In its two initial incarnations, Conker 64 and Conker: 12 Tales, Conker's Bad Fur Day was just like any other 3D platformer developed by Rare. It featured a cute animal as the main character, it was brightly colored, and it was squarely targeted at the whole family. After some intense criticism from the press, which claimed that the last thing the Nintendo 64 needed was another happy-go-lucky platforming game, Rare went back to the drawing board. A year later, Rare shocked the video game industry when it announced that Conker had undergone a metamorphosis and would be released as an M-rated title full of violence and suggestive themes. After the disbelief wore off, many were left wondering if Conker's BFD would be nothing more than a gratuitous romp through the valleys of excess.
Conker begins his quest at a local pub. After a night of hard drinking with his war-bound rodent friends, Conker stumbles out of the bar, where he meets a strange figure and proceeds to vomit on its shoes. Dazed and bewildered, Conker stumbles through the foggy night until he becomes lost and passes out. When Conker wakes up, he finds himself hung over and in another world. Standing in Conker's way on his quest to get home is a colony of incompetent weasels ruled by a sinister panther. Conker lives on caffeine, and his life bar is represented by a segmented chocolate bar. When all the pieces of chocolate are gone, Conker dies. Extra lives are awarded by finding hidden squirrel tails. If you are in the middle of a multistepped process and run out of lives, you have to begin the process all over again.
On his own, Conker doesn't have a great deal of moves to perform. He may jump, hover, crawl, swim, and pull out a frying pan or shotgun for hand-to-hand combat. Finding confidence pills awards Conker with the ability to swim underwater. Conker also gains temporary abilities by stepping on pads scattered throughout the worlds and pressing the B button. The action performed on each pad is almost always different. Sometimes he gains the ability to use a slingshot, while other times he receives special equipment like a mining hat. The pads are always there to accomplish a specific task, and they clue you in as to exactly what needs to be done next.
Rare made all the right changes in bringing Conker's Bad Fur Day up to adult speed. Besides holding the title as the most risqué game to ever hit a video game console, Conker's BFD discards the daunting collecting scheme that has caused older players to lose interest in games like Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 in the past. There is absolutely nothing to collect, and there isn't even an inventory screen to pore over. Instead, Conker's BFD sets up a specific task and asks you to accomplish it. Once that task is completed, another one is presented. With that said, Conker's Bad Fur Day is by no means linear. There are no definitive levels in the game, so you may wander wherever you please in attempts at finding a new area to explore. Random enemies are rare, and the majority of combat is relegated to the prodigious boss fights that happily occur frequently. Another aspect of Conker's Bad Fur Day that is sure to be a hit with older players is the inclusion of countless movie spoofs. The Terminator, Reservoir Dogs, The Godfather, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, and The Matrix are but a sample of the list of movies that are cleverly parodied in Conker's Bad Fur Day.
The tasks that Conker's Bad Fur Day asks you to perform are borderline demented. One scenario has you feeding prune juice to a cow so that it may fill a reservoir with "poo," while another has you drinking from a beer keg so Conker may urinate on flaming demons. In another section of the game, Conker must bounce off a large pair of breasts to reach an out-of-the-way alcove. A huge furnace of a boss must be destroyed by smashing its testicles with Conker's frying pan, and another boss requires that you take a few chunks out of his rear end with a dinosaur. These examples don't even scratch the surface of the absolute absurdity of the objectives in Conker's Bad Fur Day. You might think that this sort of bedlam grows tiresome rather quickly, but the pacing of Conker's BFD is perfectly tuned. Just as the jokes are beginning to lose their punch, the gameplay steps up. In fact, Conker's Bad Fur Day is a true test of anyone's 3D platforming skills. There are still traces of the shiny, happy Conker of yesteryear left in the game. Several of his guises seen in early screenshots from the game are still included, and many of the objectives would be right at home in Banjo-Kazooie. Often the only difference is the motivation or a grotesque end result. Conker is rewarded for his accomplishments with money. The cash can come in handy when attempting to bribe the guards that block the way to new areas.
