Review by ClagiusClanlor
You Conduit! You Conduit All Night Long!
I deliberately ignored all the hype leading up to Conduit. Electing not to have my expectations colored by advertising campaigns, I preordered and bought the game on faith alone. My reaction so far has been mixed, but more positive than not.
The conduit is definitely something new. It plays at many times like a rail shooter, only without the rails. The aiming is absolutely spot-on. Your hand will eventually get tired of trying to be held steady in the air for so long, but that really goes for a lot of the Wii's better material. This is really Conduit's strong point- it's a first person shooter where you point the controller at the screen and shoot the bad guys. It's what we were expecting since long before the Wii with a few quasi-exceptions, it's been conspicuously absent up to this point. But better late than never, and High Velocity Software delivers the goods here.
The play control is about as good as it could possibly be. This is particularly aided by the single greatest effort I have ever seen committed towards giving the player control over the control. When you go into the options screen to edit the controls, it's no mere "pick your buttons and controller sensitivity," oh no. When you go to edit the controls, the game unpauses and starts playing again, and lets you edit all the various aspects of the game's play control while the game is running, allowing you to instantly see the results of your control scheme. When you're doing things like setting the sensitivity, the wii remote dead zone, and how far your character will crane his neck before he starts actually turning around, this is something that control freaks will definitely appreciate. It sounds minor and will be minor to many people, but it's a really nice effort and I applaud the designers for going that extra mile.
The gameplay and shooting mechanic flow like water, but only if you can ignore the rather bland graphics. We all knew that this was a Wii game and the graphics would suffer a downgrade, but I think this will turn some people off. Personally, I don't think that the graphics are bad enough to distract from the gameplay experience, but others may disagree. The screenshots more or less do the game justice, so if you want to know what it looks like go look at them. A solid effort is made to use coloration, artwork, and level design to compensate for the weak resolution, and I'll say that it works just fine for me.
Another problem along the same lines is that the Wii can't handle much in the way of a physics engine either. The environment is almost 100% static. If you've been spoiled by Havoc and Source physics, it bothers you when large explosions fail to so much as knock over a chair. Once again, this does not stop you from enjoying the game unless you let it, but it's a drawback all the same.
I confess that this is a first reaction and I am only a little more than halfway through the game, but far I have to say that I don't think any significant effort went into this story at all. The game begins with our faceless protagonist receiving a phone call from a man whose voice positively radiates malevolence. Mr. Ford, the FBI/special ops/soldier/agent person we assume control of, quickly confirms that since it knew the secret government handshake, this evil voice must be totally trustworthy, and he picks up his guns and heads to the airport where a supposed terrorist attack is under way. When security and FBI agents opened fire on me (as I walked into an airport carrying a 45 pistol and an MP5) the evil voice comes on again and informs me that the terrorists are apparently using some kind of mind control, and I have to kill the FBI agents. "Okey dokey" is the apparent reply from our protagonist, and so it's off to slaughter us some of DC's finest. The story devolves from that point into a mindless conspiracy-fest complete with at least two big secret shadow organizations, mind control gas, aliens, and more than a couple Xanatos Gambits all seemingly centered around a floating robot eye that can hack computers and translate graffiti. As a compelling and interesting story, I'd say it falters; As a campy little sci-fi romp, however, it entertains well enough and provides all the excuse I need to run around shooting people with laser guns.
I don't expect Conduit to set the world on fire, but it's done a couple of things really, really well, and it doesn't fail enough in any particular area to rob itself of it's due and proper. I don't regret buying it, and I recommend at least renting it if you own a Wii and you like shooters. You'll finish the main story quickly enough, and if you like the MP, you can decide if you want to buy it.
If you're waiting for that Magnum Opus that singlehandedly vindicates buying the system three Novembers ago, however, this probably isn't it. But Red Steel 2 and Metroid:OM might be.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: The Conduit (GameStop Exclusive Special Edition) (US, 06/23/09)
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