It’s been a long time since we’ve had a fully fledged core first person shooter on Wii. I found Metroid Prime 3 a little dull and Call of Duty World at War for Wii never arrived on my doormat for review. Yes we’ve had Water Warfare and Onslaught but whilst they were fun they weren’t what I’d call a top notch shooter. After months of expectation I was really excited to finally play it; so let’s find out if High Voltage software has delivered on their promise of the most fluid and intuitive shooter for Wii in my review of The Conduit.
The back story to The Conduit is a series of unusual events involving the water supply and a mysterious flu like illness sweeping Washington DC. Besides the games intro animation and scattered radio communications here and there the back story isn’t really mentioned again, so we should concentrate more on the fore story instead. You take control of Michael Ford a secret service agent working for The Trust; an American agency more powerful than the FBI and the NSA combined. Your commander John Adams sends you on an important mission to recover an important artefact known as the All Seeing Eye (or A.S.E for short) which has been stolen by a terrorist known as Prometheus. Without wanting to give you too many spoilers all I want to say that you soon uncover a series of cover ups, conspiracies and deception – it seems that there is more to Mr Adams and the terrorist leader Prometheus than meets the eye. However all that aside what’s more important is that there are a load of brainwashed Trust agents and Alien invaders (known as the Drudge) shooting at you and that’s what we should look into now. There aren’t too many enemy variants to see but all bases are covered; you have small and nimble baddies who will run or roll up towards (and behind) you quickly before you get a good chance to hit them. Next up are your middle class Drudge which are all rounder’s; carrying stronger weapons with the intelligence to strafe and dodge your attacks, they will also charge at you when you’re reloading. Finally you have the big guys which are slow but very powerful; if you fail to strafe these you will get a serious whack around the chops and see your health drop very quickly. Thankfully another bonus feature is your special Trust suit can also heal you if given enough time to recover; this is very handy and also cuts out lots of looking for health kits like in other FPS games. There are health kits available but typically you’ll only encounter these in areas where you’re likely to take a pounding; not scattered all over the place.
The Conduit is spread over nine main missions and you’ll be shooting your large variety of human and alien weapon technology at plenty of Drudge’s over a number of interesting environments such as The White House, City Streets, Sewers and Underground Laboratories. The weapons range from standard issue pistols which pack a punch in human flesh but are somewhat poor at penetrating the thick alien skin. Luckily more advanced weaponry; ironically some of it created by the Drudge themselves is much more powerful and quite often has a charge mode which can unleash a nice blast of fire in the enemies face. You can only carry two weapons at the same time but you can pick up weapons that enemies drop with a simple tap of the minus button; it may seem fiddly to be picking up weapons all of the time but I prefer this more realistic approach. If you’re familiar with the Metroid Prime series you will obviously know that Samus’ visor is an integral part of the game; with it you can scan the environments for things (dangerous or not) that exist outside of the visible spectrum. In The Conduit the A.S.E. does pretty much the same thing; when you switch to it using the plus button on the Wii Remote you can do a number of things; if you hold the B trigger down the A.S.E. will glow and show you the path your meant to be taking. Secondly you can aim the A.S.E. device all around the area to look for invisible things; these can include hidden messages, ghost mines and Trust data discs (which unlock bonus content). The A.S.E. can hack computers and uncover secret rooms containing weapons and even deactivate the cloaking technology for one particular nasty species of Drudge. All in all it’s a useful device which is also a bit of a gimmick when you think about it; gimmick or not it’s nicely implemented and cool to use. Generally you’ll be walking from checkpoint to checkpoint clearing an area of enemies; this isn’t quite as easy as it sounds because usually if you are in an area full of enemies it means that either a hive or conduit is close by and until destroyed, the Drudge will keep coming. At these times waiting back isn’t an option; you need to clear the first wave and destroy the spawn point before a second or third wave arrives. In between missions the (rather well voice acted) cut scenes continue the story; sadly you won’t really see any ground breaking FMV visuals here but it’s an important break from the action.
Much has been said of the Wii Remote and Nunchuck being an ideal controller for first person shooters and titles such as Metroid Prime 3 have proven the case. You move Ford around with your Nunchuck analogue stick which in itself feels like any other FPS but instead of using your other thumb to control the crosshair you simply point the Wii Remote towards your TV like a gun. To perform a melee attack (or whack the guy with the back of your gun) you simply thrust the Wii remote forwards towards the TV, you can lock onto enemies with your Z button, jump with A and Crouch with C, nothing fancy there I know but I’m just mentioning to confirm because even though The Conduit is on the Wii it doesn’t mean you’re gimped into kiddie gameplay mechanics. Throwing grenades (of which there are three types) is a joy; simply perform a throwing motion with the Nunchuck and you will throw one in the direction you’re looking. What makes it so much fun is the accelerometer inside the Nunchuck is able to detect the speed you move your arm which means; if you arc your arm slowly the grenade will only go a short distance, if you throw it harder it will travel farther. It’s a fun yet realistic touch. Another thing touted about pre launch was the customisable controls and on screen HUD; everything you may have heard is true. Near enough every action Ford can perform can be mapped to any button of your choosing and you can choose where all of your onscreen information is presented.
