Peter Jackson's King Kong Reader Review
After reading the console reviews for PJ's Kong I gladly poney'd up for the PC version, I might have been a bit hasty...
Peter Jackson's promising start
After a bit of video which looks suspiciously like the Kong trailer from a few months ago the game opens in a stormy sea just off Skull Island. There is a great sense of immersion as waves crash around you and crew mates shout instructions from the ship's deck down to the dingy you are about to set off for shore in. The intro unfolds in a similar way to the monorail journey at the start of Half Life, as the dingy is rowed to the island you can just sit there and look around while the game shows off the environment. Your crewmate's chatter introduces the story and the player character 'Jack' the script writer. It's a great start.
On reaching shore you can start to wander the cliffs of the island, the textures are a bit shoddy close up but at a distance the whole thing comes together, the game alomst looks like an old painting with big lumps of bluey green colour and smears of sunlight filtering through the jungle canopy. Ancient stone ruins and cliff faces serve to hem you into the play area in a way that seems natural rather than contrived.
For the most part the gameplay consists of shooting or spearing things plus a bit of key finding, simple puzzle solving to break up the action accompanied by an occasional Kong interlude - more on that later. You can carry one gun and one spear; ammo is limited encouraging the use of the the spear. AI is not very apparent, enemys will wander around until they see you, then come straight in for the kill. It's quite fun and the spears feel weighty and dangerous as you chuck them about. You will need to plan your attacks or be caught spearless. However you will often find rotten carcasses that serve as unlimited supplies of spear like bones, so a bit of planning can make battles much easier.
The opportunity to control Kong looks more fun than it is. You move Kong on rails pressing 'jump' or 'hit' or 'Rrrrage' at the prescribed times - the gameplay is more like the laserdisk "classic" Dragon's Lair than Halflife 2. Camera orentation is fixed during these scenes and the whole thing seems to have been done out of some obligation to 'Control Kong!' than in an effort to entertain you the gamer.
Peter Jackson's rushed PC port
Back to the FPS and after playing the game for an hour or two the disapointment starts to settle in. It's all bad news from here on I'm afraid, I'll try not to rant too much...
If moving around reveals that the key mapping isn't quite to your liking you will need to quit you game, quit your profile, quit right back to the desktop, run a seperate configuration program, enter your desired keys then launch the game skip the intro movies, select a language, press 'space' for no real reason, select your profile, select your game aaand... you're back in the room.
As Jack you must hold down the space bar to ready your gun for firing, pressing 'fire' without the space bar held executes a melee attack. With your gun readied press fire to shoot or tap zoom to toggle zoom mode. The keen minded gamer will soon catch on that this whole holding space bar nonsense serves no real purpose, why not just press 'fire' whever you want to fire and 'melee' whenever you want to melee? Call me old fashioned if you will. If you want to remap the action of the space bar onto another key or a mouse button I'm afraid you are out of luck, all other keys and actions may be remapped but the space bar must stay right where it is. Checking the registry entries for Kong it's possible to see the key mapping and sure enough there is no entry for the space bar so it really seem to be hard coded right in there.
The mouse sensitivity is not consistent. If you are facing a wide open space the view will move very quickly while if you are facing a wall or other near object the view will move quite slowly for exactly the same movement of the mouse. It's more noticable in some areas than others. I can't begin to understand why this happens, it occurs regardless of the presence of enemies or other characters - chalk one more up to a shoddy port. One more niggle regarding the mouse, while playing the FPS sections 'lookspring' is always on. That is to say if you are looking up or down the viewing angle will always spring back to straight ahead as soon as you move forward, backwards or sideways. There is no option to turn it off.
Your progress through the game is metered out in checkpoints; there is no quick save or quick load. Expect the normal procedure, when you die it's back to the last checkpoint crossed and if you quit you are prompted to save your checkpoint. There is a 'save' option in the pause menu but there is no 'load' option - to have a 'save' but no corresponding 'load' sums up the game very nicely.
If the sound of an FPS promising Jack Black's voice talent, Michel Ancel's game design and Peter Jackson's storytelling skill sounds too good to be true it probably is. There is a great game peekig out from around the corners of this shoddy port and it's shortcomings are all the more annoying for that fact. If you see this in the bargain bin it might be worth it just to satisfy your curiosity but I can't reccomend it further than that. It's a 4 because all told it is a slightly below average game.
4 / 10