Michel Ancel. Some of you may know him, many of you probably won't. He created one of the most majestic and original games for this generation a few years back with Beyond Good & Evil, a truly unique game that combined platforming, puzzle solving and a bit of photography into the one superb game. Sadly it didn't sell but Ancel is getting another shot at this style of gameplay with a bit of action thrown in with the official King Kong game. King Kong is the next massive picture from LOTR director Jackson, and Ubisoft along with PJ are determined to make this a superb movie licensed game. We recently got a demonstration to see where the game is heading.
The storyline of Kong is a bit of a tightly guarded secret but from what we know, a movie directors and actors head to a mysterious island to shoot a film. From there King Kong discovers a young female played by Naomi Watts in both film and game and from there the movie directors try to rescue her and get out alive. That's all we know at this stage and probably all we will know until the movie is out late this year.
In terms of gameplay you will play as two characters. Jack Driscoll, the screenwriter and Kong himself. According to Ubisoft the split won't be even and Kong has been added as a playable character to more or less give the game more action and mix the gameplay up. It's an interesting take because you quickly become the Hunter rather than the Hunted, and when you're wrestling a T-Rex and beating it, you know Kong is one powerful monkey. It will be played from a first person perspective and reminds us quite a bit of Trespasser. The lack of HUD gives the game a huge cinematic feel and makes the island and monkey feel even more epic. It also gives the game some tension as you don't have things to look at to find out info quickly.
The demo we saw showed the opening sequences of the game where Kong discovers Watts as a gift from the natives and takes her. King Kong itself is quite a tragic and sad story in some bits and we fully expect the sublime storyteller Ancel to carry this across to the gamer extremely well. From there we as the director have to escape through the island trying to follow and film the beast as well as rescue Otto. To give an indication of just how realistic this game is, you begin with no weapons and have to make do with native weapons. Throwing spears towards huge dinosaurs is scary, but fun and it's great the game doesn't automatically just kit you out with guns etc.
The enemies we saw were quite varied and it seems like King Kong has come across Jurrasic Park as most of them were dinosaurs. Kong doesn't appear to be an enemy in the game and actually comes to the aid of the directors early in the game. Whether this changes towards the end of the game, no one knows as yet. Weaponry shown was a spear and a gun and Kong's muscle but other than that we were left wondering just what else will be in the game.
Visually the game is quite a treat, especially in the Xbox version we were shown. High level, realistic textures are features of the Jade Engine, also used for BG&E which suits the game quite well. Although we weren't allowed to play it, the controls seemed to be doing fine and the game didn't seem that hard to get into. Sound effects and music combined into a cinematic piece and really seems to capture the esscence of what the film is trying to do.
King Kong will be an interesting movie licensed game especially for those who like BG&E. It will show whether Ancel sticks to what he does best and ignore the poor sales, or try and mainstream the game up a bit. We hope for the former, because if King Kong is half as impressive as BG&E, then Ubisoft is onto a huge winner here.