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Conker: Live & Reloaded
game: Conker: Live & Reloaded
posted by: Chris Martin
publisher: Microsoft
developer: Rare
date posted: 12:00 AM Sun Dec 26th, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Sun Dec 26th, 2004

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Release date: March 15, 2005

It's hard to deny that Rare (formerly Rareware) had one of the best lineups for the Nintendo 64, with the likes of Donkey Kong 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, and a itty-bitty title--you might have heard of it--where the main character goes by the name Bond, James Bond.  This alone was enough for Rare to become one of those must-have? developers.  But despite this, they've had a lukewarm reception on the Xbox, where many of their triple-A titles have yet to hit the green light, and so we've had to sit by with the likes of Grabbed By the Ghoulies.  We're still waiting for their breakthrough, but, finally, it looks like 2005 is the year for that.

Rare's lineup for the next year is a small, yet impressive box of goodies (not ghoulies) with a sequel to the immensely popular Perfect Dark (entitled Perfect Dark Zero) scheduled for some time in '05, not to mention a new Banjo-Kazooie.  But closer than that--and, perhaps, more important than that--is their follow up to the smash hit 64 game, one of my personal favorites, Conker's Bad Fur Day.  Now, enter Conker: Live & Reloaded. 

That's right, the ornery squirrel is coming to Xbox and he's more belligerent, more pissed off, and meaner this time around.  Conker's Bad Fur Day was one of the best games for the N64.  No, it was one of the best 3D platformers, period.  And, I must confess, there's been a void in my life since I sold my N64.  You see, since then I haven't watched a squirrel puke beer all over the place and cuss like my grandfather wished he could have in the thirties.  I haven't seen a game ridicule and pervert movies and other games to this degree in many years.  Nor have I busted a gut quite the way Conker made me.  Maybe it was the Clockwork Orange parody right off the bat that got me, or the distaste for anything resembling morality.  But when I first played Conker, it was love at firstF#@%!

Conker: Live & Reloaded contains the whole game of Conker's Bad Fur Day, and then some.  It's a platformer, kart racer, shooter, and stand-up-comedy routine all rolled into one.  And for those of you who are familiar to the original, the Xbox version offers some new and improved visuals, sound quality, and content that never made it into the N64 version.  Everything will be upgraded for the new, more powerful system.  For those of you who are new to Conker, you're in for a big surprise.

Same ˜ol Recipe, New Spicy Taste

When I stumbled across the demo (and I literally stumbled into the shelf containing the holiday edition of the Official Xbox Magazine) I was taken aback.  Conker was one of those games that I fell in love with immediately.  I'm a sucker for parodies of movies, games, society--you name it.  There's just something about a game that doesn't take itself, and the rest of the world, seriously.  These, after all, are just games.  The original Conker had innuendo of just about everything.  Expect it all and more in the new one.

But there was more to it than just parodies.  There was a tight control scheme, a story for the ages, and enough blood-n-guts to make the Terminator uncomfortable.  Conker just went places other games didn't have the...ahem...guts to go.  And still, I'm amazed at how much content made it in the original.

Upon booting up the demo, I noticed that the feel of the original was still there. The game is still cinematic (using in-game visuals), but much smoother and with a crisper feel.  And it has not lost any humor, as I was instantly amidst a Saving Private Ryan spoof--the charge on Omaha.  Squirrel body parts were everywhere, and those evil Tediz (think Nazis, but fuzzy) laid down a suppressing fire that cut down everything charging up the beach.  When I gained control of Conker, I immediately recognized the controls, which feel almost exactly like the 64 game (but without that silly Z button).  And I was instructed to wait behind the metal barriers until the Tediz reloaded.  I thought it was strange that the Tediz all reloaded at the same time, but that's the way the game directs you through the action: by bringing attention to those oddities, and allowing you to exploit enemy weaknesses.

