Backloggin’ – Conker: Live & Reloaded, Far Cry 3

Kicking ass and beating games? Oh yeah, it’s holiday backlog time. This marks my second week of total, blissful, wondrous free time. Although I haven’t played as much as I would have liked to within my human limits, I don’t like staying up obnoxiously late and feeling sleep-deprived. Still, I got a good amount of gaming in this week, and I’m not done just yet! It’s also worth mentioning that this will be the last backlog update before Christmas hits on Tuesday, which is kinda exciting and scary at the same time. I really need to get goin’ on that best/worst of whatever 2012 post, jeez.

Anyway, have some numbers n’ stuff.

Current statistics:

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Last week’s statistics:

Changes:

  • Beat count up 0.5% (1 game beaten)
  • 1 game removed (dun dun duuuuun)

Beaten games since last update:

  • Conker: Live & Reloaded (Xbox)

New games since last update:

  • Far Cry 3 (PC)

Removed games since last update:

  • Iridion 3D (GBA) – cuz it sucks and I have no motivation to ever finish it.

Continue reading for words about Conker and the deliciously awaited Far Cry 3!

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Conker: Live & Reloaded (Xbox) – Conker the squirrel. Oh, where oh where to begin.

Conker is probably one of the most inventive, iconic and memorable games out there. Yet, it’s also a severely underrated and overlooked one, especially for a game that was so lovingly developed by Rare, the same people behind other Nintendo 64-era classics like Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, and GoldenEye. Seriously, whenever I bring up this game, nobody seems to know what the hell I’m talking about. Drunk, greedy bastard of a cartoon red squirrel? Lots of obscenities and violence? No..? Anyone..?

Of course, it would make sense for very few people my age to remember this game – it released as one of the very last N64 titles back in 2001, and had a box labeled all over as “not for minors.” People my age – including myself – would have been friggin’ seven years old at the time. So yeah, not likely.

Conker’s development story on its own is just one of the most fascinating stories ever, I think. It was originally designed as yet another good ol’ innocent 3D platformer – something that had kinda been done to death at the time. So, after garnering enough criticism and doing god knows what else, Rare quite literally said “fuck this” and turned it into something entirely different. Gone was the innocent charm and parental approval. Make way for a story about a hungover squirrel trying to get home to his scantily-clad, over-sexualized girlfriend Berri!

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Quite the change in tone, huh? (By the way, the way Conker is drawn on the Bad Fur Day box really creeps me out to this day)

So what makes Conker so great and so damn iconic? Well, it’s the most eclectic game I have ever seen. You know how you buy a game like Skyrim and you pretty much know what you’re getting – y’know, dragons, swords, and wizardry – that sort of thing? Or a Mario game – if you buy one of those, you expect platforming of some sort set in a colorful environment like the Mushroom Kingdom. The general rule of thumb for games is that what you see on the box is more or less what you should expect, and in turn, what you get.

But here, in Conker? Oh man. It is all over the place. When I first discovered the game’s demo on my Dad’s copy of Jade Empire for the Xbox back in 2005, I assumed it was a game about squirrels at war, since that’s the only thing included in the demo level of the game. The whole level, by the way, is a parody of Saving Private Ryan – something that went totally over my head at the time. I just thought it was awesome.

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After some wiki-reading (I thought Wikipedia was the greatest thing ever at the time), I discovered more about the game, realizing that the whole “war” thing was only but a slice of what Conker had to offer. However, Rare had explicitly marketed the thing to be multiplayer-focused, since that’s where the bulk of their efforts went.

But Conker is so much more than that, and it’s unfair to market it as such. This is a game that has almost everything, and it does it by constantly parodying numerous movies and occasionally video games themselves. It starts out as a simple platformer with a color scheme that looks very much like something out of Banjo-Kazooie. But then there’s a Terminator parody, a sunflower girl with huge knockers, a caveman level, a Matrix/heist scene, and most notably – a giant boss character made out of poo.

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Probably the perfect example of why this game’s sense of humor isn’t for everyone.

Yeah. Eclectic is definitely the best way to describe this game. You just never know what’s coming, and it’s totally great. I wish we could get more games like this.

Unfortunately, Conker isn’t all fun and games. In fact, a lot of the mechanics feel outdated and even totally unnecessary at times – which is to be expected since this is an N64 port. There’s this whole segment before you can get into the “It’s War!” chapter where you have to roll this TNT barrel guy over to a plane to blow it out of the way. It’s slow, it kills the pacing, and most of all, it’s totally uneccessary. Why prime the player for a chapter about shooting Nazi-like Teddy bears in the face with barrel rolling? Why, oh why.

