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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Microsoft Game Studios

 

Developer

Rare

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

June 21, 2005

 

 

- Incredible graphics
- Immensely funny dialogue, characters and story
- Team-oriented mass multiplayer battles are quite fun

 

 

- Even more censored than before
- Lots of niggling flaws still present in the single
player, and almost nothing outside of the graphics and music have changed
- Multiplayer is a little off-putting for newbies

 

 

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Conker: Live and Reloaded

Score: 7.8 / 10

 

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Although it came at the end of the Nintendo 64's lifecycle, Conker's Bad Fur Day was one of the most memorable games to come out for the system. A parody of Rare's own brand of googly-eyed creatures and obnoxious fetch quests, players were cast into the shoes of Conker the Squirrel, a bastard of a little rodent with a penchant for alcohol poisoning. And here we are, five years later, and Conker makes his return for the Xbox. Conker: Live and Reloaded, unfortunately, is not a sequel. What you get is essentially two games in one - a greatly enhanced version of the single player game (the "Reloaded" part) and a completely new multiplayer segment (the "Live" part.)

The single player game begins with Conker getting impossibly blitzed and stumbling out into a dark starry night. He awakens off in some unfamiliar place, and the only

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real goal is to get home and maybe catch up with your furry ladyfriend Berri. There's more than a little potty humor in the game, which is going to be an acquired taste. Some may consider Conker's faceoff with The Great Might Poo - a gigantic blob of crap who sings opera - to be one of the greatest highlights in all of video gaming. Others will just roll their eyes and shove the whole thing off as juvenile. But while there's more to the

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humor than fart jokes, as there's a distinctly British sense of unbridled, nonsensical chaos that permeates the whole game. The levels are really just a series of non-sequesters, a point which is further driven home by the throwaway plot. You see, the Panther King needs to fix his table leg, and apparently needs a red squirrel (i.e. Conker) to do so. The game is full of ridiculous, memorable characters - the hopped-up scarecrow Birdy and cute yet massively annoying Private Rodent come immediately to mind - all with funny dialogue and silly voices. Toss in one of the strangest (yet oddly poignant) endings ever seen in a video game, and it's easy to see that there's a lot going for Conker's Bad Fur Day.

Conker looked reasonably decent on the N64, but Rare really went all out to make this one of the most amazing looking games on the Xbox. All of the environments have been completely redone, but the improvement in the characters is astronomical. The "fur shaded" characters (Rare's new buzzword, apparently) amplifies the fuzziness on the characters to almost extravagant levels - it's easy to think that they may have overdone it a little, but the overall difference is mind-blowing. The characters have also been redesigned, for better or for worse. Conker looks far better than he ever did, although he now dons a pair of shorts (he was pantsless before.) The fact that this all runs at a relatively smooth 30 FPS is quite an achievement for the Xbox, and it seems almost regrettable that Microsoft is throwing in the towel on the system so early, because it's clear there's a lot of power in that green monster. The only trade-off compared to the original are the load times, but they're relatively short and only occasionally intrusive.

 

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Live and Reloaded has been in development for over three years, and since the single player mode hasn't really changed much, it's easy to rationalize that most of that time was spent polishing the graphics. Conker was a decent enough game before, but the world of 3D platformers has changed quite a bit since Rare ruled the roost, mostly thanks to Sony's trio of Jak, Ratchet and Sly. The game is still loaded with annoying fetch quests, totally obscure objectives, and poorly thought out puzzles. Sure, some sections have been made a little bit easier (especially at the beginning of the game), but since the designers have had over five years to reflect on the game, you'd think they'd iron out the bumps. The raptor in the caveman arena is still hard to control, the lava surfing level is still likely to have you hurtling controllers, jumping through the lasers in the war chapter is still a matter of luck - and whose bright idea was it to make Conker push explosives through a minefield, all while having the barrel block the camera? These frustrating segments don't constitute a majority of the game, but it's enough to make you more than a little irritated. And while the controls and camera are a definite improvement over the N64 game, it still feels a bit unpolished overall.

And the biggest controversy? Conker on the Xbox is even more censored than the original. The N64 game bleeped out f-words, but this one censors almost everything else. While it doesn't ruin the dialogue - in some areas, in fact, it actually makes it a little bit funnier - but it definitely messes up the Great Mighty Poo song. While most of the gore has been left intact, there are a small handful of other modifications that will probably irk fans of the original.

Of course, Rare and Microsoft don't really want you to focus too much on the single player - if the box cover and manual are any indication, the real point of Live and Reloaded is the multiplayer segment. The setting is ripped from the war chapter of the single player game, which in itself was a parody of Saving Private Ryan, and even some of the uniforms are sly "tributes" to Halo. Borrowing heavily from Team Fortress, there are several classes, each with their own weapons and skill sets - Grunts carry machine guns, Sky Jockeys can fly planes, and Seekers chop up foes with katanas. You can choose between two sides - the SHC (the squirrels) or the Tediz (evil cyborg teddy bears), and each map carries different objectives depending on which side you've chosen. Some stages simply involve breaking through your opponent's defenses - others are simple games of Capture the Flag. While it's a lot of fun, you're not given much direction when you first start, and learning the maps is essential to avoid looking like an idiot on Live. It's also a shame that Rare chose to remove the old multiplayer mode entirely, which is once again bound to annoy diehard fans of the original.

If you've already played the single player Conker, it's a little hard to recommend paying full price for this one - while the graphical upgrade is incredible, all you're really getting is the same thing with a bit more censorship. And while the multiplayer is fun, it's not amazing enough to stand on its own. But if you've never experienced Conker, the Xbox version is unquestionably the way to go, and you're getting two great experiences bundled together.

Kurt Kalata
(July 26, 2005)

 

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