Review by captainfork
"A few setbacks doesn't compromise this great shooter."
NOTE--In my original review, I scored Conduit 2 an 8.5 / 10. As Gamefaqs doesn't permit half points, I rounded down to 8.
Ever since its release nearly five and half years ago, the Nintendo Wii was expected to revolutionize the way people played games, especially first-person shooters. Red Steel, a launch title from Ubisoft, was heralded as the dawn of a new age for the genre, thanks to the precision afforded it by the point-and-shoot interface. However, as many launch titles go, Red Steel was a rushed, shoddy effort in an attempt to be the first to cash in on the hype. Since then, developers have been wary of making first-person shooters for the Wii, opting instead to develop for the PS3 and Xbox 360, where more advanced game engines, smoother online functionality, and a more receptive audience meant better returns on their investments.
High Voltage Software (HVS) wanted to change that stigma when they released The Conduit in 2009. Using their own custom-built game engine, they wanted to make the first serious shooter on Nintendo's system. When the game was first revealed at E3, it caused a lot of buzz: tight controls and great graphics caught the media's attention. Additionally, rumors of an unmatched online experience for Wii owners quickly put The Conduit in the spotlight.
The reception of The Conduit, however, was mediocre upon its release. Poor level design and an online experience undermined by hackers overshadowed the game's controls and graphics, resulting in another typical Wii-quality shooter. Later, HVS admitted that it ran thin on development, citing the simultaneous creation of their proprietary Wii gaming engine as a setback for The Conduit's developing team. Despite its reception, The Conduit went on to sell over 500,000 copies, setting the stage for a sequel.
Fast-forward to today: Conduit 2 is HVS' latest attempt to bring a quality first-person shooter to the Wii. Is it finally the game to match other systems' FPS titles?
Conduit 2 is certainly a step in the right direction. While keeping the core elements of the first game intact (i.e., the sharp controls and graphics), HVS was adamant about addressing the flaws of the first title, starting with the art design. The varied environments have Mr. Ford, the protagonist, globe-trotting as much as Harlem. Stormy oil rigs, mystic Chinese mountains, snowy Siberian tundras, even murky Atlantian depths--Conduit 2 takes players well beyond the plain textures of the last game's Washington D.C. levels.
The level design is a step up as well. Instead of traversing hallway after hallway, Conduit 2 has some basic platforming and exploration. Scanning for hidden items is more rewarding and less arduous as well--the All-Seeing Eye (ASE), which is used to find said hidden items, can ping nearby objects, which can be scanned for conspiracy details, character backlogs, alien diaries and even funny emails between Trust agents. Each scanned item adds currency to your profile, which can be used to purchase upgrades, weapons, and armor. Some upgrades and weapon blueprints can be found as well, but players will need to keep their ASE's peeled in order to find these gems.
Speaking of weapons and upgrades, HVS has created a well-balanced array of customizable set-ups. Every style of gunplay is supported, whether its strategic sniping, stealthy sneaking, explosive force, or old-fashioned bullet-spray. No two weapons are alike, and each boasts a unique secondary function: the TPC launcher from the previous game can now lay mines in addition to firing explosives, and a new energy weapon can fire a roving black hole when it finishes off an opponent using its primary firing mode. Players can spend hours tweaking weapon loadouts before diving into online or offline battles.
While traversing the globe, players will be awed by the graphical prowess of Conduit 2. Granted, it's a noticeable step down from the other two systems, but HVS has squeezed every ounce of power from the Wii, a feat which, unfortunately, is rarely seen outside of Nintendo's own games. The result is a beautiful world filled with detailed characters and interesting weapon effects.
The biggest improvements are in the multiplayer offerings. Offline, up to four players can either compete in shoot-outs or work together to fight off waves of enemies in Invasion mode. The graphics take a noticeable hit when more than one player occupies the screen, but the modes are still a blast to play.
Online, players compete in up to 12-person battles on a dozen playing fields based on the single-player levels. There are many different game modes to tackle, ranging from traditional deathmatches to capture the flag to balloon battles. Each mode has a hardcore version as well, which removes player locations from the radar and disables the lock-on feature, which simply keeps enemies on the screen (aiming is still required). Experience, credits, medals, and achievements are earned based on performance, and the credits and medals are used to purchase and unlock upgrades, weapons, and armor cosmetics. Thankfully, only some achievements are tied to a player's level, so there are no horrendously-long gaps between new items (here's looking at you, Goldeneye 007). Some items can be found for free in the single-player campaign; all of the weapons and most of the upgrades are available for purchase right off the bat; and a few of the upgrades are locked, which require certain actions to be performed online to unlock (like getting so many kills on blinded enemies or reviving a certain number of teammates).
Conduit 2's online supports voice chat with friends and rivals, the latter of which does not require the exchange of friend codes. Adding rivals simply needs a click on a player's name to send the invitation. Player stats and vote-kicking can be accessed this way as well.
Perhaps the best feature of Conduit 2's online component is the approval given by Nintendo for HVS to release updates for the game. Already, HVS has patched bugs found in the game and given all players a double experience bonus during the game's first week. Whether we will see content updates is yet to be seen, but the improved hacker prevention alone is a relief for those who remember The Conduit.
While I really want to give Conduit 2 a rating of 9/10 or better, a few details hold me back. One minor distraction is the inability to choose regular deathmatch in public games; instead, all online modes are split into Big Team Grab-bag (max. 12 players), Hardcore Team Grab-bag (max. 8 players), Free-for-All Grab-bag (max. 8 players), and Hardcore Free-for-All Grab-bag (max. 6 players). This means that players are forced into playing objective-based games, but it doesn't bother me much since the objective games are fun (and players can ignore the objectives if they want). My only other online gripe is minor as well: while joining friends and rivals is easy, Conduit 2 does not feature a party system like Goldeneye 007, so friends will often find each other on opposite teams.
My online complaints are not enough to make the score slip below a nine, but the campaign mode keeps the game from achieving my highest marks. First, the campaign is very short--on the easiest difficulty settings, the main storyline can be completed in under three hours. Retreading ground for hidden items, unlocking secret levels, and playing on the hardest difficulties will extend the play time, but the game is over before players expect it. Secondly, the tone is confusing. The Conduit's story was mostly serious in tone, setting the stage for a high-stakes conspiracy. Conduit 2's theme is different, which isn't necessarily bad (kudos to the references!), but it suffers from an inability to reconcile the gravity of the game's situation with its constant stream of one-liners and puns. The tone starts to make sense at the very end of the game, but the strained voice acting from the game's lead character causes players to see the dialogue as a joke. I can appreciate the unique direction HVS is taking with the Conduit series, and I look forward to the (hopeful) third installment, but HVS needs to find a better way to marry the two thematic directions.
Additionally, the ASE is still vastly under-used. Gone are the annoying invisible mines, but simple computer hacking and essence capturing are the only two vital functions of the device. I think that the ping function of the ASE is a great addition, so let's see it used for more than treasure hunting in Conduit 3!
Overall, HVS has created an outstanding first-person shooter for a system that is dearth of the genre. Conduit 2 is my favorite FPS, and I will be playing this game for many, many hours. A few setbacks keep the game from achieving its true potential, but HVS has built upon a solid frame that will hopefully lead to future installments in what many consider to be Nintendo's killer app FPS series.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 04/25/11
Game Release: Conduit 2 (US, 04/19/11)
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