Review by Hawke0
In The Conduit you play as Michael Ford, a secret service agent recruited to a shady government agency known as The Trust by a man called John Adams. After being recruited you are immediately sent to retrieve a device stolen by a 'terrorist' called Prometheus, the ASE. ASE, standing for All Seeing Eye. Soon after what appears to be the alien (named the Drudge) invasion of Washington D.C. starts and you are betrayed by Adams, but saved by Prometheus. That's the first few missions, and I've noticed a lot of complaints about the story being 'generic'.
The people who say this are missing the point. You only see what's going on on the surface, most of the story is in the messages hidden along the walls of the levels which can only be found with the ASE. More or less 90% of the story is in these, and you can ignore or pursue the story at your leisure. The messages don't directly say "Hey you, John Adams is the ______ of the ______ and an ____ from the___. Also, he really is the ___________ of the _________.", they say something like "MMXII", "Humans should fear the world they call Eris", "The sacrilege of Bayankara-Ula will not be forgotten!", etc. The developer put together half a dozen mythologies and numerous conspiracy theories into one large, coherent background story/conspiracy (There's also evidence of the Freemasons being enemies of the Illuminati, which somewhat explains the famous ending of Conduit 2, which went for a less serious and more B-Movie vibe.) Finding these messages was unfortunately one of the only good uses they got out of the ASE (although you can also find Trust data disks, which unlock concept art every few you find).
The ASE is held in place of a gun and works like a flashlight, showing a small beam of light that will reveal hidden things on the walls, and it can be pointed at something to scan it. It is for the most part used as a key, so instead of pushing a button you waste several seconds waiting for it to scan whatever needs to be scanned. There are also the irritating Ghost Mines, semi-invisible mines that OHK you on contact. You need to scan them from a safe distance, but the only purpose they serve is making you die by enemy gun fire because you were trying to detonate them, dying because you were trying to avoid enemy gun fire, or just annoy you. They did find another good use for it though, once or twice in most levels you will encounter optional puzzles that allow you to get a super weapon. When combined with the infinite ammo cheat unlocked upon killing 1000 enemies of any type, you can just walk over everything once you get one. I'd like to point out the problems aren't very severe, as I'd be shocked if I spent over 10 minutes scanning stuff with the ASE over my last play through.
Speaking of enemies, they are fairly varied in The Conduit. Drudge Drones, human puppets, and Trust soldiers, as well as slightly altered variations of the latter make up the enemies rank and file, but they're backed up by several kinds of enemies such as four unique kinds of 'mites'. Therm Mites, which kamikaze roll towards you, Tear Mites, which will run at you and attack you with their claws, Para Mites, small, flying nuisances who are an explosive weapon users nightmare, and the Med Mites, which are armed with a powerful Warp Pistol, have very low health, but can heal their fellow Drudge and stay in the back. There's also the hard to hit Skimmers, who fly and are armed with my favorite weapon, the Shrieker. In the way of large enemies they have Scarabs and Invaders, the former being more common and the latter being a boss you encounter four times in the game. The enemy AI isn't very good and although they'll usually disregard cover and in the first few missions blow up their allies in the crowded corridors of an airport and Bunker 13 with grenades frequently, it's very rare for them not to shoot you. If you hide behind cover they will usually flank you slowly and throw grenades occasionally.
Of course, they can take their time flanking you, this is a health bar shooter. After the end of the third mission you gain a suit of Trust Armor that slowly regenerates your health, emphasis on slowly. While you can't rely on it to heal you during a two second duck behind a wall, it will patch you up between fire fights well enough. Mid battle you'll have to hope you stumble into a health pack. Why, you ask, can you not run away like a scared little girl and wait for your health to slowly regenerate? The game forces you to attack. Something many don't like but I loved about the game is that enemies infinitely spawn out of portals called Conduits. This means playing this like most shooters and picking enemies off from the comparative safety of a wall is sure to fail, because they'll keep coming at you. Staying still at some points in the game is nothing short of a death sentence. You need to push forward in the face of the enemy and do your best to destroy the Conduits as fast as you can. It's fast paced, fairly difficult, and unlike many modern shooters which are an endless procession of chest high walls and scripted events, actually fun. The controls, contrary to what you may expect actually help this.