I opted to play Conker on the Xbox because I can’t friggin’ stand the N64 controller and its one-directional functionality. Having two analog sticks in L&R definitely helps, but it doesn’t exactly fix things. Zoom-in aiming still feels over-sensitive and awkward, something that makes turret sequences somewhat frustrating. On top of that, I don’t like the way Conker himself controls. Banjo-Kazooie has a great, responsive feel to it control-wise, with a certain amount of rigidity. Conker, on the other hand, feels like you’re always on a goddamn slip n’ slide. Conker moves quickly, but moving from side to side is problematic since it’s difficult to make subtler movements without throwing off your intended direction entirely. It just doesn’t feel like the type of controls you’d expect in a platforming game. The whole control feel works great for the War level, since Conker’s frantic pace is totally applicable there. Bullets flying everywhere, fellow squirrels getting mowed down left and right – yeah, run-like-hell mode. Makes sense. But when you take it out of that context and make it about jumping on boxes and stuff – um, yeah… not the same perfect fit.

I almost feel looking back on it now that Rare should have changed up the game’s mechanics entirely. I know that probably wouldn’t have sounded like such a good idea back then, less than five years from the original. Sure, fans wanted the (mostly) intact experience with some shiny new graphics. But playing this now? It’s all too weird, because the graphics make it feel like a newer title, while the gameplay lags seriously behind modern game design standards. This would never pass for a “good” current gen title, is all I’m saying. A lot of it is monotonous, awkward, and just plain dumb.

It’s probably pretty unlikely that we’ll ever see another Conker remake – let alone anything from the series at all. But man oh man, would it be good to see this game polished and brought up to modern standards a bit. It’s witty, it’s memorable, totally over-the-top, and ultimately unlike anything else. But it’s brought down by gameplay that just doesn’t hold up well. Recommended as a piece of gaming history? Definitely. But as a gameConker definitely doesn’t quite impress across the board like it should.

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Far Cry 3 (PC) – Medium difficulty, ~4 hours played [15% total completion] — Last mission completed: Keeping Busy

Far Cry 3 is one of the more notable releases of 2012. It’s yet another entry in a well-known franchise, sure – but it’s one that I’ve had my eye on for a while. See, Far Cry 2 was a very flawed, sandbox-type shooter that suffered from the same repetitive gameplay and mission formula that plagued Assassin’s Creed (also developed by Ubisoft Montreal). It had the right ideas – a large expansive African world to explore, tons of guns and explosions, and plenty of cars to drive – but aside from that? Nothing really else. Exploring was largely pointless, since all you’d run into were diamonds and annoying re-spawning enemy camps – unless getting shot-up by NPCs you killed off several minutes ago is your thing, I dunno.

But Far Cry 3 is really where Ubisoft started giving a shit about making a compelling sandbox experience. There’s tons of side-activities to be found and completed, stuff like races, hunting, relic-collecting, and looting. It’s a lot more expanded and the game just generally feels like it’s trying to be more of a believable free-roam game this time around. I’ve actually just been having a blast running, driving, and flying around the island and mostly ignoring the story missions entirely. It’s worth noting that when the player is able to have a good amount of fun solely running around in your game’s world, you know you did something right – and Far Cry 3 is definitely doin’ it for me.

Part of the reason is just the gunplay – it was great in Far Cry 2 (one of that game’s only strengths) and it’s great here. Each gun has a unique feel and weight to it, sound effects are loud but somewhat, well… pleasant, and most of all, they can all be decked out to better meet your needs. I’m not sure why most games don’t do this yet, but weapon customization is just the best. Forget Hallmark cards, nothing says personalized like a uniquely-outfitted rifle with a custom paint job.

The game can be played however you want, so you can run-in guns blazing, take a stealthier approach, or maybe even go full-out pacifist and work your way through mission objectives while only killing specifically mission-designated targets. Regardless of your approach, it’s all a lot of fun just taking on the AI, even if they aren’t exactly Harvard graduates in terms of intelligence. New to FC3 are takedowns, which let you silently take down enemies from behind with your machete, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction. I’m not usually a stealth guy, but it’s incredibly thrilling to take out an entire mercenary camp without ever being seen. Some missions will require you to not be detected, but for the most part, it’s all up to you, and the amount of tactical possibilities quickly make things incredibly exhilarating.

I’m taking things pretty slow right now, but I plan on plowing through the story missions over the Christmas season. From what I’ve seen, there’s only about 12 hours worth of  story content here, but Far Cry 3 excels so much in the sandbox department that I seriously couldn’t care less. This is one of those rare games where you can just hop in totally aimless and still have a ton of fun. If you’re looking for a game that’ll really suck you in this holiday season, well, I can’t think of anything better than this. Check it out!

Next time…

  • Christmas aftermath
  • MOAR FAR CRY 3!!1

Happy holidays, dudes!

-rav4ge

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