King Kong

Pretty interesting, for a movie game.  The Kong parts, which I imagine were mandatory given the license, were outright not fun.  The fixed, “cinematic” camera angles looked good, from time to time, but hurt the gameplay, making it hard to judge the distance between characters, and leading to awkward, camera-relative directional movement control switches.

On the other hand, the on-foot segments were frequently a treat.  The decision to centre gameplay around environmental systems – fire, and the food chain – was not an obvious one, and I’m interested to know how it came about.  Also, going HUD-less (at least by default) seems quite forward thinking for a 2005 game, and complements the gameplay.  (Admittedly, I pretty quickly turned on the aiming reticule – pushing in the right stick to get iron-sights felt too awkward.)  The feeling of scrambling about, fighting for my life, and just barely making it, was at times as intense as in Dead Space and Resident Evil.  It’s heightened by playing, instead of a cypher like Isaac, a character who pants when he runs, and groans when he’s hurt, which helped me identify with the character far more than just being able to see him onscreen would have.  Having first-person controls, instead of the relative stiff, third-person ones in the more traditional survival-horror games was an extra perk, and shows that you can still have tense gameplay with a comparatively agile player-agent.  One last note about the game-play – having not everything being single-mindedly bent on killing you is a nice change, and I wish more games would incorporate it.

Not everything was rosy in the first-person segments, of course.  The level design tended to be very constricted and the colour palette was just too grey and oppressive, so the jungle never evoked any feelings of wonder and majesty that were called for.  And the music, while not inherently offensive, felt particularly repetitive.  That one music cue when you’re near death, in particular, I’ll be happy to never have to hear again.  (That being said, I like the choice of the extremely vision-impairing effect that happens in this state – it goes a long way to creating the tension in gameplay that I mentioned.)

While I’m not sure how much of a direct connection there is, it certainly feels like one of the antecedents of Far Cry 2, between the fire system, and the jungle environment, and the attempts at immersion in a first-person view.  In the end, while it’s not a great game, it is another good game from Ubisoft Montreal, and one that I’m glad I played.

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