Review by discoinferno84
"This conspiracy against me..."
Earth is on the brink of interstellar invasion. The President was nearly assassinated, and Washington D.C. has devolved into a fiery, war-torn ruin. It's all thanks to The Trust, a secret government organization headed by a power-hungry being named John Adams. With his vast resources and an army of alien/human hybrid soldiers, Adams plans to conquer the world. The only thing standing in his way is Michael Ford, a former secret agent and Trust associate. After uncovering the conspiracy and fighting his way through what remained of America's capital, Ford cornered Adams and attempted to kill him
only for his target to escape through a portal-like Conduit and vanish to places unknown. With no other option, Ford dove in after him. With the fate of mankind hanging in the balance, he's got to end this war before it gets any worse.
That's what the game is supposed be about, anyway. Rather than giving you a decent explanation, Conduit 2 assumes that you've already played the original and dumps you right where the story left off. You're not given any introduction to Ford or insights into his character; you just get a gun and start shooting. The same lack of information applies to Prometheus, an ancient alien trapped inside of a sphere you carry around. Not to mention Adams, who is too hammy and one-dimensional of an evil mastermind to be considered threatening. Rather than focusing heavily on conspiracy aspects of the original game, the story seems is content to merely poke fun at itself while Ford uses bad jokes and a healthy dose of machismo to deal with his problems. Aside from the occasional banter between the protagonists, the writing never goes beyond its hero must defeat villain plot. While that might add a little to game's charm, it also leaves the story bland and riddled with cliches.
Ford's mission spans a handful of isolated battlegrounds. He'll have to wander through the depths of an Atlantean fortress, the charred ruins of a Cold War safe house, a Siberian military complex, and a handful of other mysterious locales. Despite their variety, all of the levels have the same kinds of obstacles. You usually have to kill everything in a given room, activate control panels, or retrieve items. The repetitive nature of the objectives is balanced out by the sheer amount of enemies thrown at you. Small groups of alien baddies will attack you at the same time, forcing you to take cover and pick them off one by one. Your arsenal initially consists of a simple handgun and an assault rifle, but you'll eventually come across shotguns, laser pistols, explosive bugs, chargeable plasma beams, cloaking devices, radiation grenades, and a handful of other interstellar armaments. With such a great variety of weapons at your disposal, it'll take some time to discover your favorites.
The process is made easier with the superb handling. The game is designed with the Wii Remote in mind; the default settings have you simply point the controller at the screen to aim, and then pull the trigger button to fire your shots. Running, crouching, and grenade-throwing is delegated to the Nunchuck. The only really gimmicky feature is the melee attack; you have to swing the controller in with a half-hearted punch, pray that the game read your movement correctly, and watch the camera jerk wildly around to realign itself. If you want the more traditional analog stick scheme, the game supports the Classic Controller as well. Regardless of which method you use, you'll probably spend some time messing with the extensive options; not only can you tweak the sensitivity of the aiming and running speed, but you can fully customize the button layouts as well. With a little experimentation, you'll be a well-oiled killing machine in no time.
Not that you'll need to be one, though. While Conduit 2 focuses on developing your character, it doesn't do much for your enemies. The AI is a joke; you'll frequently find enemies wandering out in the open, practically begging to be gunned down. You'd think they'd be smart enough to stay away from the exploding barrels, but they'll stand there even after you've turned the stage into a flaming wasteland. Many of them make unnecessary movements, like running straight at you and abruptly stopping a few feet away, or rolling forward in a vain attempt to dodge bullets. Some of them don't react to being shot, thanks to the inconsistent hit and damage detection. Speaking of which, you'll occasionally come across foes that are stuck on objects, or falling partway through the floors. It's rare, but it happens. Those precious few that do duck for cover are easy to predict and outsmart. Aside from the few memorable boss fights and a handful of well-placed enemy positions, you'll rarely feel challenged.
Instead, you'll probably be more concerned with trying to find everything. Despite having simplistic mission objectives, the stages offer a decent number of alternate routes and places to explore. While you're required to play the first couple of levels back-to-back, you'll eventually unlock and be allowed to visit a few areas in any order. By equipping the Ford's ASE device, you can scan the screen a la Metroid Prime and uncover hidden items and features. The process will usually involve some cryptic message written in invisible graffiti paint, coordinates to a bonus level, or mysterious objects. By the time you get through the main campaign, you'll have amassed a collection that includes the Antikythera Mechanism, the Mayan Calendar, and even a live coelacanth. If you're thorough, you'll also unlock extra ammunition, improved armor stats, and stronger attacks. These bonuses can be mixed and matched into your overall equipment set, which adds more than enough depth to make the effort worthwhile.
It'll especially pay off when you play online. You can unleash your favorite weapons and upgrades upon up to twelve gamers at a time. The game lets you search for random challengers and create battles with specific rules. If you're tired of the obligatory friend code system, you can invite other players and create a personal list of rivals without having to make any tedious exchanges. Aside from the standard Deathmatches, you can play Capture the Flag, target specific opponents via Bounty Hunter mode, annex other team's bases, steal and hold on to an ASE for as long as possible, or even pop balloons Mario Kart-style. After a brutal gunfight, you can vote on the next playable stage, voice chat, check your records, and unlock even more items and upgrades via the in-game store. If everyone has a good connection, you'll be in for some intense and fast-paced combat. But if someone's lagging, you're going to notice it; enemies will occasionally zip around, temporarily freeze, or appear out of nowhere. It's not quite game-breaking, but it's still annoying. Regardless, the online mode provides tons of options. Since Conduit 2's solo campaign lasts roughly six hours, the multiplayer is the only thing that keeps the game from going stale.
The stages may be brief, but they've all got unique designs and interesting layouts. The first area isn't just a dark and foreboding oil rig; it's also got a gigantic sea serpent tearing it apart as you explore. The Chinese temple has some stylish decorations, ranging from a small army of sculptures to a massive tiered fountain in its courtyard. The Cold War safehouse has been gutted, creating a bizarre labyrinth of crumbling floors and broken walls. Another map includes an ancient city built into a New Mexican mountainside, complete with spiraling staircases and huge towers portrayed against a setting sun. That's on top of the UFO crash site, which also doubles as a partially destroyed Oxford University. The enemies are just as varied; you'll come across foes with several types of detailed body armor and weapons. There are some occasional hiccups; wall panels will change depending on the camera angle, a few of the textures are bland, and the character animations are slightly wooden and rarely synch with the voice acting. These problems merely underscore the Wii's limitations. Conduit 2 benefits from creative presentation, but it's nowhere near as sharp or detailed as other titles in the genre.
That could be said for the game as a whole. Conduit 2 is a huge improvement over its predecessor; the story is cheesy but more enjoyable, the levels are less linear, and there are tons of weapons, upgrades, and unlockables to uncover. The customizable controls make it easy to get into the action, and the sheer amount of online options and features will keep you coming back. While that's all great, you'll never shake the feeling that there's something missing. You can beat the game in about six hours, which means you're going to fall back on the multiplayer fairly quickly. The shallow characters, repetitive mission objectives, ridiculously pathetic AI, and occasional glitches all hinder the game's potential. Conduit 2 is fine for Wii owners searching for a decent shooter, but fans of the genre shouldn't expect anything special from it. So much for the invasion.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 05/04/11
Game Release: Conduit 2 (GameStop Limited Edition) (US, 04/19/11)
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