ESRB: T, blood, mild language and violence,
Multiplayer: Up to 12 over Nintendo’s Wi-fi service.
Developer: High Voltage Software
Release date: June 23, 2009
How do I introduce a game like The Conduit? It has been in development for several years, and been called the saving grace for Wii’s hardcore crowd. Others have named it Nintendo’s “Halo”, and plenty more names that I can’t remember. I’m not much for placing all those expectations on one game, let alone a FPS, a genre that is overflowing of late. Comparisons to the other popular and much loved hit games will inevitably happen soon enough. Over hyped by gamers and over promoted at times, is The Conduit something special or something that blends in? Both, and neither, it turns out.
Mysterious weather conditions, a strange virus appearing in Washington DC, contaminated water. What in the world is going on? Then mysterious creatures called Dredge start to appear from the DC subway system. Step into the armored shoes of agent Ford, a man in the wrong place at the right time. Pick up a gun and get ready for a hard battle.
Though the above could be from almost any game made within the last few years, The Conduit is different in a few ways, though maybe not enough for some people. It is, first and foremost, a FPS. A great one, but nothing that breaks rules or innovates the genre. With that said, The Conduit has several features no other FPS has. Mainly the controls. Fully customizable and deadly accurate, The Conduit uses the Wii remote and nunchuck accurately and tightly, so that the other first person games on Wii are left behind. No other first person shooter on a console has controlled this well.
Though the button layout is changeable, I thought High Voltage had it set up nicely. And though the Wii has seen some terrible, non-functional gesture controls in the past, lobbing a grenade or melee attacking worked every time I tried it. You can set the sensitivity of a gesture to where you like it. From twitch all the way down to throw the controller.
Following a pretty standard format for a FPS, run and gun is usually how the game is played. From railway systems, the city streets and even the white house, agent Ford will be fighting against the Dredge swarm in many ways. Though set in Washington DC, diplomacy is clearly not an option. From the start, it’s grab your gun and start shooting the insect like creatures coming your way. Sticking to cover is a must, because agent Ford isn’t superhuman. The Trust armor starts to heal you after a few moments of not getting shot, but even with that, it’s a tough time. You can adjust the run speed of Agent Ford, so moving about DC comes easily enough, though aiming your gun while doing so isn’t so easy. If you have shaky hands, you can tell. The game does offers several camera options, as far as shakiness goes. Human is most sensitive to shaking issues, but also gives the most aiming range. Trust is tighter, and the Dredge setting removes all shake, but cuts down visibility.
Dredge come in several varieties, with different skills or abilities depending on the breed. Drones are standard shock troopers, and while plentiful and armed with a formidable weapon, aren’t particularly fast. Mite’s are quick and spawn from egg sacks, but not strong. Dredge types are not many, but are balanced out, overall.
The All Seeing Eye device breaks this up a bit by adding some puzzle elements and revealing hidden items, but you’ll be blasting thousands of Dredge during the game. If you’ve played other FPS games, the Conduit isn’t going to change anything. If you’re expecting something revolutionary to the FPS genre, you may be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you expect something revolutionary for the Wii and otherwise a very good game, then you’ve found a fitting title. The Conduit doesn’t do anything new, but what it does it does well. If you’re a huge FPS fan and own another console, The Conduit will seem true to form. But for Wii-only owners it’s an amazing offering.
In the beginning of the game you’ll acquire the A.S.E device, short for “All Seeing Eye”, it’s a powerful alien artifact used to open doors, hack computers or reveal invisible objects. If you’re lost, you can also use it to reveal your path. Using the ASE is never quite boring, but the times you use it boil down to little more than find the object in question and “charge” it until it appears or the information is downloaded. Though it pulls you out of the action to find the hidden object, and offers some simple revolving puzzle solving, it could have been much better implemented during the game. The few times you are required to use the ASE during battle are very fun, though.
As nice as that is, it lasts only a disappointingly short five-hour single player campaign. Though fun and constantly action packed, that is simply too short. Unlocking all the achievements and bonuses would last you quite a bit longer, and the clock stops when you die, so if you played for twenty minutes then died, that would not be added to your time. Expect a challenge from even the normal setting, though. My total death count was forty-five times.
The story also ends rather abruptly, yet it will keep you hooked until the end. The beginning of the game could have been pulled from many other games or movies, but when events start to unfold near the end this is not the case. Several twists were orchestrated which, while not jaw dropping, were surprising.
The story is helped along by appropriate sound and quality voiceovers. Kevin Sorbo (Andromeda, Hercules) and Mark Sheppard (Battlestar Galactica, 24) lend their voices to the game. Weaponry make fitting noises and even the Wii remote speaker is used for reloading noises. Clicks and chinks with human or trust weaponry, interesting and vaguely disgusting squishing noises trigger when reloading Dredge weapons. The music is rock with the occasional metal influence. It changes to fit the atmosphere or event in a fitting way. It matches with the action in the game, but isn’t anything spectacular.
