Ever since The Conduit was revealed last year, it has been heralded as the FPS savior for the Nintendo Wii. It has also been touted as a true hardcore game for a console that drowns in shovelware and self-help games.
Well, The Conduit is finally upon us and we’ve taken a taste of the hype-basted buffet. Was it worth the wait or does this motion controlled FPS leave us with motion sickness?
Beginning High Voltage’s The Conduit’s single player campaign, you are thrust into the shoes of Secret Service Agent Michael Ford. Complete with awful Kiefer Sutherland impression, we follow Ford through his adventure which involves everything from fighting fellow agents who’ve been brainwashed to evil space aliens. The plot of The Conduit is an exercise in mediocrity, and not long into the campaign you’ll be rolling your eyes.
After a brief narrated introduction, you find yourself immediately assuming the role of Mr. Ford. There’s no truly compelling intro cinematic, and you wouldn’t even know what Ford is supposed to look like if it wasn’t for the boxart. This is when your crash course how you’ll be playing The Conduit begins.
Imagine someone took an Xbox or PlayStation controller and cleaved it down the middle, installed motion control in one side, and handed it back to you. Strafing and forward movement are mapped to the Wii Nunchuk, with aiming and turning controlled by the Wiimote. If you’ve playing any Wii on-rails shooter, you’re already familiar with how aiming works in The Conduit. Look sensitivity, aiming “dead zones,” and even running speed are all available for customization. But that doesn’t save the doomed control scheme.
Every step of the way through the game you feel like you’re playing an on-rails shooter that has somehow derailed. You are forced to aim towards the side of the screen in order to turn your character, but this intrinsically makes you compensate for the movement and drag your reticule back to the center of the screen. Meanwhile, you’re being pumped with lasers and lead. No matter how much you finagle the options, it’s always going to feel too jittery or too sluggish.
When you’re not battling botched controls, you’ll be facing off against special ops forces and aliens called the Drudge. The bastardized aliens feel like they’ve been pulled straight from Halo. The main infantry shouts in the same low timber of Halo Elites. There are even scurrying, shrill voiced enemies which emulate Grunts, and the list goes on.
The weapons take obvious cures from other FPSs, bringing no real originality to the mix. There are three classifications of weapons. Human weapons include military inspired armaments from an assault rifle to a rocket launcher; Drudge weapons are orange laser shooting firearms that appear to be living organisms; and Trust weaponry consist of high tech, futuristic plasma energy weapons. Each one requires its own set of ammunition, but is never in short supply.
Some of the game’s weapons are so overpowered that at moments the experience seems broken. Rarely are enemies swarming you from all angles, so you’ll usually have time to charge up certain weapons which deliver one-hit-kills, rendering the enemy forces benign. Assuming you’re able to maintain aim with the Wiimote while shaking the Nunchuk to hurl a grenade, and you’re downright unstoppable at times.
The enemy AI is some of the worst I’ve encountered this generation, and rather than colorfully explaining it, I’ll give you an example. At one point enemies poured into a room full of exploding barrels. I watched in confusion my foes began taking refuge behind the combustible cover. Like shooting fish in a barrel, I began exploding container after container. That is, until I took aim on one sorry sap who decided he wasn’t going to take me alive, aimed at the barrel in front of him, and blew himself to smithereens.
Though the difficulty of the game is quite tame at many points, later in the adventure there is a ridiculous challenge spike. In one particular level, you are to exit an elevator and face off wave after wave of enemies without any cover. You basically have to ignore every FPS instinct you have and run past them like a coward to find impromptu cover, hoping you don’t die in the process. The level design in The Conduit is the main thing stopping it from being a Halo clone, as it is uninspired, ludicrously linear, and generic.
The shooting is broken up by scavenger hunt diversions with Ford’s All-Seeing-Eye, or ASE. The small orb is basically an alien relic that allows functions to find hidden switches, detector/disable invisible mines, and beep annoyingly at you. The gimmick seems novel at first, but after awhile it becomes a cumbersome chore.
The presentation of the game initially looks passable. Weapons are detailed, certain textures look very convincing, and enemy units have a glossy coat of paint on them. However, as you progress beyond the game’s confined corridors into broader environments you quickly remember this game is on the Nintendo Wii. This game looks like it’s a PC game that was released five years ago, and truly doesn’t fit among this generation. Many Wii games have compensated with limited graphical punch by having a unique art style, but The Conduit is not one of them.
Once you’ve finished simultaneously dry-heaving and scratching your head after the game’s ridiculous conclusion, you might find yourself tempted to try. What you’ll find is the best online setup the Wii has to offer. The game customization and matchmaking falls in line with multiplayer on either the PS3 or 360, and makes the tedious friend code system defunct. The ingenious of the multiplayer ends there.
Actually sitting down for a multiplayer match, however, is an exercise in boredom. With matches being limited to only twelve players, rounds feel more like hide-and-seek. Even with the radar constantly on, determining exactly where your enemies are is difficult. The one saving grace here is that you’re facing enemies that have the sense not to commit self-immolation. Using the control scheme to face off against human enemies fosters a semi-rewarding experience, which is quickly snuffed the moment you attempt to turn around and track them. There is some fun to be had here for people who love pointing the Wiimote to aim, for the rest this aspect of the game is pointless considering the far superior options that exist this generation.
The Conduit is a courageous effort at a next-generation FPS on a console that’s technologically underpowered. The game may very well be a dream come true for those who only own a Wii. However, there are better games to be played on the console, and much better FPSs to be played on other platforms. To quote Rob Schneider, “You Con-duit!,” but you shouldn’t.
This game looks pretty rough at times, even for a Wii game. There were better looking games last generation, even.
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Playing this game varies between passable and frustrating, with not much middle ground in between.
Repeated lines, cheesy dialogue, and stock sound effects bring nothing new to the experience.
If you can finish the campaign you are a patient person. Multiplayer may provide a little replay value.
If Nintendo expects to be a contender is the FPS market, it’s going to have to come up with something a lot better than this.