Review by Mr_Ifafudafi

"A godsend for Wii-only shooter fans, but little else."

It's no secret that the Wii's a bit dry on so-called "hardcore" games; other than a select few first-party titles, most of its library consists of shoddy minigame collections, half-baked movie tie-ins, and some fitness coaches. Many gamers have condemned it as a simple "casual" platform and dismissed it accordingly. High Voltage Software's The Conduit, rounding out Sega's big 3 after Madworld and House of the Dead: Overkill, aims to do away with that belief, but does it succeed?

Story - 4/10

You're Michael Ford, a skilled government agent, who is recruited by a shadowy organization called "the Trust," which has supposedly protected the nation for centuries, to find and capture a terrorist who calls himself Prometheus. He's stolen a valuable item called the ASE, or All-Seeing Eye, and the Trust needs it back. Oh, and there are some aliens. That's about the extent of it; while there are a couple of twists (including a pretty inventive reveal), the story serves merely as a backdrop for your actions. I give it points for effort; it's clear that while the plot isn't that deep, High Voltage at least made an attempt to create an interesting premise, which is more than can be said for most games of the genre, but I also have to knock off some of the score for the horrible, horrible ending.

Put simply: nice touch, but hardly worth buying the game for.

Graphics - 8/10

Probably one of the most advertised aspects of The Conduit is its impressive game engine, allowing for a variety of rendering effects that many thought were reserved for the uber-powerful next-generation systems. And oh boy, does it deliver; in terms of visual fidelity, this is probably the best looking Wii game out there, and while you won't be mistaking it for a 360 game any day, it far surpasses anything last-gen consoles could even dream of. Normal mapping, HDR rendering, depth of field filters; this is truly an amazing engine High Voltage has put out, and I'm greatly excited to see what they do with it in the future. However, every other graphical aspect suffers; the framerate, while mostly holding out at a solid 30FPS, chugs quite often during intense combat, especially in multiplayer. The level design is bland and uninspired, mostly consisting of boxy corridors and bleak, desaturated streets with an occasional bright control room in between. Art direction, while not ugly, is still pretty bland; outside of the creative Drudge weapon and creature designs, there isn't much aesthetic appeal, particularly when compared to the less technically powerful but much more beautiful Metroid Prime 3.

Put simply: Impressive technology, but bland art direction.

Sound - 6/10

There's not much beyond your generic sci-fi laser-beam sounds and gunfire; I was actually able to pinpoint several stock sounds I've heard used in other games (Metroid Prime's beam charging and Halo 2/3's Hunter cannon, for example.) The musical score is a forgettable mix of uninspired techno ambience, and enemy dialouge is diluted, unenthusiastic, and shamelessly repeated. What does shine is the voice acting of the main cast; you just don't appreciate this quality until you compare it with the other campy trash that populates the Wii's library. Nothing of note outside of that, though.

Put simply: Whoosh! Bang! Zap! Zzzzrt! Argh! *grumblegrumble*

Control - 10/10

Since the Wii seems so well-tailored for shooters, it's surprising that (of the limited library) not many of these games have controlled that well. The closest was, again, Metroid Prime 3, but even then, many people, including myself, complained that it just isn't smooth and refined enough. The Conduit finally has the answer to that problem; you set it yourself. Where other games merely have a Low, Medium, or High sensitivity option, Conduit allows you to tweak virtually every aspect of the control, including every single button, sensitivity in each axis, cursor sensitivity, bounding box radius along both axes, and much more, while allowing you to test your new controls dynamically as you tweak them. While it will take a few minutes to get the perfect setup, that setup is indeed perfect; it keeps the pinpoint-accuracy of the mouse-and-keyboard while also allowing for more precise and controlled movement through the analog stick, keeping all the advantages of both M&K and Analog control while doing away with the disadvantages of both. If you value your play time at all, take the necessary time to perfect your control scheme; you won't be able to go back afterwards.

Put simply: Everyone's view of perfection is different, so it lets you decide.

