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King Kong

From floor to ceiling, I'm surrounded by original artwork and designs direct from Peter Jackson and his WETA workshop in New Zealand.
To my right is a map of Skull Island that details the movement of a certain simian through film and game. Nearby are sketches of the environments that'll showcase Kong's rampage through New York.

To my left is Michel Ancel, gaming luminary and creator of overlooked masterpiece Beyond Good & Evil (now available on budget at a reasonable price of 9.99). Ancel looks just like I always imagined him - extremely Gallic and wearing a distinctly un-ironed shirt with coloured stripes that very, very nearly border on wacky. In short, the only thing that could propel me any further into geek heaven would be if I were simultaneously holding hands with an Ewok.

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In the words of wham!...
This story began last Christmas. While we were all sitting through the 19th ending of The Return Of The King, Peter Jackson was playing a certain game called Beyond Good & Evil and was loving every minute of it. With King Kong and its particulars nascent in his genius-beard, a meeting was hastily arranged in the leafy environs of Beverly Hills. "It was our first meeting," Ancel later confides, "and I was really, really stressed. When he entered the room he just immediately told me that he'd played my game and finished it. It was a really great start."

With more special effects shots than all The Lord Of The Rings trilogy put together, King Kong is set to be the biggest event movie of the year. What's more, Jackson demanded a game that goes beyond a mere tie-in and he's hired the best in the business of development and emotional storytelling to create it.

I've played it and confirm that it's the best movie tie-in since GoldenEye on the N64. And yes, I am aware that's a pretty obvious comment to make when we've been standing in a turgid river of celluloid-to-console-to-PC shite for the past five years. But, honestly, what NightFire, Catwoman and The Incredibles are to a stream of un-moving excrement, King Kong is to skipping in a garden with excited, nubile young women.

GREAT APES
If you've been absent from society since Kong's first foray in 1933, or indeed lobotomised yourself after the 1976 Jeff Bridges retelling, then a spot of recap is perhaps in order. A collection of foolhardy souls stumble onto a place known as Skull Island; in Peter Jackson's vision, they're a Hollywood production company out to find places to film a delightful romantic comedy, and as such have scriptwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), surly director Carl Denham (Jack Black) and the movie's leading light Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts).

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Seeing as they've stumbled on a time zone where dinosaurs still rule the earth, unsurprisingly everything goes Pete Tong. Without much ado they're captured by natives and Ann is offered up for sacrifice while drums are beaten and the figure of a giant ape appears in the misty mid-distance intent on snatching the starlet and carrying her into the back of beyond. From here until Kong's final encounter with New York street-life (and, indeed, pavement), it's a dual story of Kong's relationship with Ann (described by Jackson as the relationship between a seven-year-old boy and his favourite toy) and that of Jack and Carl's efforts to both rescue her and refrain from being eaten by dinosaurs.

For gamers, this is where the action separates into two levels: that of controlling the mighty Kong himself - delivering multiple biffs to the face of many and varied T-Rexes - and that played from the FPS viewpoint of Jack Driscoll, simply trying to survive in the unsavoury climate of Skull Island. It's a mixture of hiding, fending off dinosaurs and being gently pounded into awe-filled submission by some intensely clever and tension-moulding level design. The close work between WETA and Ancel clearly aims to take the goodness of Beyond Good & Evil and add a sharp cinematic edge to already prodigious storytelling credentials.

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