In terms of Graphics the single player mode is a treat; the much hyped Quantum 3 engine does indeed make for a good looking Wii game and all of those special effects you’ve come to expect on the PS3 and Xbox 360 are here. If it wasn’t for the fact that the Wii isn’t quite powerful enough to pull them all off at once I would probably describe this as the best looking game on Wii, but I think that still falls to Super Mario Galaxy. For one thing the textures are a quite bland and combine this with a framerate which falters quite a bit when several enemies are onscreen then you’re starting to get a little disappointed when the promised goods don’t quite live up. Overall though I can’t fault High Voltage for the effort but await their next upcoming FPS (The Grinder) and any refinements they’ve made. The Conduit is certainly a good looking game but don’t go into it expecting 360 visuals; you will be disappointed.
So that’s the Single Player covered; what about the multiplayer? Well if you fancy going online with your Wii then you can face up to 11 other people in a variety of game modes. Your usual Quick Match is here along with Last Man Standing but more fun are A.S.E. Football which is a basic capture the flag affair and Bounty Hunter. In Bounty Hunter every player is given a specific player to hunt down, shooting anyone else will actually harm your score – this mode requires you to stop yourself from just shooting Willy Nilly and control yourself. The seven maps are quite well designed and whilst not always large enough, make for some fun and frantic battles. Graphically you will notice a huge drop in quality in multiplayer mode; to keep the framerate as high as possible nearly all of the special effects are turned off, this is somewhat of a shame but if I had to choose between graphics and framerate I would have made the same choices the developers have made here. If voice chat is your thing then good news, you can use the Wii Speak accessory (sold separately) and chat to your opponents or team mates. Whilst the Wii’s in room microphone device (and friend code system) may not be as practical for FPS games as an Xbox Live headset it’s better than nothing. Once again when things get busy onscreen the framerate starts to get a bit chuggy but it’s liveable; certainly not a game breaker but combined with the occasional hacker who uses the Homebrew cheat system to gain an advantage means you can quite quickly become frustrated with what could have been the Wii’s best online experience. Once again Nintendo still keep the honours here with one of their home grown titles; Mario Kart Wii.
A lot of reviewers have criticised The Conduit for having a bland or clichéd storyline; whilst I agree The Conduit doesn’t bring a narrative of originality to wipe Shakespeare from the school syllabuses, it’s still an intriguing adventure which wouldn’t be out of place in any Hollywood Sci-Fi flick; personally I think people have been looking to find something to complain about because this is a Wii title and therefore something must be wrong with it. Now I don’t want to suggest there isn’t anything wrong with The Conduit but it’s not what you may have heard from other (less experienced) reviewers. Below the gloss are some technical flaws which in my opinion are worse than any atypical storyline could ever be. On the first level I was wandering around for a long time looking for the exit but appeared to be stuck when suddenly I noticed the arm of an enemy sticking through a wall. After firing shots at this arm and thereby killing the enemy the exit door suddenly unlocked and my pathway was open; if it wasn’t for the fact this guys appendage was sticking out far enough as it was I would have been prevented from continuing in the game. Having an enemy spawn inside the scenery is likely a rare occurrence but one that effectively ‘broke the game’. I also encountered a lengthy game freeze when after reaching a checkpoint where the next part of the level loaded into memory, I decided to backtrack and check for missed ammo. At this point I thought the game had frozen permanently because around 45 seconds went by before the game shifted back into action.
I don’t want to sound too negative; I had bags of fun with The Conduit for Wii and am looking forward to playing through it again to unlock all of the special achievements and cheats. The multiplayer ranking system is also addictive and demands more of my spare time. However the Conduit is far from a perfect game both technically and in terms of quality. The six hour single player campaign is a little short in my opinion and the presence of only one real boss may disappoint some; that actually didn’t bother me as much as the very abrupt ending which nicely leaves things open for a sequel but reeks of a level or two being cut due to being behind in the development schedule. Oh, and there weren’t that many Conduits in the game.
Good but could do better; The Conduit for Wii scores a rather dandy 8 out of 10.
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