As has been discussed since the game King Kong was announced, Peter Jackson approached Michel Ancel to create this game due to his work on one of my favorite games, Beyond Good and Evil. When I heard the Michel Ancel was working on a high profile game, I jumped at the chance to play it. This was one of the first Xbox 360 games I purchased and the second I beat.
One thing Michel Ancel is extraodinarily good at doing is creating a living world, populated with rich characters and terrific scenery. He proved this in Beyond Good and Evil, giving various different gameplay functions to mess around with, as well as terrific characters that could bring a smile to your face. King Kong continues this and gives us a fully realized Skull Island as our playground. Ancel took away any hint of an interface. There's no life, ammo, or aiming device. Its all natural and you have to rely on vocal cues about the ammo, realize that one or two bites from a T-rex is going to kill you and estimate on how you throw your spears.
At first I was worried about the lack of aiming target, but the game compensates for this by being pretty open. Hitting a target really isn't too difficult as long as you are aiming in the general area. Playing in first person really helps get you in the shoes of the protagonist, and hearing the terrifying roar of a T-rex (or V-Rex as they are called in this game, to which I say, WTF?) behind you and knowing that he's there but knowing also that if you stop to look you will be dead really helps sink in this feeling. Its a survival of the fittest and you had better keep your wits about you.
Graphically, the game is beautiful. The textures in the land really help present an island teeming with life. The enemies are done pretty well over-all. One of the problems with the current form of normal mapping is that sometimes things can look shiny or slimy. This is duly noticeable in the hair of people. Naomi Watt's character's hair looks shiny and slimy instead of natural. The art direction is stunning too which helps cover-up any graphical short-comings there maybe.
The audio is stunning as well. The voice actors from the movie reprise their roles and unlike some movie video games, it doesn't sound like the actors are just talking into a mic to get paid. The screams, the bit of dialogue there is, it all fits into a nice package surrounded by terrific dinosaur sounds, ambient music and a terrific score. The only part of the audio that became annoying to me was when you are seriously injured. Hearing the angels choir became annoying after awhile.
Playing as Kong is a delight, mostly. Instead of making it difficult, the game-developers wanted to give players a sense of strength and reckless abandon that you don't have playing as a human. And they succeed. Kong is vicious, you don't have to worry about timing anything or about hiding. Charge in there, destroy things, climb on walls, jump from ledge to ledge, break T-Rex's mouths open. Its all there, easy to pull off, and makes playing as Kong a joy instead of a chore.
Once you get off Skull Island is where the game lost a little. It felt as if New York wasn't as developed as it could be and it was over in about 10 minutes. Pretty much a let down but I'm sure that it was done this way to keep any surprises from the movie leaking out.
Now, as great as this game is, there is a major problem. Its damn short. It took me about 5-6 hours to play it. Since its an incredibly linear video game with no room for exploration, you pretty much have no choice but play it quickly. It is a visually stimulating and exciting journey, but a very quick one. In fact, I don't know if I can justify the $60 price tag. Its a game that begs to be played and you can get it down in one weekend without realizing it.
Michel Ancel succeeds in creating another exciting game. If it weren't in such a hurry to get out before the movie, maybe it could have been a bit more flushed out. As it is, the game is a terrific way to spend 6 hours of your life. But, as to the $60 out of your pocket, that's debatable.