I first tinkered around with the controls until I became familiar with them, but then I noticed the detail of the game.  Conker alone is gorgeously detailed.  Just watching his tail waver, and the hairs on it move with his motion, was wowing.  But then blood began to spray on the screen, and cracks started to chip away, as if I was right there with a camera, being shot at.  And the lighting has been upped significantly.  And as I jumped around, working my way up the beach, I noticed the dynamic shadows and the high-resolution textures.  Gunfire blazed all around me, people blew up, and a whole lot of stuff exploded in a way that would make Master Chief envious.  Conker is, no doubt, as fun to control as it is gorgeous.

Once up the beach, I run into a squirrel friend who tells me I'm in the last assault, but it's not enough to beat them--right before he gets a bullet in the forehead.  Here I experience what Rare calls Context Sensitive events.  If Conker needs to do something like, say, grab a gun or pull a switch, they just put it on one button: the B button.  Pressing the B button will do different things depending on where you're standing.  So if I was standing next to a switch, it'd pull it.  In this case, I pulled out a submachine gun that I luckily had tucked away, and prepared to do battle with the Tediz.

Like moving around, shooting is as easy as pie.  And shares a similar button layout as its far-removed shooter cousin Halo 2: right trigger fires, Right stick looks (press to zoom), A button jumps, and X button reloads.  Simple, easy, pie.  The fluidity of Conker's movement is accented by the Xbox controller, but then again, the N64 controller functioned perfectly for this game as well.  The screams of agony from the Tediz is particularly satisfying as I pumped them full of lead.

I work my way down a few corridors until I come to an elevator.  Here I am treated to a parody of Lost in Space (the movie).  The scene where hundreds of mechanical spiders chase them into the elevator and, like them in Lost in Space, I narrowly escape my doom.  Unlike Lost in Space, however, Conker then has to deal with the pain of horrid elevator music.

I laughed, I cried, I kissed twenty minutes good-bye

After jumping over some laser trip wires, dodging flame-throwers, and killing Tediz en masse, I got to the hospital wing.  Really, it's just more Tediz to kill, but here is where the game's humor gets me: one of the doctor? Tediz (both are smoking cigarettes) says to the other, What if we were to give this game to, say, 20 intelligent people?what would that do?? This self-mockery and abasement reminds one of the age-old question, What do videogame characters do when not in character??  The answer is, apparently? talk about videogames, it seems.  The Tediz finally notice that Conker is among them and quickly get back into character: snarling and growling and throwing scalpels.  I dispatch them and the boss shows up.  He's a bigger, madder Tediz doctor? with syringes instead of scalpels.  I take care of him too, and then meet a fellow squirrel with a small problem: he's hooked up to an electric chair.

The proposition to Conker is simple: there are two switches, one frees him, and one fries him.  I get to choose which switch to pull.  I pull the left one.  But the electric chair whizzes to life and my squirrel friend is toast in a matter of minutes?no wait?he's still getting fried?no?wait he's almost done?almost?done?  Conker begins reading a videogame magazine with Master Chief on the front.  In Conker: Live and Reloaded, everything is ripe for parody.  Meanwhile: Almost?done?frying?and?there.  Okay.  He's dead.  Oh, it must've been this one,? says Conker, eyeing the other switch.

The demo is rather short-lived, and only shows how the shooter system works.  Let me say, there's a whole heck of a lot more to Conker than just shooting Tediz.  I'm interested in what new things were added, and what others were streamlined.  Though, there's no multiplay in the demo, there's a lot of goodies that we can look forward to.  The multiplayer is going to include two game settings: old-war and new-war.  The old war is World War II themed and should remind one of, maybe, Wolfenstein or Battlefield 1942.  The New War involves something?er?newer.  Expect many arenas to be ripped off from sci-fi movies like Aliens and Star Wars.  But there's more.  There's class-based combat (wish six classes for each war type) that should accommodate well on Xbox Live, and maybe be able to pull people away from any other shooter games they might be fond of.  We'll have to wait until March 15 to find out.