Review by horror_spooky

"Hardcore"

There once was a time when the Nintendo Wii had a very bleak outlook. Post-E3 2010, the Wii and Nintendo in general seems to be soaring to new heights in the gaming industry, but during this proverbial gaming "drought", High Voltage Software stepped up to the plate. High Voltage, the developers behind the creative Hunter: The Reckoning games last generation, promised to create a hardcore first-person shooter game for the Nintendo Wii. The hype train then started chugging. Industry insiders started throwing around phrases like "Halo killer" and there were predictions that High Voltage Software's The Conduit would give the Wii a better reputation within the "hardcore" gaming community. Did High Voltage succeed or were the demands of the world just too great?

The Conduit is your average everyday first-person shooter. You shoot aliens, collect ammunition, shoot more aliens, toss grenades, and maybe do a tiny bit of adventuring and puzzle-solving while you're at it. If you've played any first-person shooter, then you know exactly what to expect from The Conduit. Is that a negative thing? Not at all. Just because it uses a tried-and-true formula doesn't make it a bad game. There are other factors in play that do make The Conduit come across as largely average, however.

A weak checkpoint system is employed in The Conduit that makes some deaths absolutely hellish. It also doesn't help when the enemies have weapons that can take your health all the way down to blinking status with a single shot, and it also doesn't help that you are often overwhelmed by constantly respawning enemies (well, you can destroy the "Conduits" that they come out of or the egg sacks that they hatch from, but when they're standing in front of you and these areas, it definitely feels like they are constantly respawning enemies).

Another gameplay fault that is found in The Conduit is the invisible mines that you must destroy. You use the ASE, or the All-Seeing Eye, to scan these mines, and thus destroy them from a safe distance. However, the game likes to lump the mines all together in one place, and usually in areas when you are being swarmed by the alien monsters in the game. This means you will have to start blowing up the mines and hope to god that you don't get shot too much or that one alien gets a lucky shot and blows you to hell with one fell swoop. It's frustrating, and coupled with the weak checkpoint system implemented in the title, it is downright nerve-wracking at points.

The ASE is a somewhat interesting gameplay mechanic, though. It is also used to find invisible switches in rooms to progress the game, and to make invisible enemies visible in the title's later stages. Little puzzles that all involve lining half-circles up on a pyramid to reveal secret areas, are also activated with the ASE. There are various other things the ASE is able to do, and I'm a fan of the design. Now only to turn it into an all-purpose weapon, and we might have the next great gaming weapon. We've had the BFG, the Gravity Gun, the Plasma Sword...it should be the ASE's turn.

The Conduit combines the two healing systems generally employed in first-person shooters this day and age. Your health will regenerate if you wait around long enough, or if you need your health restored quickly, there are health packs that are scoured throughout the game's levels. I like the combination. It feels like a new-age game, yet it uses the older mechanics that games like Doom had back in the day, and the result is absolutely awesome. Perhaps The Conduit just helped create the healing system of the future? Only time will tell, but I hope developers take notice.

What The Conduit does that sets it apart from other games in the genre, is the ridiculous amount of customizability it provides. There are a slew of different control schemes available, as well as a fully customizable HUD. You can move any part of the HUD anywhere on the screen. Literally. You just drag it to wherever you want, and the game will keep it there. It's pretty cool, to be quite honest.

The motion controls also help make The Conduit feel a bit different from the thousands of other FPSs out there. It's weirdly fun to jab the remote towards the screen to melee enemies. It's more satisfying than just tapping a button to complete the action, that's for sure. You toss grenades in the game by flinging the nunchuck, and while the game is a bit too sensitive with this (you wouldn't believe how many grenades I've wasted scratching my head), I like the control scheme regardless.

