+A solid FPS experience.
+It's fun to wreck things as Kong.
+Easy 1,000 achievements
-Incredibly linear, even for a shooter.
-The game feels more rushed the longer you play the game.
-The difficulty is slanted oddly. Extremely hard levels will be followed by stages of little happening.
Back in 2005, the Xbox 360 was released and promptly sold out everywhere. The initial launch library had a handful of games - including 6 first-person shooters. However, among all of the generic shooting games, one did actually have something unique to offer: Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie.
However, what made the game unique also works against the game as well.
As you might guess, the game is based off the 2005 remake of the 1933 movie King Kong featuring Adrian Brody, Naomi Watts and Jack Black. From what I can hear, all three return to voice their characters in this game, which does help the experience feel a lot like the movie.
The two playable characters are Adrian Brody's Jack and Kong himself, leaving the rest of the cast to basically get escorted through the game - although they can come in handy at some points. Luckily, there's a fair amount of variety in terms of the gameplay, thanks to how differently Jack and Kong play.
The first thing that the player will notice when playing as Jack is the fact that there's no heads-up-display at all. Not even a simple aiming reticule or ammo count. This actually leaves the game feeling a lot like Jurassic Park: Tresspasser, a horrible game I have a weakness for. But remembrances aside, The Game keeps things very uncluttered by only using a handful of buttons. Aiming, shooting, melee and reloading are all done with 3 of the shoulder bumpers and triggers, which is rather easy to remember when you're trying to escape the dozens of dinosaurs trying to make you into their next meal.
Because of the lack of a HUD, the game also lets you check the ammo count of your gun at any point by hitting B, which makes Jack shout out how many bullets are left... although he calls them "magazines," which is somewhat odd.
The weapons selection for Jack's section of the game is rather limited, though, to pistols, sniper rifles, shotguns and tommy guns. Spears are plentiful, though, and are going to be your de-facto weapon once the incredibly-limited ammo runs dry for whatever gun you've scrounged up... but good luck aiming them without that HUD.
Puzzles in Jack's stages, and there are puzzles, are pretty simple and can be summed up in a few words. They're either "set fire to something" or "find peg A for slot B." The game will try to get complex over how far apart the fire and thing-to-be-set-ablaze are (eventually resulting in a wonderful stage where you evade Brontosauruses while running down a valley to fetch fire and back again, dodging Velociraptors each way), or hiding the pegs in things you need to burn, but the puzzles are pretty much never going to stray beyond that. But since the levels are pretty much jungle corridors, it's not like the puzzles are going to stump you, either.
Kong's stages, however, are few and far between. But when they show up, expect a combination of frustration and fun.
Many of Kong's stages are going from point A to point B, either pursuing someone who's taken Naomi Watts' Anne character, or moving to take Anne somewhere else. Kong plays in a third-person mode, feeling much more like a brawler, with grappling moves, as well as generic punching. However, these stages don't play nearly as well as Jack's levels. For some reason, Kong feels incredibly loose and keeps careening all over the place, and the enemies in his stages take serious advantage of this.
Kong has a few "boss stages" as well, where it's Kong vs at least one enemy. Later stages add more, until Kong is almost overwhelmed from the start. Kong's Rage Mode (activated by hammering away on the Y button) comes in seriously handy here, as it's really easy for Kong to be slaughtered. In Rage Mode, the game also becomes satisfyingly brutal, adding "fatality" moves for Kong to perform on his enemies.
Kong's final stages are a real disappointment, though. Running through 1930s New York, taking out everything in Kong's way certainly sounds fun... but the actual execution is stilted and broken. The levels, once linear and somewhat explanatory, are replaced with a wandering stage and awkward camera that doesn't let you see where you're trying to move.
As the final level, it's very disappointing.
The visuals have not fared nearly as well as other games have in the past, honestly. What was once relatively high-tech in 2005 has since fallen by the wayside and looks remarkably cheap in 2011. Faces are plastic and unemotional. Character hair looks plastered on while Kong's fur looks like it's made of layered pine trees. Indeed, it doesn't even look like characters are even talking half of the time, leading to awkward times when the models mime along with the lines. Graphical glitches, either due to developer lazyness (the second-to-last cutscene somehow features a magically-flying Kong thanks to how his shadow works) or simple bugs are more than common, which is distressing.
On the plus side, the enemies actually look quite well-detailed, although enemy variety is incredibly small for a shooter game. Expect to see the same 3 different insect species, flying monkey things and 3 different sizes of dinosaurs that you actively fight rather than evade or treat as set dressing.
Audio is... serviceable. Kong and the other creatures of Skull Island sound perfect, and the bits of music used are also appropriate and well used. Voice acting does sound wooden at times, although only from the more minor characters who aren't the big three of the movie.
In all, while the game was a solid release back in 2005, Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie has fallen down the slopes into mediocrity. The FPS segments still hold up really well, creating tension and drama in many places while telling a fun story, but Kong's stages really hold this game back.
But hey, it's an easy 1,000 achievement points.