Conker isnâ€™t like most videogame squirrels. He drinksâ€”a lot. Some of you may know him from his second game, which was released for the Nintendo 64 in 2001, and a few may even know Conker from the 1999 Game Boy Color game. Why should you care about this furry fellow? Well, Rare invented him, and now, with the backing of Microsoft Games, heâ€™s back on the Xboxâ€”still rude, still occasionally drunk, and still pretty funny.
The game itself is basically a third-person action/platform game, where you run around and do, wellâ€¦stuff. The game begins after a night of binge drinking at the local pub. Once Conker has had his shareâ€”and then someâ€”itâ€™s time to head home. On the way he runs into a talking scarecrow who introduces him to various in-game mechanics, and helps him sober up. Unfortunately for Conker he ends up going the wrong way, and crosses paths with an evil-panther-lord kind of guy. So, youâ€™ll have to save the day, in your own peculiar wayâ€”something which will pit you against enemies just about as weird as yourself. During the first three quarters of the game, Conker: Live & Reloaded plays like a platformer with action combat elements, but once closer to the end youâ€™ll run around shooting instead, whichâ€”for this reviewerâ€”is the gameâ€™s most enjoyable aspect.
Controlling Conker isnâ€™t especially hard, but it can be a little annoying at times. He can run around just like any other cute and furry game hero. He can jump and rotate his tail to fly a little, and he can eventually pull out weapons to whack enemies with. Unfortunately, it can be a bit tricky to make Conker stop at just the right time, and it also occasionally feels as though the camera is working for the evil pantherâ€™s team, which can easily lead to frustration.
The aforementioned scarecrow gives you an important gameplay lesson, though. Instead of making the controls overly complex it seems Rare just combined a lot of things by making repeated use of the â€˜Bâ€™ button. Scattered throughout the game youâ€™ll find huge circles with a big â€˜Bâ€™ logo atop them. To start some special action you just run on top and press the correct buttonâ€”which Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve already guessed. This actually works out pretty well, because the game just presents everything in such a weird and unusually funny way that you go along with it.
Close combat is unfortunately an underwhelming endeavor. Most enemies are defeated by sneaking up and whacking them over the head, quickly moving back to dodge their imminent counter attacks, and repeating this bold tactic a few times until dispatched. Itâ€™s somewhat surprising that Rare didnâ€™t implement a more interesting and intuitive combat system, especially since theyâ€™re obviously very talented developers.
The presentation is perhaps the strongest element on offer in Conker: Live & Reloaded, and the game is easily one of the best-looking Xbox titles to date. Though Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory may use more advanced lighting and texturing, itâ€™s hard to recall any other game pulling off the â€˜interactive cartoon-thingâ€™ better than what Rare has done here. Conker himself is very well detailed, with proper fur rendering, dynamic shadows, fluid simulation, and animations smoother than a babyâ€™s butt! And not just that, the environments look extremely organic and alive. Itâ€™s likely that youâ€™ll often catch yourself stopping to just look around at the level of detail and care that the artists have put into everything.
Additionally, the cut scenes that progress much of the story are mind-numbingly good. The art direction here is near perfect, and there are times when youâ€™ll ask yourself if youâ€™re looking at a pre-rendered sequence, because what your seeing goes so far beyond what most Xbox games deliver. Slight aliasing gives it away, but thatâ€™s about it.
And, in terms of performance, you wonâ€™t find much in the way of slowdown, and the levels load extremely fast. You canâ€™t ask for more than that.
The only notable snagâ€”and a major one at thatâ€”is that you often donâ€™t have a clue about what youâ€™re supposed to do next. You obviously have to follow the paths you find, but it seems odd, especially considering the effort in presentation, that Rare didnâ€™t invest a little more time implementing a defined sense of direction. That said, during the game youâ€™ll meet and talk to many different characters that tell you their story, and then you usually have to give them a hand, or follow some piece of adviceâ€”and thatâ€™s about it.
Conkerâ€™s audio is very good, and the cast of voice actors do a pretty decent job. The voice of Conker himself is not especially likeable, and perhaps someone else could have performed it betterâ€”but thatâ€™s a purely subjective opinion. The music and sound effects are also great, and add a bit of flavor to the many surprising scenes you have waiting for you, should you decide to buy or rent Live & Reloaded.
A lot of people will surely be interested by the gameâ€™s multiplayer offering, where you can duke it out in a major way via Xbox Live. Thereâ€™s quite a lot of fun to be had here, but there is a definite learning curve, as well as some snags and glitches. Large-scale battles are very enjoyable, and easily recommended, but smaller battles are much less so. Fortunately there are bots to practice against, and they can be put into both online and offline matches. System link and split screen is also supported, but if youâ€™re not playing online youâ€™ll be looking to amass no less than three friends to play againstâ€”due to the maps and how the multiplayer mode has been designed.
We donâ€™t generally see a whole lot of remakes these days, and Conkerâ€™s Bad Fur Day perhaps wouldnâ€™t be first choice to receive a makeover, but now that itâ€™s here youâ€™ll be glad that it got the remake treatment. Conker: Live & Reloaded is a game for a more mature audience, who donâ€™t mind bloody games with foul language and other adult themes. The single-player mode isnâ€™t perfect but, considering the limitations of the Xbox, the graphics almost areâ€”and the audio is pretty good, too. Both the single-player and multiplayer modes have various gameplay problems, but if youâ€™re willing to overlook them you should find Conker: Live & Reloaded to be a fine game.