Combat in the game is actually quite fun. Yes, we've seen it all before somewhere, but still, it's a blast. It kind of feels like a weird mix between Halo and Half-Life, if that makes any sense, and it's another reason why this game could have been excellent if it just did some rudimentary things right. There is a decent variety with the weapons, and they are all useful in some way. There are pistols, alien machine guns, a SCAR, flashbang grenades, radiation grenades, rocket launchers, and other human and alien weapons that help keep the combat fast-paced and exciting.

Aye, but the good things that The Conduit does will unfortunately be overshadowed by its flaws. I've already touched on the weak checkpoint system. Now I have to bring up the repetitive objectives. While the majority of the game will just have you blasting aliens to hell, which is quite entertaining actually, the mission objectives that it throws into the mix do not help to liven things up a little. Most of the time the game will have you do things like turn valves and destroy egg sacs. And open doors by activating invisible alien switches.

The storyline should never be the main focus of a video game. I'm sorry, but RPGs that don't have good gameplay to back up their extravagant plotlines are more or less worthless. They're like movies that make you complete lame little tasks before you can finish watching the good stuff. To get to my point, The Conduit doesn't have a good storyline. And it could have helped a lot. The game follows the confusing adventure of Michael Ford, as he tries to rid Washington, D.C. of an invading alien menace. Since most of the game's story is presented via mission briefings before each level, chances are you aren't going to get into the game's storyline or its characters all that much. And I want to nominate Michael Ford as quite possibly the worst video game character in a first-person shooter ever. He's a cliche wrapped up in a cheeseball.

Inconsistent, is one word to describe The Conduit's visual presentation. While the enemy models are well done and the animation is crisp and clean with zero lag, the environments are dreadfully boring. They are repetitive and uninspired. The details on the guns are fantastic, but yet technical issues like enemies getting stuck in objects or walking through walls do occur. The AI bounces from being awesome to being plain stupid. I've seen aliens kill one another with explosives, and I've also been decimated by them within seconds. To wrap up this paragraph, The Conduit's graphics range from almost painfully average to wonderfully awesome. Yeah, I think "inconsistent" is employed well here.

The background music is fine. It's no Halo, but it will do. The sound effects of the guns are interesting, especially the alien weapons. I never got tired of shooting this one weapon that sounded like a bottle rocket firing off whenever I shot it, just because it sounded so cool. The speaker in the Wii remote is used in a non-annoying manner, as it makes the sounds of gun's reloading whenever you do so. Usually I notice the remote speaker's noise immediately because most games sound stupid coming out of it, but The Conduit sounds just fine, and you won't even notice it, really. It feels and sounds natural, and that's a huge accomplishment. Unfortunately, you will definitely notice the voice acting right when someone starts talking. The voice-acting is awful. All the characters sound ridiculous, including the main character. Michael Ford's raspy, I-don't-give-a-damn voice made me want to chuck my remote through the wall. High Voltage was merciful and we don't have to hear him run his mouth too often, but damn. The man playing Michael Ford should probably look for work outside the realm of video game voice acting.

The Conduit's campaign is roughly six to eight hours long. That's about average for first-person shooters nowadays, but it still feels a bit short. Conduit does utilize an achievement system, which is a rarity for Wii games, but I wish the Wii had its own achievement/trophy system because The Conduit's achievements are cheapened as a result. However, they do boost the replayability significantly. There are also cheat codes and concept art to unlock if you take the time, and The Conduit also features an online multiplayer mode. The online is surprisingly well done, but it's a shame that High Voltage didn't include a split-screen mode, as that would have helped the replayability greatly.

The word I used to describe The Conduit's visuals works here as well, in my closing paragraph. "Inconsistent." The Conduit is an inconsistent game. There are times when you will love it, and there will be times when you will feel as though its trash. The lack of offline multiplayer, the weak level design, the terrible checkpoint system, and the repetitive objectives hold The Conduit back from its full potential and work together to make it an overall average gaming experience. Is there hope for the series? Yes, but High Voltage doesn't just need to step up to the plate, they need to step up their whole game if they want The Conduit to truly become the Wii's answer to Halo.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 06/21/10

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


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