The Conduit Review

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The Conduit Publisher: Sega
Developer: High Voltage Software

Platform: Wii
Reviewed on Wii

Washington D.C. is in flames. Aliens stalk the streets and the surviving civilian population is desperately fleeing for the suburbs. Secret Service Agent Mr. Ford finds himself near Reagan National Airport at the critical moment when a terrorist named "Prometheus" is corrupting security forces to some sinister end. While pursuing Prometheus, Mr. Ford is drawn into a conspiracy entwined with the very roots of the United States government.

Kyle Ackerman

The Wii desperately needed The Conduit. It's a first-person shooter clearly aimed at hard-core gamers designed from the ground up for the Wii. And it's good. The Conduit provides a solid single-player campaign – it should take experienced gamers six to eight hours to foil an alien invasion – and 12-person multiplayer action for Wii gamers desperately wanting to shoot their friends online.

My Nose Itches

Frankly, The Conduit's greatest accomplishments are technical. If this game appeared on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, it would have been unremarkable at best. Instead, The Conduit is a game created explicitly for the Wii. What would have been mediocre graphics for another platform appear to eke every last graphical bell and whistle from the Wii's capabilities, and the control system is intuitive and perfectly suited to the Wii's strengths.

The ConduitI can't imagine a more straightforward control system for a shooter on the Wii. Certainly, The Conduit presupposes familiarity with a joystick, but everything beyond that can easily be understood by a gaming novice. Use the Wii Nunchuk to move around. Point the Wii remote at the screen where you intend to shoot and pull the trigger to blast away. It's obvious. Intuitive. Elegant. The sensitivity is customizable. And as much as I think the design is brilliant, as a core gamer, I still prefer a conventional controller.

Never mind that every time someone else sat down on the couch I'd miss difficult shots at alien enemies. I'm willing to accept that if it means anyone can simply pick up the controls and blast his way to victory. But what really irritated me was the grenade system. I like grenades in games. I rely on them to survive. In The Conduit, a flick of the Wii Nunchuk launches a grenade at the target the Wii Remote has selected. I can get used to that. It took me a while to learn to keep my Wii Remote steady while I chucked The Conduit's plentiful grenades, but that wasn't the problem. The problem was that my nose itched.

The ConduitEvery time my nose itched, I forgot I wasn't using a conventional controller and when I reached up to scratch my nose with my left hand (the one holding the Wii Nunchuk), I'd throw a grenade into a nearby wall and die. If I had to pick a theme for The Conduit, it's that every time my nose itched, I died. I'd nearly clear a room of challenging alien threats, go to scratch my nose during a combat lull and die horribly from my own fragmentation grenade. And that doesn't take into account the time I tried to drink a soda while playing. The Conduit should come with a warning: "Coke kills!" Aside from deadly soda and itches, the controls are brilliant.

Standard Shooter Fare That's Exceptional For the Wii

The single-player campaign for The Conduit is standard shooter fare. I ran down lots of corridors, narrow city streets and rubble-strewn landscapes that offered as much freedom of movement as corridors, while shooting a stream of progressively more resilient enemies. Conspiracies are unveiled, allegiances change and lots of aliens poured from portals that were the eponymous "Conduits."

The ConduitEnemies do a decent job of acting intelligently and using cover, but the game ramps up its difficulty by allowing late foes to take more hits, giving them nastier weapons, making enemies invisible, or filling rooms with endlessly spawning creatures. Most of the time the shooting action was great, but occasionally the difficulty level swung wildly, leaving me frustratedly repeating the same sequence over and over, and wishing I'd tried to play the game on the "Low" or "Guarded" difficulty levels. This was worst when respawn points were just too far from the game's difficult moments.

The Conduit's multiplayer feels like it suffers slightly from the Wii's capabilities. The game supports up to 12 players in a session, but that rarely seems like enough outside of the most basic deathmatches, especially given the potential of the game's multiple maps. Were it not for the population limit, multiplayer is solidly executed. I'm particularly fond of the voting system between matches that allows players to vote on everything from map to weapon choices before starting the next match. The extent of The Conduit's multiplayer longevity on the Wii is simply a question of whether any other developer can pull of anything nearly as ambitious on Nintendo's platform.

Do We Battle Taft in the Sequel?

The Conduit feels like there is an incredibly detailed story lying behind the fairly shallow tale presented in the game. It left me with the impression that there are notebooks of detail lying around at High Voltage Software. That detail hasn't necessarily made it into the game, but there's enough of an echo of that content that The Conduit creates the impression of a rich game universe that has yet to be unveiled.

The ConduitIt's easy to just blast your way through the action of The Conduit, but it soon comes to light that the Mr. Adams who lies at the heart of the organization claims to have been running the U.S. government since its inception is actually hundreds of years old and happens to be named John. Is he the second president of the United States? The sixth? What story has High Voltage Software concocted to explain why the powerful artifact you yield is called the "All Seeing Eye" and is so closely linked to United States imagery?

I don't know, but I hope that Sega and High Voltage Software decide to continue the tale and reveal more of what they've planned for The Conduit's world in future games.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 27, 2009 10:52 PM.

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