Jeremy Jastrzab
06 Jul, 2005

Conker: Live and Reloaded Review

Xbox Review | Booze, drugs, sex, violence, swearing and death! ...So what's wrong?
Conker: Live and Reloaded looks like it will suffer a bitter irony. Originally released during the dying days of the N64 (and at an absurd price tag) as Conker’s Bad Fur Day, this reincarnation’s purpose was to give one of the best and most underappreciated games ever some new life. Yet, it looks like Conker: Live and Reloaded made it just in time to be Microsoft’s farewell title for the Xbox and this current generation. However, this doesn’t take away from the fact that the gaming world has been anxious to see whether developer Rare’s new home at Microsoft Gaming Studios will finally bring some dividends. Has Conker: Live and Reloaded been able to bring Rare back to its former gaming prominence?

First off, Conker: Live and Reloaded is divided into two very distinct parts. You’ve got the single player and the multiplayer modes. The single player mode is a graphically enhanced, revamped version of Conker’s Bad Fur Day on the N64. The multiplayer mode is built from the ground-up and is based off one of the N64 modes known as War. None of the other modes are in the final version. The multiplayer mode was specifically made for use with Xbox Live and had the single player in mind. While the multiplayer was meant to be the focus of the title, it is in fact the four-year-old single player mode that steals the show.

The single player mode is almost entirely intact from the original, down to the last word of dialogue. You shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken but instead it’s been given a heavy coat of varnish. However, as is the case with most remakes, there are good points about keeping the original formula tight and there are bad points. The original title was a brilliant, revolutionary, visionary and controversial for it’s time. It was the one of the first titles to simultaneously mix genres, apply use of context sensitive controls and had an excess of mature content, not to mention it was a technical gem. At the time, there was nothing that came close to such a title, which is part of what made Conker’s Bad Fur Day a unique and special game.

Fast-forward to today and mixing genres is all the rage, context sensitivity is standard practice and mature content has been normalised. So what has Conker: Live and Reloaded in store for us? You reprise the role of Conker the squirrel, the morning after he’s been on a booze run. You’ve ended up in a mysterious valley (or gutter if you want) and your primary objective is to get back where you meant to go last night, home. Along the way you’ll deal with the most memorable set of social derelicts that you are ever likely to come across.

Bee afraid

Bee afraid
However, the story has three sides. One involves Conker and you’ll be playing through the whole time. The other two involve the Panther King, who is searching for a solution to his milk problem and his servant, Professor Von Kriplespac who is hell bent on world domination. These stories run parallel to the main story and come together in an insane manner. In fact the whole game is insane. It’s full of outside references, humour and full of parodies from entertainment and social culture. This is what made the game special than and there has yet to be a single title to really take on the world of parody in games. Conker is left to do it all again.

The single player game is driven by light platforming elements, simple action context sensitive action, as well as the humour-laden story, world and cutscenes. You’ll start off in a training ground that is actually the only part of the game that’s seen significant change from the original game. It’s much smaller, simpler and much more forgiving. It has a few changes that are genuine surprises but that’s where they end. You’ll learn about your limited abilities and learn about the use of your weapon. In an obviously inspired moment, the developers have replaced the frypan from the original with a baseball bat. As there is no difference in performance. It was probably for the sake of change more than any other reason.

You’ve got quite a big world to explore. Design-wise all areas are intertwined and you path is delicately laid in a very specific manner, yet you still have a decent amount of ability to go about business as you want. Not quite open-ended, but the design does prove to be excellent. Once you’ve played through and seen the whole game, rather than sprawling across several different maps, it comes together in one neat package. Ninja Gaiden was one of the last to do as good a job as this game, despite its age. One thing that’s kept the game in the past, is that there many occasions where you won’t know where to go and the game does very little to indicate otherwise. It can make for some brief frustration.

Your actions are extremely simple. You can run, jump, hover and beat things. However, the meat and potatoes of the gameplay revolve around the context sensitive pads scattered through out the world. Walk up to a pad and a light bulb flashes over Conker’s head, indicating that it’s time to press the B button. This opens up a floodgate of possibilities, all of which help you progress through the game's numerous bizarre scenarios. Most of them require you to shoot some sort of projectile at oncoming enemies or at inanimate objects in order to solve puzzles. You've also got other situations that include turning into an anvil or the sudden appearance of a useful tool or even something as simple as knocking on a door.

There are numerous other simple actions that you will partaking during the game. Pushing around objects, playing follow-the-leader, riding larger animals, swimming through razor-sharp fans, crawling up beaches and a lot more. The game throws a lot of common elements around, but there’s enough of them to keep the game fresh from start to finish. The general purpose of everything is to earn money. Each area has a specific amount of money that can be earned and this money is than used to get you to areas that are otherwise inaccessible.

