I can remember hearing about our furry little friend way back in the day, I remember seeing a box with this cute little squirrel on it, the game was Conkers Bad Fur Day. Didnt sound that good, what do I need with some cutesy platformer for my N64, so I passed on by. A few weeks later a friend asked me if I had played it, I laughed and asked why, well it turns out I missed the boat on this one boys and girls, because after I played my buddies game I made my way back to the store and added this envelope pushing, genre bending foul mouthed squirrel to my permanent library. Conker has sat there ever since, so when I heard Rare was going to resurrect my fuzzy friend, I was truly excited and waited not so patiently to see what they had in store for us.
Well, 5 years after my 1st Fur Day experience I sit down to take in the latest incarnation of our friend from Rare, Conker Live and Reloaded. Let me start by saying its great to see my buddy get an Ultimate Makeover. For those of you who are fans you will be thoroughly pleased with how great the game looks compared to its N64 days, its not perfect, but its a great improvement. For newcomers to the Conker world, be prepared to shatter all the cute and fuzzy stereotypes from games gone by.
Conker Live and Reloaded basically boils down to 2 sections, the 1st being somewhat of a remake of the original Conkers Bad Fur Day. All the obscenities are present, the squirrel with a knack for making the wrong choices and solving his problems by having a fewtoo many, is back in all his glory. In the single player game Conker is a platformer and a puzzle game, work your way through Conkers dilemmas and obstacles and make it to your goal. The controls are very simplistic and super easy to pick up and run with, the game still utilizes context-sensitive controls, get into a tight jam were a bat would be handy, and poof, a little light bulb goes off over your head, and a push of the B button pulls it out of your pocket. The fun in Conker is the humor and the characters, I mean were else can you have a Boss battle against a pile of poop. The let down with the single player game is that it was tweaked to make it better, but they also cut some of the original out for Im not really sure what reason. It comes straight out of Conkers mouth during the game that this isnt a port of the original. As he gets to an obstacle he approached in the original his actions from the original dont work anymore, thats great that you would take the time to make the game a little different for us returning gamers, but why delete entire levels. Not that it hurts the game experience greatly, but as a fan of the original I would have liked to have seen all the original content in some manner.
On the subject of tweaking, Conker has been polished up but some things havent improved greatly, their better, but not great. The camera controls are still frustrating at times, but better than they were. Get into a tight spot like a ledge and you will get a little frustrated with the camera. Taking Conker into the water is still a pain, the swimming controls are still a little difficult. Another issue is the pace of the game in the early stages, its still a little bogged down, the pace does pick up as the game goes on, and actually near the end it gets down right frenetic by comparison, but Im hoping it doesnt loose gamers along the way. Which leads me to a simple conclusion, gamers may get bored and not give this game the time it needs to fulfill their gaming experience, and this game definitely needs time to grow on you.
That being said, it also applies to the 2nd part of the game, the on line multiplayer mode. Rare went the route of all out mayhem with the XBL end of things. Its a fast paced, explosions fest with heat blurs a plenty from near misses and just mass chaos throughout. What contributes to this chaos? Well for starters you never need to search for ammo, you will need to reload but youll never run out of bullets. Conker also utilizes a class distinction in picking who you want to be when playing, classes are the same for both sides, cute and furry squirrels or the Tediez. Each class offers its own unique weapons and style, from a bazooka wielding destruction machine to a stealthy cloaking assassin. The problem is that in the beginning the Live end of Conkers is a little confusing; you really feel like your thrown in the middle of the ragging fire and dont know what to do. The interface doesnt help any, its too cluttered and not real user friendly. I can tell you that time is the answer, as your comfort level increases and you get the flow and pace of the game it is much more enjoyable. The maps for the most part are well designed and diverse in their surroundings. You have your usual death match and mission based objectives, but I would recommend going with larger groups rather than small ones, the game play just seems to be a little better when the roster is full.
A nice addition to the area between single player and XBL is Chapter X, were you can enjoy the multiplayer mode with the use of bots. Now I now this doesnt sound that appealing to some, but I have to say its a great training ground for the Live portion of the game. Try out different classes, get to know the maps and get a feel for the game without suffering at the hands of your friends.
All in all it was fun to play Conker again, it was the same yet different, in some ways I felt the original was better, in other ways it was great to see an old friend get the spit shine he so deserved. The on-line portion is a ton of fun even when confusing, playing with others on line will surely bring a laugh or two to the group. Expect the same laughter in 2 player split screen and system link gatherings. This game is solid and is really about the humor set in gear by Conker himself, who really doesnt give a rats a** about anyone but himself, hes been cleaned up graphically but hes basically the same old Conker I couldnt put down 5 years ago. Some of you will unfortunately abandon this game prematurely, some of you will stick it out and go the 10 or so hours to the end, personally I think its going to be a fifty fifty split. Live will be were this game pulls ahead, manning turrets and causing mass destruction has never been more funcome on, its squirrels against teddies, have you ever seen a teddy bears head explode?
Fans of the original, I recommend you go down the Conker trail once more, youll enjoy it. Newcomers see what the buzz is all about this squirrel, and if you dont laughthere is something wrong with you. Rare did an admirable job with Live and Reloaded, I wish they would have tweaked a few different things, but thats ok. The time they spent developing the Live content is appreciated, I think it will please many of the Multi-Player maniacs once they get a grip on the game play, dont get me wrong, this isnt Halo or Rainbow Six, but when you need a break for the serious tactical stuff, Conker is your manor, err, Squirrel.