rexes just won’t give up!

As Jack Driscoll, you’ll confront the island’s dangers in first-person view. Armed with only makeshift weapons and the occasional firearms to defend himself, your quest was  intense because you’re always on the run from Skull’s deadliest inhabitants. You have to fight numerous adversaries and ammo tended to to be on short supply so it’s up to you to be creative with your weapons and make each shot count. Much of the combat often will require you to make use of spears and even fire to stay alive. Combat did tend to become repetitive after a while since most of the time you’ll find yourself using spears against waves of enemies. Thankfully, the developers intersperse King Kong levels so at least gameplay changes up a bit.

Unlike many first-person shooters at that time,you’re never given a health bar; instead you must rely on visual cues (like blood on the screen) in order to survive. At that time, this fairly new type of heads up display, meaning no aiming reticule, no health and ammo bars, and no mini-map which added a level of immersion and urgency that was rarely found in console first person shooters. I actually found the lack of a hud refreshing since it allowed me to immerse myself in the world, especially since the environments were breathtaking (and even scary in some parts).

king kong vrex

That is until the mighty King Kong breaks their jaws.

Then you’ve got the levels where you play as the mighty King Kong. Played in third-person view, King Kong controls like a tank; is hulking and powerful, and can take out larger enemies with one or two hits. Whereas Jack levels take make you feel weak and hunted, King Kong embues you with power and the feeling of being the mightiest on Skull Island. Kong can swing from vines, break down walls, and even do a bit of platforming – albeit simplified for the purposes of storytelling.

Speaking of simple, Kong’s power was truly felt during combat; I was able to snap V-Rex’s backs and jaws (in brutal fashion) after a few hits. Kong will even go into a sort-of rage mode where the screen will turn orange and his attacks become a lot more powerful – perfect for those pesky Terapusmordax’s who like to gang up on ‘ol Kong. Like the movie, I also felt the interaction between Kong and Ann during the game; you’ll find yourself having to protect her often as she flees from the agile Ventosaurus and various creatures intent on eating her. By the end of the Kong levels you’ll really have a sense of his and Ann’s relationship.

Since many of us were just switching over to the Xbox 360 at that time, King Kong’s visual presentation were nothing short of amazing. I’ll never forget the iconic intro – where Jack and crew ride towards skull island; there was something about the game’s presentation and atmosphere that stay with me even today. I still remember looking in awe at each ray of sunlight peeking through the thick jungle and the ever-frightening encounters with the V-Rex.

peter jacksons king kong game

The smarmy Carl getting his movie at the cost of his crew.

On the audio side, many of the film’s original actors voiced their game counterparts and did the characters justice. Jack Black was especially annoying as the smarmy Carl Denham and by the end of the game you’ll want to stomp on him as Kong. The sound effects added a lot to the game’s atmosphere, especially during the Jack levels. I remember tensing up whenever I would hear the skittering of the many neopedes and scorpiopedes that Jack encounters in the swamps. Then there’s the epic fight with the V-Rex; the music, the V-Rex’s mighty roar, and the sound of Jack’s heartbeat as he nears death made the experience all the more memorable.

I admit I have great memories playing Peter Jackson’s King Kong, but I did have a number of issues with the game; especially with it’s short length. I was able to beat the game in one afternoon (and even unlocked the super-secret ending) without much difficulty. Also playing as Kong didn’t really require any strategy or timing – you just have to mash the attack button until all the enemies have been killed off.

Even with it’s shortcomings, I still highly recommend giving Peter Jackson’s King Kong a try. For its time it was a big step towards a more cinematic first person shooter that delivered an immersive and engaging adventure that you shouldn’t miss. Besides, you can pick up the game for less than $5 at used bins at EB Games and Future Shop nowadays.

At the very least, it’s an easy 1000 Gamerscore for you Xbox 360 Achievement nuts. All you have to do is beat the game once.


About janhutchings

Canadian Game Industry Blogger / Contributor for @Sonyrumors & @ShogunGamer / Communications and PR Professional. Voice of Canadian and Indie Gaming.

Posted on March 18, 2013, in Forgotten Treasures and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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