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Conker: Live and Reloaded

Platform(s): Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Rare

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Xbox Review - 'Conker: Live and Reloaded'

by Tim "The Rabbit" Mithee on June 27, 2005 @ 12:43 a.m. PDT

Gaming's notoriously naughty squirrel, Conker, arrives on Xbox with a bang in an all-new Xbox Live-enabled team-based shooter "Conker: Live and Reloaded." Featuring intense deathmatch and campaign storyline modes via Xbox Live and System Link, "Conker" allows players to compete as one of six combat specialists across multimission campaigns covering Old War and Future War. The warfare promises to deliver the nonstop action, humor, gratuitous violence and innuendo for which "Conker" is famous. Also included is the Conker's Bad Fur Day single-player game" completely recreated for Xbox with stunning graphics and unparalleled attitude.

Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studio
Developer: Rare
Release Date: June 21, 2005

Buy 'CONKER: Live and Reloaded': Xbox

Conker: Live & Reloaded

It was 2001. Nintendo was still in the throes of the their Cleanliness Revolution, riding the crest of the wave clean into the Nintendo64. While that would become a relative disaster, a few of the developers there would produce really memorable stuff. But it'd all be clean, sanitary, designed to avoid corrupting all the childrens and ruining their pretty fluffy minds. And then, out of nowhere, one of Nintendo's golden prodigies from the days of yore decided that they'd suddenly turn a sappy, squeaky cute platformer starring a little orange squirrel with a silly little name into something out of Shigeru's nightmare. From the ever-famous English studio came forth a swearing, violence-prone, scatalogically-fixated treerat with an affinity for babes, beer, and blood. And quite suddenly, the little @#)*! has come back.

Live & Reloaded is really two games rolled together: one is a return of the late N64 classic Conker's Bad Fur Day, while the other, Live & Company, is a completely new series of gunfests based on the same engine and the Great War that gets some mention in the main game's plot. As they're two dramatically different things, it really only fits that they should each be given mini-reviews, as they're completely independent of each other.

Conker's Bad Fur Day

These are sad, sad times in the Kingdom. The Panther King is making life heck all the in name of his milk, the Weezils are running wild, and, well, our "hero" Conker isn't getting much of what he's after from the barely decent Berri. What's a guy to do, really? Get plastered, that's what. And then, well, it sort of went all bent after that...

BFD is a 3D platformer, built from the same mold as classics from the same era like Super Mario 64. Within, our man, er, squirrel Conker wanders about the various regions of a relatively demented kingdom, trying more than anything to just figure out what the hell is going on. It's a very simple game, especially by today's standards. Using only four buttons and both the sticks (the N64 didn't have very many buttons to begin with!), Conker will jump around platforms, smash things with a baseball bat (changed from the original's frying pan), and interact with the...unusual denizens of the countryside.

If you've played the original, or even any of the whole series of 3D platformers that came since, you'll be very familiar with the gameplay here. At the time, it was rather revolutionary all-around, though these days it feels very mundane, given that it's been done a million times since. BFD is one of the best examples of the style, done cleanly and simply, with most of the emphasis on the world itself. What does the most good here is the redux itself; gone are all the flat textures, the choppy models, and the jagged angles of the original, replaced with gorgeous new models and much improved texturing complete with an exceptionally good (albeit overused) fur patterning. The addition of camera control on the right stick over the original's use of the C-Buttons is marvelous and really necessary, eliminating the 'Rare Camera Syndrome' that marred it initially. On top of that, combat is now handled in a Halo-esque mode that allows clean dodging and strafing along with a much tighter camera, which is very helpful during the shoot-outs later in the game.

If anything brings this all down, it's that very sameness. Not much has changed in these five years; there are no new levels, no new sequences, and for the most part, no new dialogue. (There's even a comment on that near the beginning, where Conker states, "I thought the programmers said this was going to be just a straight port. Hacks.") If you've played the heck out of the old game, you're not going to find much to appreciate here other than much better audio-video power and the exceptionally good camera control. On the other hand, it's a danged good adventure-platform title, and worth at least a passing glance, particularly for the humor: this is a funny title in spots—The Great Mighty Poo is one that no one should ever miss—and it's certainly as raunchy as it could possibly be without being stupid. (See Berri's exercise routine and call me in the morning.)

XBox Live & Company

Filling in the "new content" slot is a team-based multiplayer shooter basically called "The Company." Playing as either a member of The Squirrel High Command or The Teddiz (an army of mutant plushes, brought to life by a psychotic weasel and sent to rampage the world), you'll relive the greatest battles of The Old War or The Future War through one of six classes (the same six for each side, note) in a small variety of maps. Everything is relatively standard: you've got your demolitions guy, sniper, sneaker, and so on, playing Capture The Flag or Team Deathmatch or Defend/Assault.

If you're coming down with a heavy case of deja vu, you're not in small company. The Live component, for the most part, is simply a take on traditional multiplayer gun-based combat, as seen a million times before. This particular version smacks strongly of Return to Castle Wolfenstein's famous Enemy Territory mode, or possibly Team Fortress. While it's fast and well-done, the classes are very limited in scope, there's very little weaponry (each class gets one weapon, with a second earned through an Upgrade Sphere that you drop when killed), and the vehicles feel sort of tacked on, with claustrophobic levels that don't give the huge tanks and jeeps much room to work in. (It's also far too easy for a Sneeker to run up, under the range of fire, and beat a Tank senseless...)

There's a single player mode a'la Unreal Tournament's Championship Tournament, simply called Chapter X. It's the same game as the online version, just designed as levels and objectives, for those not internet-inclined. The bots are certainly smart enough for a challenge. Performance does net rewards, but they're mostly little things for The Company mode like extra models. It's fun enough, but like the single player game, it has trouble standing on its own unless it's something you really enjoy.

When all's said and done, all the beer is chugged, all the bottoms goosed and the wind broken, as the cigarette smoke clears, Conker: Live & Reloaded comes out as just a bit more than the simple sum of its parts. For those of us who lovingly remember the original but don't feel like grabbing an obsolete platform (especially one as unpredictable and often-awful as the N64), it's a great way to get a shot at one of the better 3D platformers ever made. If that's not your cup, the Live portion is a well-designed, if completely unoriginal, multiplayer shooting spree with enough simple potency to be at least enjoyable if not innovative. It's hard to justify full retail price for either one, really, but as games go, neither of Conker: Live & Reloaded's hemispheres are worthy of negative comment.

Score: 7.5/10


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