Guess what you need to do in this puzzle...

Guess what you need to do in this puzzle...
At heart the game is a platformer, though the platforming action is quite light. It’s mainly used to get from point A to B but there are some heavy sections that require a fair bit of skill. Unfortunately, the camera, while not too bad, isn’t the most helpful in these situations. It seems that it’s stuck in 2001. It’s difficult to manuver and can’t be moved further in or out. In some situations the camera will change itself according to the scenario. It gets the job done but does leave a bit to be desired.

The game’s difficulty level seems stuck in the past as well. The game was originally made at a time where old-school conventions like “lives” and “game overs” were in a sort of transition phase. The game tries to get you to conserve lives and health but there are just some scenarios where you can die easily or even instantly. However, the lives become superfluous, as the game will nearly always drop you back very close to your death point. After a game over, you’ll conveniently restart before the last objective with a full set of lives. Overall, this eliminates a lot of the frustration from the otherwise fluctuating difficulty level.

A major change to the game from the original it how you attack. Rather than mindless waving your frying pan, the baseball bat when drawn locks you in at a 3rd person perspective. It controls effectively like a 3rd Person shooter and allows for much more precision when attacking. Whenever you’re shooting now, you have a reticule that was not there in the original. It works reasonably well, though some weapon's controls feel as if they’re a bit on the floaty side and that the camera locks into a perspective that is too low. You’ll find that you are unable to see directly in front of yourself, which makes the controls feel as if they were an afterthought.

The big thing that’s made this game reknown is its humour and parody relating to society and major films. There are some brilliantly personified characters in the game and are like none in any other game. You got horny bees, flatulent mice, redneck cogs, demonic worms, a mysterious barrel, southern pitchfork, talking piles of hay, Tediz (see Nazis), mafia weasels, cavemen and to top it all off, a singing pile of crap! Cultural references to sex, drugs, violence and many other outrageous mature themes are thrown around like a National Lampoon movie. While the gags may have been funnier back then, people who haven’t seen them are sure to get a kick out of them. There are plenty of movie references as well and there is a new one for anyone whose been through the game, though the rest are from four years ago.

Yes, that is a pile of crap

Yes, that is a pile of crap
In all, the single player is still very good, if a little aged. However, people who have been there and done that have little incentive to go back and do it again. It’s all the same as it was four years ago. The gags don’t have the same punch and it isn’t as much fun as you may remember. This game is for people who never touched the original. They’re much more likely to enjoy it. For them they’ll probably gain a few more hours on top of the 10 it would take for a veteran.

The multiplayer is a different story. It’s built from the ground up but is still slightly related to the single player game. Though multiplayer is the new focus of Conker: Live and Reloaded, it doesn’t turn out well as it could have. That of which we covered in the preview holds true for the final game. Both the good and the bad.

You have a squad-based objective-driven multiplayer with classes, not unlike Team Fortress. Here, it’s the Tediz against the SHC (Squirrels). There are eight maps to choose from, each with their own objective and background story shown in cutscenes. They play like most conventional assault style games or your standard deathmatch and capture the flag. However, the objectives can sometimes be confusing and bewildering, making for unnecessary confusion.

There is the Old War and the Future War. The Old War seems to be a bit more inline with what you’d expect from the game while the Future War feels random. The majority of them still have numerous references back to the single player. Regardless, the levels on a whole are very lacking. The design is very uninspired and familiar to what multiplayer shooters have been doing for years. They’ve got their own twists and nuances but they don’t do anything significant to differentiate themselves. The levels are huge and easy to get lost - another indictment of poor design, as players will often wonder the level just to find an enemy or objective. Some of the levels are decent with the 16 players on Live though, especially if they’re your friends. The System Link only allows a max of eight players so it is a bit restrictive.

There are six classes to choose from. You’ve got your two soldier types, stealth (uses a sword), sniper, flamethrower and demolisher (rocketeer). Each has their own presetting of weapons, though they vary from Old War to Future War. Most weapons have numerous settings. Normal guns have single, burst and rapid fire, the flamethrower can switch between flame and acid while the rockets can switch between rocket and lock-on. Most players will probably find a comfortable setting and stick with it. Another thing, some balance has been brought to the game. Each class is much better than it was in the preview version, but a skilled demolisher will still rule the roost. Thankfully, because they’re so slow, other players have a chance. Each class also has their own abilities and their own vehicles. The stealth character can turn invisible and the demolisher can go berserk. That is, run around on all fours and pound the ground. While they’re obviously there to add variety, they don’t add as much to the game as they should. They’re just not very useful. The same can be said about the vehicles. They are slow, unresponsive and nowhere near as powerful as they probably should be.

