Conker: Live & Reloaded (Xbox) review
"Each location contains a few attractions and links to one or two other zones. You’ll have to dash between them throughout your adventure if you want to uncover everything, Metroid-style. This was probably intended to make you feel like you’re really exploring a beautiful cartoon world, but the result is just a lot of dull backtracking. It’s not like enemies suddenly return when you re-visit a given area."
The idea behind Conker: Live & Reloaded is that you’re a squirrel who got tanked and woke up the next morning to the worst day of his life. Squirrels don’t usually get drunk, so right now you’re supposed to be snickering and reaching for your wallet. If that’s not enough, an assortment of zany characters also fills the game. They include a lecherous old bumblebee who just wants to ‘pollinate’ a big-breasted sunflower, a pitchfork that wants to kick your butt, and a massive turd who likes to break into song. These ideas were fresh a few years ago. The problem is that nearly five years have passed. Suddenly, I’m not laughing.
In case you haven’t guessed, Conker: Live & Reloaded is a remake of the Nintendo 64 title, Conker’s Bad Fur Day. For the new release, Rare upgraded the visuals and added an online mode. This may be enough for some people. Most gamers overlooked the original game, so it’s good to see Conker and friends get a second chance to shock the world with their antics. Those who are back for a second round, however, will find little to like.
After a sometimes-frustrating tutorial (it may be funny to watch your drunken squirrel's attempts at movement, but it's not fun), the game begins properly. You’ll soon find that Conker’s world is one big series of set pieces. There’s really no other way to describe it. Each location contains a few attractions and links to one or two other zones. You’ll have to dash between them throughout your adventure if you want to uncover everything, Metroid-style. This was probably intended to make you feel like you’re really exploring a beautiful cartoon world, but the result is just a lot of dull backtracking. It’s not like enemies suddenly return when you re-visit a given area. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Though crisscrossing the map sucks, you might tolerate it for two reasons. The first of these is the visual makeover. Conker: Live & Reloaded is definitely beautiful. Conker’s fur looks amazing, and the environments have nice color variation and decent draw distance. The only visual problem in the main game is that textures in the distance often look quite blurred.
Humor is another reason to persevere. If you like toilet humor and salty characters, you’ll love what you find here. Objectives somehow relate to bowel movements, sexual innuendo or just general vulgarity. Conker isn’t nice, and the characters and situations around him are simply absurd. As an example, one quest finds you pumping prune juice into a trough, sending cows out to graze, then ramming them with a bull so that they drink the purple liquid. Once they do, they run for the sewer grate to relieve themselves. As they do so, you again mount the bull and steer him so that he collides with the crapping bovines. Boom! They burst in an explosion of bone, blood and feces. Ha, ha, ha!
If you like such things, you’re probably thinking that this game is right up your alley. The first time you hear a cog cussing you out, you might smile. The second time, you’ll just skip through the text so you can get started on the task. Then you’ll realize that the task itself is as tedious as the text was. Really, this is the sort of game you only play through once. When you consider the fact that you can complete it in somewhere around ten hours, you can see where there might be a problem. Rare realized this, and thus they added the online mode.
If you have Xbox Live, Conker: Live & Reloaded is suddenly twice the game. Not only that, but up to 16 gamers can experience it together. Some of you will play as the ‘good’ guys, while the others will be the evil Tediz. You can play ‘capture the flag’ or you can just blow the crap out of each other. It’s sort of like Halo 2, but with some important differences.
One difference is the class system. You’re not limited to just a squirrel with a handgun. Perhaps you want to be a ‘sneeker’ so that you can cloak yourself and attack with fearsome blades. Maybe you would prefer to snipe people as a long ranger, or to send a rocket their way as a demolisher. There are other classes, too, and they cover a good variety of play styles so that you’ll feel at home. Characters also have secondary weapons and more than one way to attack, plus vehicles only they can pilot, which means you’ll have to invest some time if you want to master the game’s finer points. You’ll know you’ve arrived when the path behind you is littered with gratuitous blood and severed heads.
Unfortunately, it’s not all roses. Boring environments truly pale compared to those offered in Halo 2, or even in this game’s single-player mode. It sometimes seems like the artists illustrated it all with a box of brown crayons. Blurry walls all look too similar, something newer players consistently find disorienting. When new players join, you’ll probably get irritated quickly. It’s hard to join a game without finding two or three people who don’t have a clue what’s going on. They’re not afraid to vocalize their confusion, either. If you play early in the day, you’ll swear you just walked into a sixth-grade classroom. While it’s true that there’s a lot to learn, constant questions from newbies get downright discouraging. Hopefully, this problem will go away on its own.
As things stand, Conker: Live & Reloaded is a mixed bag. The single-player mode is worth a few hours of your time, but then you’ll forget it even exists. The multi-player mode is also fun, but an abundance of idiots on the server can make for a tiring experience. When you combine those two facts, the game suddenly isn’t as tempting as it once was. You’ll definitely want to rent it first. Otherwise, you may find yourself cursing right along with that singing mound of dung.
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Staff review by Jason Venter (June 23, 2005)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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