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Game Review: The Conduit

by bradiger   June 25, 2009 at 2:15PM  |  Views: 179

The Conduit stands apart from most of what we see on the Wii. Here’s a game developed expressly for the platform from the engine up, designed to take advantage of the system’s versatile interface. First-person shooters are a natural fit for the Wii, and The Conduit is especially ambitious. Does it have what it takes to compete with the best games on the system?

If the dollar bill symbology hasn’t tipped you off yet, The Conduit is all about nefarious conspiracies and their detrimental effects on American society. Think Da Vinci Code meets X-Files. You play as Michael Ford, a member of a secret government agency called the Trust who’s charged with stopping an alien invasion. Almost immediately, you begin to call into question who’s actually working with the Drudge, as these hostile extraterrestrials are called.

A few genuine surprises are scattered amongst a sequence of predictable plot turns, but the story never intrudes on the game. It all mostly plays out in-game, with your allies providing updates, orders, and commentary on-the-fly as you progress. Briefing-style sequences bookend each level, and they do a decent job of smoothing out the sometimes-harsh transitions between missions.

Overall, the story is decently acted, if somewhat hammy at times, and the ending leaves little doubt that the writers intend to pen a sequel.

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The Conduit’s single-player game feels like something of a throwback, and not only because its near-future sci-fi vibe will make you think of the N64 classic Perfect Dark. You go through nine levels in a strict, linear sequence, and barring some scattered collectibles and hidden ammo caches, the game leads you by the nose from firefight to firefight. There’s an equal focus on corridor-clearing and more wide-open firefights, but the battlefields are never especially imaginative.

The environments do change, mind you—you cover a good bit of ground in Washington, D.C. in your quest to end the Drudge—it’s just that they don’t provide much variety apart from aesthetics. The hallmarks that define the best shooters are absent. The setpiece firefights are a letdown, there aren’t any real boss fights, and the puzzles feel like a an afterthought. The eight-or-so hour experience ends with a particularly challenging final mission, and there’s little ceremony after the fact to mark your accomplishment.

It’s fortunate, then, that The Conduit has a well-realized multiplayer component to prop it up. The ways that it bypasses the Wii’s cumbersome online functionalities are a welcome change. The game does use friend codes, but you only need them if you want to play a closed match with people you know. If you’re interested in hopping into a match without the fuss, the game can populate a map with regional and global opponents. For all intents and purposes, The Conduit works like you’d expect a modern competitive shooter to, including voice chat support via Wii Speak. The online matches we’ve been playing during our review have so far been hitch-free. Hopefully this will persist post-release.

The standard selection of modes are accounted for, including free-for-all and team deathmatch variants, capture-the-flag, and a Conduit-flavored take on the Halo favorite oddball. Up to 12 players can fight in a match, and there are rules variants that do a good job of switching things up. Take bounty hunter, a deathmatch ruleset that docks you points if you kill anyone apart from the designated target highlighted on your minimap. As you single-mindedly pursue your quarry, you inevitably end up getting caught in quite a few crossfires.

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Though its single-player campaign is a bit underwhelming, The Conduit has all the makings of a viable online shooter. If a solid community gets behind it, then this is a game you could play for a long time to come.

Largely thanks to its customizability, The Conduit controls very well. Aiming, hurling grenades, and whacking enemies with your melee attack are all done via motion controls. It all feels right, and for the most part, works well. A shake of the nunchuck will hurl a grenade exactly where you’re aiming your reticle, though in many instances, it’s too easy to over or undershoot. Jabbing the Wii remote to melee, meanwhile, will usually throw off your aim. This is realistic in that it lends melee attacks an appropriate measure of risk, but the few seconds it takes to realign your aim during an intense moment can easily cost you a death.

An extensive set of options allows you to further customize your gameplay settings. Feel like you’re moving too slow? Then up your run speed. Not turning quickly enough? Shrink your deadzone until you are. Pretty much every element of the user interface and controls can be tweaked to your taste, and while it may take a few tries to get it right, you’ll have no shortage of stuff to experiment with.

You’ll have plenty of weapons at your disposal, but if our experience is any indication, you’re going to stick to a selection few if given the choice. The strike rifle is particularly deadly, and with its charged shot that vaporizes most enemies, especially gratifying to use. The ASE, on the other hand, is pivotal to the game’s plot, but is only marginally utilized in the single-player scenario. Given that what pass for puzzle sequences in The Conduit amount mostly to speed bumps, this is a disappointment.

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From a game mechanics standpoint, The Conduit is impressive in its comprehensiveness. Once you figure out the settings that work best for you, you’ll feel confident mixing it up with any and all comers online.

There’s evidently a laundry list of stuff going on under its hood, but taken as a whole, The Conduit is not likely to knock your socks off. Frankly, it looks like what it is: a Wii shooter with cool graphical effects, and simple geometry and textures. It’s a cut above most of what’s out there, but it falls short of what you expect from the system’s marquee games.

The game’s music does a good job of morphing with the pace, but the Drudge voices feel like they were delivered by Covenant understudies from Halo. It’s like they weren’t even trying.

The Conduit deserves credit for getting the most important stuff right. In spite of the disappointing single-player campaign, it delivers as a shooter on the strength of its multiplayer component. The Wii finally has a competitive FPS worthy of spending time with. All it needs now are some willing fighters to help it thrive.

Reviewed on Nintendo Wii.

 

Source:  High Voltage Software

 

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