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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
GENRE: Action
PLAYERS:   1-16
June 21, 2005
Conker's Bad Fur Day

 Written by Troy Matsumiya  on July 25, 2005

Review: Good-looking quirky fun ? that's also confusing as #$@!

Multiplayer Mayhem

Multiplayer is the heart of Conker: Live and Reloaded (despite the title, Conker never appears in multiplayer, though other characters from Bad Fur Day make appearances). There are several gamemodes, including Dumbots, where you fight through any of the eight multiplayer maps against computer controlled bots, either by yourself or cooperatively with a friend (the co-op mode is available offline only). Dumbots is appropriately named because it is common to see bots on both sides standing dumbly in the middle of the battlefield doing nothing. This mode can be quite challenging at the higher difficulty levels though, since enemy bots will tend to ignore your bot teammates and focus their attacks on you.

Chapter X is a variation of Dumbots where you play solo through two three-level campaigns, Old War, which takes place during World War II, and Future War, which takes place 200 years in the future and spoofs films like The Terminator and Star Wars. In each level, you will have to achieve objectives like destroy or protect a bunker, capture a flag, retrieve plans, and so on.

The real fun, however, is on Xbox Live (System Link is also supported). With up to 16 players, the battles can be quite intense. In all multiplayer gamemodes, you will have to choose a character from one of six classes, similar to Return to Castle Wolfenstein. The Demolisher is the heavy weapons bazooka guy; the Grunt is the balanced, general use class with a machinegun and grenade launcher; Long Ranger is the sniper; the Sneeker is a sword-swinging spy who can turn invisible, play dead, and even disguise herself as the enemy; the Thermophile is a pyromaniac with a flamethrower; and the Sky Jockey can operate all vehicles (the other classes can use vehicles but are limited to specific ones) and is the only class capable of flying aircraft like the Steed and Mule 52 gunship, which has gunner and bomber positions and can carry several paratroopers. Some classes like the Grunt and Thermophile also have the special ability to heal themselves and teammates. If you don't like your class, you can change at any time if you don't mind waiting to respawn.

Some classes can also deploy Special Ordinance such as the Earthguard robotic gun turret and the Skyguard anti-aircraft missile launcher. You can also grab a parachute to jump off high ledges or from aircraft. Some classes can also hack into enemy doors and Special Ordinance dispensers if you want to be really nasty.

You can upgrade your weaponry by grabbing big yellow Upgrade orbs that appear when players die and on special areas of the map. Upgrades unlock new weapons and abilities and are usually key to earning a victory. For example, the Grunt turns from an average SMG-toting soldier to a grenade-launching powerhouse when upgraded.

All eight maps ? three Old War and five Future War ? are quite big and have their own unique objectives that cannot be changed; so you can't do Capture the Flag on Beach Dead, for example. However, you can turn off the objectives and play team deathmatch if you wish. Since the focus is on team play, there are no individual deathmatch modes.

You start off as a buck Private but as you play on Xbox Live, you eventually move up in rank based on your cumulative performance. You can also earn medals based on your kill count and your class performance; for example, Thermophiles can increase their flamethrower capacity if they achieve a certain number of kills, and players who heal others can upgrade their healing speed when they gain enough points. You can also unlock new avatars which you can place on walls using your spray can.

Graphically, multiplayer looks just as good as single player, with impressive explosions, smoke, particle and flame effects. The kill effects are straight out of Mortal Kombat with viscous globs of blood spraying everywhere. Sneekers can decapitate enemies and Lone Rangers can blow heads off, all displayed in graphic gory glory. It looks great but once again reminds you that this is not a game for the kids.

The sound effects are pretty good too, except for the mutterings of the characters. Each class has their own unique sayings which are repeated ad nauseam throughout the game and tend to get quite annoying. If you finish the single player game, you can turn off the multiplayer censor bleeps, but then it becomes evident that the swearing is just there for swearing's sake. I turned my censor bleeps back on because it was somewhat less annoying that way.

What really is annoying, however, is the fact that multiplayer is just as confusing as single player. You can always tell who hasn't played much before because they will constantly be asking, ?What am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to go?? over and over like a broken record. It's not their fault; heck, it took me several nights of playing before I was finally able to get the hang of things. The problem is once again with the way things are designed. Each map has a short video explanation of what the objectives are, but they're a bit vague on what you have to do to achieve the objectives. Once you start playing, there are no indicators onscreen of where you're supposed to go, unlike games like Halo where the objective locations are seen as a floating icon on the map. There are small indicator icons on your radar, but these are so vague as to be useless. Also, the host can turn off the radar which means you'll be really screwed if you're new to the game and are not familiar with the maps.

Conker is not a pick-up-and-play game. It requires a fair amount of time to figure out what to do, and since each map has different objectives, you will have to go through the same steep learning curve for each one. In many ways, Conker reminds me of Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, the objective-based team multiplayer PC shooter where if you don't know what you're doing, you're going to get your butt kicked big time. Like RTCW: Enemy Territory, Conker also requires good teamwork to succeed, so it is in everyone's best interests that you take the time to tutor those who are new to the game. Unfortunately, many players on Xbox Live are both immature and impatient, which means new players will have a difficult time unless they play exclusively with friends.

Now, having said all that, multiplayer is quite fun ? once you get the hang of it. The learning process will be frustrating at first, but patience and a good tutor will help you get through it. But with only eight maps and limited gameplay modes, the novelty of battling squirrels and teddy bears begins to wear a little thin sooner than you might expect. That's actually a bit disappointing considering Rare supposedly spent most of their time developing the multiplayer portion. A few more gameplay options, maps, and better indicators and explanations on the objective-based modes would go a long way towards improving the overall package.

Bottom Line
Conker is fun, but is not quite as good as I was hoping. Gamers complain that games today are too easy and lead players by the hand; in Conker's case, it's the exact opposite where players are pretty much left out in the cold without a clue or a pot to ? well, you know. If there is a sequel (and it would be surprising if there is not), hopefully Rare will learn from their mistakes and give us something that lets us spend more time enjoying the gameplay rather than trying to decipher it.

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