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Nintendo Wii Review: The Conduit

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Many have been clamoring for a "hardcore" Wii game that shows the Wii can do mature gaming just as well as the 360 or PS3. This Wii-exclusive shooter has been hyped all year as the "hardcore savior" of the Wii. Developer High Voltage Software claimed to be getting all out of the Wii it could with this game, tailoring it to the Wii's control scheme and creating a new graphics engine specifically for the console. So many expectations have been placed on this game that it is really impossible for it to meet them all. The Conduit is a decent first-person shooter,  but it is not a game that is going to change how anyone looks at the Wii.   

You play as Mr. Ford, a man caught up in what looks like an alien invasion of the nation's capital. At the beginning of the game a shadowy government agent named Adams contacts you. An alien race known as the Drudge are invading and you are the only one who can stop them. A terrorist named Prometheus is helping the aliens and turning the government agents against you. You have to fight your way out and try to capture Prometheus. As the story progresses, Prometheus contacts you and then tells his side of the story. As the game continues, who to trust becomes more unclear. 

It is a fine attempt at telling a compelling story, but it is not interesting for a few reasons. One reason is the humans versus aliens storyline is in so many first-person shooters already. The storyline has a few major twists but they are easily spotted well before they happen. The final reason is that most of the plot is told in voice-over conversations. That is not an engaging way to tell a story in a visual medium.

The Conduit has been advertised has having the best first-person shooter controls on the Wii. As default settings, the Wii remote is used for aiming and looking, the nunchuck is used for turning and moving, and motion controls are used for melee attacks and grenades. There are multiple control schemes offered and nearly every action can be mapped to any button. The Conduit adds even more customization on top of that. Players can set their dead zones (the area on the screen where the Wii Remote can point before your view moves),  change their turning speeds,  and set the sensitivity of the motion controls.

Despite this smorgasbord of options, there are still some problems with the scheme.  Grenades and melee attacks are unreliable. You have to push the Wii Remote forward to melee. This is frustrating when you are in the middle of the action. Flicking the nunchuck launches grenades. It is far too sensitive, and you often throw grenades accidentally. You can lower the sensitivity, but then you have trouble throwing them when you need it.

The worst part is the default settings are not very good. The dead zone is far too wide, taking up nearly half the screen, and the turning radius is too slow.  Playing on the default settings feels sluggish. After just a bit of customization, I was able to finagle the controls to my liking. Admittedly, my custom controls do feel like the best shooter on the Wii. The problem is the average person may not know how to customize the controls to a place comfortable for him or her.  

Actual gameplay feels a bit outdated. The majority of the game is spent running and gunning between different rooms and taking on the same types of enemies over and over. You can take cover but it is practically useless. The best tactic in nearly every level is to find someplace safe to start from, move forward and attack slowly, then retreat every time you need to replenish your health and ammo.  It feels very much like a game made ten years ago — Goldeneye 007 or Perfect Dark.

There is a device called the All-Seeing Eye (referred to as ASE) that is used to solve puzzles, find in-game secrets, hack computer systems, and occasionally scan enemies. This does not really add that much to the game, as the puzzles ultimately amount to finding hidden door locks. Some enemies must be scanned before you can damage them. This can be infuriating when you have to stop to scan an enemy in the middle of the battle.  

The worst part of the game play is the widely varying difficulty. The end of one of the beginning levels was the hardest part of the game. Meanwhile, a later level's end boss did not seem to be even fighting back.

High Voltage Software has touted that The Conduit's graphics were built from the ground-up for Wii. It shows, for in terms of realistic graphics The Conduit is the best on the Wii. Character and weapon details look fantastic with some great lighting effects as well. Environments also look good with one exception — textures on walls are flat and have dull colors and low details. The game runs at a consistent frame rate; I never experienced any lagging. As a total package, The Conduit's graphics are the most polished of any non-Nintendo game on the Wii.

However, sound is a different story as the audio is only average. Nothing is done with surround sound, but the mix sounds good in stereo. The score is the bright spot, with orchestral music that matches the game well. It is also dynamic, changing with the game's actions. The voice acting is over-the-top, but at least you can tell the actors are trying.

The Conduit offers three main online match types: Free for All, Team Objective, and Team Reaper. Free for All features a variety of deathmatch modes. Team Objective includes  capture-the-flag type variants and Team Reaper offers  different team deathmatch types. The only really new sort of multiplayer mode is Bounty Hunter mode, in which everyone is assigned a specific target. Only killing that target will award you points, and killing anyone else will net you nothing. However, fights often break out anyway, because you want to kill the target first.

You can search for games in multiplayer three ways. You can play with Friends, play Regional, or play Worldwide.  When you first search for a match it looks for ideal players for about the first minute. Then it looks for close players. This continues to expand outwards. This can be frustrating as sometimes it can take a full five minutes to find a match.  Sometimes you are put into a match in progress and then have to wait for the next round to join as well. But after getting into a match, the time between matches is fairly quick.

Playing online works well, but it is not as smooth as the system in Mario Kart Wii. There is no noticeable lag but there are a few bugs. Occasionally, other players will be invisible and not show up on the radar. There is no invisible power up in the game so getting shot by someone that was not on your radar or on your screen is very frustrating. Luckily that only happens about once or twice every thirty minutes of game play. Once I was loaded into the game but my whole screen was black and I was unable to move or do anything. I had to reset the whole system.

The actual competition online is enjoyable. There is a ranking system based on your performance in each round. Unfortunately ranking up does not unlock anything. Up to 12 players can play at once. There are enough game modes, maps, and weapon sets to keep you occupied for quite some time.    

Replay value is based almost entirely on how much you like the online modes. The single-player campaign is only about 5-10 hours long and there is not much reason to replay. There are in-game achievements but they only unlock things like art galleries, nothing that changes the way the game is played. On higher difficulties the enemies will try to flank you and be a little smarter but the game play is still run and shoot. Still, some may want to run through again on a higher difficulty.

The Conduit is an enjoyable first-person shooter experience on the Wii. The whole package put together is impressive. It could be argued that this is the best shooter on the Wii. But there are launch games that had more modern shooter tropes than this. If you loved Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark, by all means pick this game up, as you will enjoy it thoroughly.  If you are looking for an online Wii first-person shooter this one is definitely the best. However, if you are looking for a modernized first-shooter on the Wii that implements things like cover mechanics you are still going to have to wait.   


The Conduit is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Mild Language, and  Violence.


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About Mark Kalriess