The single-player mode of Conker's BFD is a great deal of fun, but like in all 3D platformers, once it's defeated, there's little else to do. To add some longevity to Bad Fur Day, Rare has included seven multiplayer modes for up to four players. The primary multiplayer mode is a third-person deathmatch. There's plenty of firepower available with weapons like machine guns, bazookas, and chain saws in the arsenal, but there are just five maps and five characters to choose from initially. Judging from previous Rare games, it's a safe bet that more can be unlocked. You may set the time limit and the kill limit, toggle the radar, and set the AI level to crap, inbred, Einstein, or bastard. Tanks mode lets all four players hop in miniature tanks and blow each other to bits while attempting to capture a bomb and detonate it. The heist mode requires you to compete with three armed weasels in an attempt to collect a bag of money lying in the center of a large, open room. The raptor mode lets you choose between playing as a dinosaur or a caveman. As the caveman, you attempt to steal dinosaur eggs and return them to your cave. As the raptor, you must stop the cavemen at all costs. The beach mode is a reenactment of the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan. One team attempts to storm the beach while the other sits in towers and rains bullets down on the beachfront. The war mode is a capture-the-flag scenario, and the race mode is a hoverkart race with only two variations of one track available for play.
Conker's Bad Fur Day is the pinnacle of graphical achievement on the Nintendo 64. Every conceivable effect that the N64 is capable of is constantly utilized. The indoor areas are lit exclusively by multicolored real-time lighting, and this effect is accentuated by Conker's impressive shadow. It stretches and blurs as it mocks the rodent's every move and spins around Conker relative to the light source. Particle effects are used to illustrate every step Conker takes, and transparencies dominate every landscape while creating multlayered texture effects. What's really noticeable is the attention that has been paid to detail. Hundreds of small geysers emit puffs of methane gas in one level, and Conker's reflection is visible while hovering above water. The animation isn't too shabby, either. Conker's tail cleverly expresses his emotions, and it reacts to every jump and jolt with pinpoint accuracy. His eyes are full of expression, and when he speaks, his mouth is animated to match the spoken dialogue. This holds true for all the characters in Conker's Bad Fur Day. Considering there's almost two hours of real-time cinemas, this is an impressive feat for a cartridge-based game. The areas we've seen thus far begin as average 3D platformer worlds and slowly become incredible. Each new area is more stunning than the one before, which provides even more incentive to keep playing. The outdoor areas are expansive and gorgeous, and the indoor levels are intricate and detailed. The texture clarity and variety is as good as it gets on the Nintendo 64, but some of the texture maps seem a bit crude. Texture seams are plainly visible in many of the early locations, and this is one area where Conker's BFD has failed to match the achievements of previous Nintendo 64 games developed by Rare. Another problem is the camera. It regularly gets caught on objects and often fails to respond to commands altogether.
Rare is one of the few developers to use Dolby Surround sound on the Nintendo 64, and Bad Fur Day benefits greatly from the technology. The interactive soundtrack changes as you enter different areas, and sounds track nicely from one satellite speaker to the other. The cinemas feature profanity-laden speech that goes completely uncensored in the early going but seems to be bleeped out more often as the game wears on. It's shocking to hear words like these in a video game, and Conker's Bad Fur Day is far more vulgar than anticipated. The sound effects are right on par with the rest of the sound. There must be 30 samples for footsteps alone, including the disturbing sound of rodent paws on floors made of crap.
Conker's Bad Fur Day is a game like no other, and it's turned out to be even more shocking and humorous than anticipated. It's a full-out assault on all that is good taste, with nonstop swearing and direct references to drugs and sex. Needless to say, Conker's Bad Fur Day is strictly for adults. The subject matter may not appeal to everyone, but those who know what to expect will be pleasantly surprised to find that beneath the off-color exterior lies a solid playing 3D platformer that addresses most of the complaints that have been made about the genre in the past. We have the final copy of Conker's Bad Fur Day, so it should be on store shelves in time for its scheduled release on March 5. Look for our full review coming soon.