Review – The Conduit (Wii)Tuesday, July 7th, 2009
High Voltage Software has been hyping their new game, The Conduit, as the title that will make “hardcore” gamers dust off their Wii and give them a reason to play the system again. Should you grab a dust rag or continue using your Wii remotes as paper weights?
The Conduit tells the story of Michael Ford, a secret agent of some type working in Washington, D.C. when the city comes down with a slight case of alien invasion. It isn’t long before Ford is swept up in the events, taking you along for the ride. Conspiracies are unmasked, allegiances are betrayed, and the capitol is turned into a shooting ground.
The presentation of the story doesn’t do it any favors. Most of the plot is revealed through scrolling text (accompanied by cheesy voiceover) between missions and radio communications in-game. This simplified way of presenting the story makes it hard to connect with the characters and what happens to them. Most likely, you won’t really care why you have to shoot everything that moves, you just will. The game also features the All Seeing Eye (A.S.E.), a device that basically reveals invisible things such as hidden messages on the walls and explosive mines. The potential of the device is pretty much wasted, and you will rarely find that you need to bother with using it.
While the story behind the single-player is fairly generic and lackluster (feeling somewhat like a Perfect Dark clone), The Conduit is still fun to play thanks to the excellent control scheme. If you have ever played Metroid Prime 3, you’ll have an idea of how the controls in The Conduit are set up. The pointer function of the Wii remote is used to aim your weapons, and Agent Ford’s movement is mapped to the nunchuk. Firing is as easy as pulling the B-trigger, making shooting intuitive and fun. Be warned however, that you will most likely have to tweak the controls to find something that feels perfect. Luckily, just about anything you can think of (and some things you probably didn’t) can be adjusted to your heart’s content. Things like pointer sensitivity, dead zone, turn speed, and whether you turn when the pointer is off-screen can all be tweaked until they are “just right”.
Once you have the controls exactly how you want them, it will take about 6-8 hours to play through the single-player campaign. Once you’ve finished it, there is little incentive to play through it again, despite the existence of hidden messages and data disks to find. The story isn’t compelling enough to entice a second go-around. The plot is wafer thin, even for a shooter. Just about the time that things start to get interesting story-wise and you think the game is about to crank it into high gear, the main campaign abruptly ends shortly after it began, leaving things wide open for a sequel.
If the single-player campaign were all that The Conduit had to offer, it would be pretty disappointing. The game also includes the option of online multiplayer that does a lot towards making the overall package a worthwhile one. The Conduit makes the most out of Nintendo’s online setup, despite the system’s inherent flaws and difficulties. In fact, The Conduit has many features that are found on FPS games on other systems. You will still need to enter friend codes if you want to play with people you know, but the matchmaking system in place makes it really easy to jump into a game with random players, up to twelve total.
Each of the three main game types (deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag) has several different variations available to play. Every player is given the opportunity to vote on game type, map, and weapon set in the game lobby before each match. Once the votes are tallied, the mayhem begins. Personally, I had the most fun with the Explosive weapons set on a level called Streets. The map is a small one, making the action very chaotic and fast seeing as how everyone is armed with rocket launchers. The available options seem pretty standard when compared to shooters available on other systems, but it’s nice to see these things on the Wii.
On a technical level, what High Voltage has been able to achieve with The Conduit is rather impressive. The game features many advanced graphical effects and techniques not commonly found in a Wii game, including bump mapping and animated textures. Unfortunately, all these effects are wasted on generic corridors and bland characters. Most of the time, the art design for the game is severely lacking in originality. There are a few moments that rise above the mediocrity of the rest of the game. Unsurprisingly, each and every one of these moments happens when The Conduit briefly lets the player outside of the generic offices and hallways and into the great outdoors.
The Conduit may be on par with Metroid Prime 3 (or even slightly better) in the controls department, but High Voltage could learn a thing or fifty from Retro Studios about level design. All of the Metroid Prime games have a great sense of “place”, really pulling you into the world. Every nook and cranny looks unique, something that isn’t the case for The Conduit. High Voltage’s world often feels copy/pasted. There were several times during the campaign that I went through a set of corridors, went around a corner, and got a huge sense of deja vu when the new area looked exactly the same as the one I had just left.
Despite its flaws, The Conduit still manages to be quite a bit of fun to play. It’s too bad that the customizable controls, graphical technology, and robust online multiplayer modes get bogged down by the poor story and bland art direction. Future Wii shooters should take note of the technical things The Conduit does right and incorporate them into a game with more creativity in the visual department.
Final Grade – B-
Gallery of Images
Supergeeks---Your home for all things Geeky. Because it's not enough to be a Geek! You have to be...a SuperGeek!