Single Player - 7/10

It's a corridor shooter. Anyone who's played anything of the genre should have a general idea of what to expect: You're at point A. This is point B. Move through all the rooms and kill everything in your way until you reach point B. After you reach point B, you may get a simple ASE puzzle or some light plot to break up the action before repeating the process all over again. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though; the game is generally very well-paced, and while there aren't the spectacular set pieces that most shooter fans have gotten used to, a boss fight here and there and a steady difficulty curve kept me engaged, if not amazed. To its detriment, there are a couple of sequences where you have to kill everything in the area before proceeding, and the AI will often glitch out and stay stuck in an oddly inconspicuous position, forcing you to spend a lot of time hunting them down in a slow and frustrating process. Oh, and speaking of the AI... well... it's there. The enemies aren't the brain-dead bullet sponges of Red Steel, but they don't do anything beyond take cover and yell "SUPPRESSING FIRE!" every few seconds. They do their job of being generic cannon fodder for the tank-like player character to charge through.

On that subject, we've got the cliched one-man-army, no-backup PC that's been a staple of first-person shooters since their inception. He rarely speaks, he takes ridiculous amounts of damage before patching it all up with instant-use medpacks, and he charges in guns blazing, mowing down anybody unlucky enough to get in his way. Makes sense if you're Master Chief, but the only thing that Mr. Ford really has to seperate him from the rest of the enemies is a regenerative suit of armor. While shooter fans have probably grown beyond this sort of play style, those who haven't, or those who are new to the genre, will find a good bit to love here. Just don't expect anything to blow your mind.

Put simply: Standard run-and-gun shooting that's been seen a million times before, but what's there is very refined.

Multiplayer - 5/10

Like the single player portion, The Conduit's multiplayer really doesn't do anything shooter fans haven't seen before. You've got your standard mix of Free-for-all, team deathmatch, and team objective gametypes, with a nice selection of weapon sets. All of these are voted on by the players prior to starting a match, but using a weighted random selection rather than a simple most-votes-wins scenario; just because Short-Range has the most votes doesn't mean it will be selected, but it gives it a better chance. Gameplay itself is standard fare. You start with a base weapon and a sidearm. Different, sometimes bigger weapons are available around the map. Kill people and/or complete objectives to win. Doing this earns you XP, which in turn increases your rank. Unfortunately, you don't get any reward for ranking up; it's merely an indication of status.

Unlike single player, multiplayer doesn't seem to have been given the same level of polish and attention. Gameplay generally feels sluggish and inconsistent, several weapons are imbalanced both ways, and then there's the lag. I don't know if it's me, the game, or the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, but the network latency ranges from annoying at best to unplayable at worst. Hopefully High Voltage can release a patch improving the netcode later, because this kind of lag hurts the experience quite a bit. I will admit, though, on the rare occasion that everything clicks (weapon set is balanced, lag is merely slightly annoying, and players aren't bouncing around tossing grenades like madmen), the game can be very fun to play. My hope is that as the player base increases, the speed of finding games and the quality of said matches will improve.

Put simply: Impressively, amazingly average.

Conclusion

Outside of the brilliant control scheme and impressive engine, The Conduit brings nothing particularly new and exciting to the crowded shooter table; but on the other hand, next to Metroid Prime 3 (which is more of an adventure game anyway), it's probably the best FPS available on the Wii. Had this come out on any other system, I'd probably give it a 5/10 and leave it at that; but when compared to the Wii's library, this stands as one of the better titles on the platform. So to answer the question in the intro paragraph: Yes. It's a by-the-books "hardcore" game in every way, bringing both the good and bad of that particular distinction to the Wii, but whether that should translate into a purchase on your end depends largely on you yourself. So...

Put simply: If you've only got a Wii and you're starving for a meatier game offering, get it. Get it now. If you've got another system, there's a much greater variety of much better titles available, but if you're a shooter fan, try it just for the novelty of the control.

Pros/cons:

+Best shooter controls on the Wii
+Great graphical technology
+Single player is very well-polished
+Great pacing and difficulty curve

-Bland art design
-Multiplayer seems to be much less refined than single player
-Story is generic and forgettable
-Doesn't do anything new with the genre


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/06/09

Game Release: The Conduit (US, 06/23/09)


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