The graphics are quite beautiful. If people are to say the Wii can’t handle good graphics, they have to ignore this game. Buildings and enemies are drawn and rendered very nicely, though enemies are very shiny and reflective. Water looks bad, or at best OK. It doesn’t flow correctly, or splash but it casts reflections of lights or surroundings. When Agent Ford look’s into the clip of his gun you will see flat and terribly textured bullets. Close up it is painfully obvious that the backgrounds are backgrounds, looking like flat and lifeless. From a distance, they look beautiful. Sparks flit off of walls or floors after getting shot. And after playing so many games with bad graphics on Wii, I noticed one other thing: you have hands, not morphed together mitts. Though the bullets, backgrounds and water are at times bad, I want to stress the fantastic job HVS did with the Wii’s minimal graphical powers here.
HVS also implemented some great graphical effects, such as your screen blurring when reloading a weapon and the screen turning black and white when near death. Sound also is muffled during this, coming back when that final shot hits or you start to heal. Through all of this, even with two giant enemies and numerous smaller ones on screen at once, no slowdown.
You’ll need something to blast the Dredge with, and you will not be disappointed. Over ten weapons will be at your disposal, with several hidden weapons in each level. The humans, Trust and the Dredge each have their own weapon sets, well varied and useful in their own way. Trust weapons also tend to disintegrate things, which is a plus.
Since the single player campaign is so short, what does multiplayer have to offer? Much. Though Friend Codes are still implemented. I fully understand the reasoning behind this, but it does make for a less immersing experience. After selecting between region or worldwide, you can choose Free-for-all, team reaper or team objective. Free-for-all has quick match, Marathon, a timed match, in which whoever has the most score after times runs out wins. Three strikes is a three life match. Last man standing is much the same, but with ten lives. ASE foot ball requires the player to find the ASE. After picking it up you’ll have no access to weapons except grenades and your fist. You have to keep the ASE longest to win. Finally, you have bounty hunter, where you have to kill only your marked opponent or the one hunting you. You lose a point for killing an “innocent”. Team Reaper or objective reaper each have a set of different rules to choose from. The online mode is fun, and possibly the best on Wii, with Medal of Honor Heroes 2 being its lone competitor.
But their are a few problems. The first match you fight will be utterly random. After selecting your mode, team or Free-for-all, you’ll be tossed into a match with up to 12 other people. After that match you go into a lobby and vote on the level, rule and weapon sets. Another problem is lag. I’ve played matches where everything ran beautifully, and I’ve played others that were barely tolerable, with people bouncing around and appearing out of nowhere. I shot off a pistol clip at a guy sitting down the hall from me only to have him hyper dash down to the other end. As funny as that was, it got old. It also glitched on me once, making the controller unresponsive and leaving me sitting outside the play area for 10 minutes until the match ended, then it worked normally. And my biggest gripe is the fact that their is no local multiplayer, just online. Oh, and the fact that your file name is your online name is something to consider. Being unaware of this while naming my profile, I am now one of the hundreds of Mr.Ford‘s out there. After every match you are given experience added to your rank, with twenty-five rank levels to earn.
Wiispeak is supported with friends, but I wasn’t able to try that out.
Content isn’t to terrible. Blood puffs or spurts when you shoot an enemy, but disappears instantly. You’ll find dead soldiers in certain areas, but no blood or dismemberment. The main issue would be when shooting a Drone in the head, it will blow off and orange goo will shoot out of their necks. Language is surprisingly mild, with a few uses of D***, H*** and B****** throughout the game. And you will find art in one of the levels, of which one portrait contained a nude person.
After two years of waiting, avoiding hype and wondering if they could pull it off, did the Conduit become the ultimate game for the hardcore crowd on Wii? Maybe. The fact is, if you have another console, The Conduit isn’t anything special. A fun FPS with outstanding controls, but not a revolution to the gaming world. Multiplayer too, is outstanding on Wii, but featureless compared to other consoles. As such, it is both a great game for the hardcore crowd, and also not. Amazing for Wii, but perhaps not for the owners of other consoles. In fact, Eric Nofsinger, chief creative officer of The Conduit, said:
“Creation of a new intellectual property is tricky business. A creator’s first inclination is to make something entirely original that has never been done before. This can be artistically fulfilling, but runs the perilous risk of alienating the intended audience with obscure aesthetic elements that no one save the artists themselves can relate to.
Correspondingly, if we choose as creators to play it safe and work merely within well-established visual themes, the work may feel wholly unconvincing and tiresome. We had to ask ourselves an important question: Were we setting out on an expedition to create art house cinema for a select few, or a Hollywood bubblegum blockbuster? We opted for a big screen popcorn entertainment with high production values. Some may criticize our choice, but to us it made perfect sense that on a system built for everyone, we should exclude no one on our wild ride. This is for you. I hope you enjoy the trip.”
I think High voltage did what they set out to do, and it’s plain that they know how to utilize the Wii to it’s fullest potential, for which they deserve recognition, as most third party developers are content to fill the Wii with shovelware. I had a blast playing The Conduit, this is definitely one of the Wii’s better games, and if you can handle the content, I would feel confident saying that it set’s the bar for FPS games on the platform.
Sexual content/Nudity: 5/10
Game play: 17/20