Who's going to clean up the mess?

Who's going to clean up the mess?
Since the objectives are confusing and games “unique” additions are close to useless, the game boils down to pure 3rd person shooting. You’re either defending or mounting an assault. You’re either capturing a flag or having a frag-fest. Regardless of what was intended, that is what the game boils down to. It’s a shame because there is obviously a lot of effort put into the multiplayer. In the end the game really does nothing to make it stand out above the pack and you’re left with an average game of multiplayer shooting. The network code is solid and the game plays well on Live though, without many hitches. Funnily enough, the game is a bit of fun when you take on the multiplayer modes solo or co-op against very decent AI, just like in the original, though the split-screen multiplayer (versus) is useless. While it’s unfair to say that Rare failed, they certainly missed the boat.

It’s amazing to find the stark contrast over the games controls between single and the multiplayer. The single player couldn’t be simpler, it uses four buttons and the analog sticks. This is due primarily to the context sensitive action and simple tasks. However, the multiplayer controls are convoluted and messy. Sure they’re much improved over the original but even we’ve spent quite a lot of time with the game and we could never get comfortable or used to the controls. Every single button is used and the HUD is crammed and confusing.

The highlight of the game is by far is its visual presentation. The single player’s visuals have been enhanced to the nth degree. They surpass the visuals of the N64 in nearly every way. In motion, the game runs blissfully. The world is full of life, vibrant colours and vivid details. It makes for great viewing, just to go around and explore the game and how beautiful it actually looks. Multiplayer looks excellent and the amount of things that can be going on the screen at once is mind-boggling. There is only a minimal hint of slowdown. The only problem is that some of the N64 models have infiltrated the single player and look a little out of place in a brilliant looking world.

The sound remains intact, which isn't a problem taking into considering how good the audio was on the N64. Never had so much quality voicing and sound been fit on a solitary cartridge. Nor did it happen again. The majority of the exact same dialogue has been brought over to this game, with a few tiny extra snippets. It doesn’t matter because the prior voicing and dialogue was brilliant and there was little reason to change it. Some of the music themes have been reworked but the insane sound effects are all intact. Multiplayer wise, all the characters have some voices that all have been stereotyped in the most predictable of ways but at least they’re mildly entertaining. The music here isn't worht listening to, though.

It’s unfortunate that Conker: Live and Reloaded didn’t turn out as it should have. A lot of us were obviously looking forward to see if the Microsoft acquisition of Rare would actually start to pay off. We were anxious to see how Rare will come back to gaming, having been a driving force for so long. The focus was the multiplayer but it ended up falling short by quite a distance. The single player actually steals the show, despite being four-years-old. Sure enough, it’s difficult to recommend it to anyone who owned the original but newcomers are sure to find it entertaining. Though no longer groundbreaking, there is no other game quite like it on the market. As for Rare, they obviously know how to work technology; they just have to find that old spark that allowed them to create brilliant gameplay.
The Score
Rare obviously know how to work their system. It's just a shame they've lost their flair for gameplay. This game overall displayed a total drought of ideas. It's a shame that such a good game be dealt such a troublesome fate.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Conker: Live and Reloaded Content

E3 2004: Conker: Live and Reloaded Details Unveiled
12 May, 2004 Delayed to 2005 but lots of extra details.
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8 years ago
Pretty harsh score, I thought it was more deserving of a 7 but alas the faults you point out are absolutely right.

Good review.
8 years ago
Heh, I'm sorry to hear Rare didn't nail the multiplayer. I can recall spending many happy hours playing that multiplayer beach level with friends on the N64 version. What a shame.
8 years ago
I dunno whether it was mentioned beore, but another thing that was really, really different in the XBox version, is the addition of a loading screen.
This is only a problem for the gamers that played it on the N64 aswell, because the instantaneous load times that came from cartridges were unreal.
Playing repetitive areas where I die alot (lava boarding) meant having to sit through loading times after death.
It might not seem annoying, but can get to be after the 20th time...
Overall, good port, Multiplayer is real good, some UT2K4 assault similarities for one mode, and singleplayer is basically showing how Rare really have nothing better to do now... unless they actually plan on releasing Perfect Dark Zero!

/edit Damn, me forgot its for the Xbox 360!!
8 years ago
You're right I didn't mention that. Mainly because they only last 2-3 seconds and they didn't really bother me. Only if I was walking in and out of an area did it start to get a little annoying.
8 years ago
Yeah, thats the main point I was making, but really, loading time does get annoying when you come from the 64 version, no matter how long the time is.
8 years ago
Hmm, I hope this isn't the precedant that Rare is setting for MS hardware. icon_question.gif
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