If you've played Metroid Prime 3, you'll be familiar with the lock on feature. It holds your camera in the direction of an enemy you've locked onto, which eliminates any turning while trying to target them. It's good to help ease players into the game and is almost necessary to do any good in the multiplayer, simply because everyone uses it. They also give you an incredible amount of customization options. You can mess with the vertical pointer sensitivity, horizontal pointer sensitivity, turning speed, dead zone size (how large an area you can point at without turning), and more on a scale of one to one hundred. They also give you multiple camera styles, an experienced player will do best with the human camera set up, which is faster and more responsive, a beginner and even Conduit veterans can do well with the Trust camera style, which is more stable, and there's even an option for a tank control camera style, the Drudge setting, which has camera control and movement placed upon the nunchuk's analog stick, so that the IR Pointer is used solely for aiming. Good for laughs, but nothing else. If a friend has The Conduit you can set it to this as a prank. In addition there's something I believe all games should have, custom button mapping (well, and HUD layout/opacity customization, but that's not really important. It is fun to make your HUD invisible though).
You can set almost any action to almost any button. Unfortunately you can't map shoot to shake remote or shake nunchuk, but those are about the only limitations you have. I recommend, if you do nothing else, changing melee from shake Wii Remote to a button. The Wiimote shaking for melee attacks is a common complaint in reviews that could be easily be solved by the reviewer taking a whopping two minutes to change it. How it stacks up to traditional dual analog controls? If you just pick it up and play with the defaults for a short period of time you aren't suddenly going to refuse to play with DA controls. If you spend time customizing your controls to get that perfect setting it's better than DA by a fair margin. Also, try mapping shoot to A. I tried this once and my ability to fire fast was improved, but I didn't want to take the time to relearn how to play, as I can already do pretty well.
Several of your weapons are standard shooter fare, like the shotgun, three round burst assault rifle, and the pistol, but they are a minority against guns like the Warp Pistol, an alien gun that fires shots that bounce off walls, the Deatomizer Mk4, the 'bolo gun', which fires two 'bolo's' of explosive energy connected by ropes of energy. The first ball in either bolo to hit something acts as an anchor, letting you hit enemies around cover. There's also the assault rifle/sniper rifle hybrid, the Strike Rifle. It has a large clip, a scope, and a high rate of fire, and is capable of charging shots which do three times the damage of a normal shot, as well as traveling instantly. They can one hit kill to the head with this or bring a target to 50% health with a body shot. That's not to say the less creative, standard weapons are less powerful. They are just as deadly in the right hands, if not more. Aside from the Hive Cannon that is, which is outclassed at every range by every weapon. Well, to be fair, it could narrowly beat a shotgun at long range. Over all, the balance is pretty good. There's a single underpowered weapon, and the only overpowered weapon, the USP45, isn't too bad. In fact, most guns can beat it at long range and it's the gap is far from insurmountable. A better player armed with, say, a SCAR or Deatomizer could win a fight with a USP user without too much difficulty. As much as I hate the SMAW with a passion, it's long reload times and slow shot movement balance out it's very, very high damage.
Graphically, it's certainly one of the Wii's best looking games, but it's a bit uneven. The guns, character models, and lasers of death flying around you all look good, but the environments are rather low res and look ripped out of a PS2 game at some points. It doesn't help that it could use a lot of work in the art department, all you see is different shades of grey and brown. More importantly, the framerate stays at a solid 30 FPS and very rarely drops. I remember three framerate drops in all my time playing the game.
In the way of replay value, the campaign has five difficulty settings, a high number of hidden collectables, seven unlockable concept art galleries, a lot of achievements, and several cheats.
The game has several memorable moments, like a fight in a train to get the ASE, freeing the presidents helicopter from a Drudge monster, destroying a huge Drudge nest, and storming the Jefferson Memorial, which is one of my favorite fire fights in any game. The game is very linear, even more than most shooters,but this didn't bother me that much. There are a lot of corridors and repeated environments, but the repetition is only all that bad on the Pentagon level, where I must have gone through the same staircase five times.
As for the multiplayer, the guns are well balanced as I mentioned earlier, the maps are all well designed at least (with the exception of Pentagon, which is too big and has an easily exploitable chokepoint), and Infirmary and Streets are awesome. It's an old school arena shooter, with everyone getting the same gun, no bloom/recoil, no iron sight aiming, high health (guns typically take 6 shots to kill) and radar. Lag isn't very bad, although someone with a really bad connection will teleport around the map and be impossible to kill. They can't hurt you either and are few and far between. Enemies taking half a second to register their death is more common.
The games grenades could use some balancing, the flash grenades blind you for a ridiculous amount of time, frag grenades detonate on contact, radiation grenades are nearly useless. People can get six grenades from an ammo cache at any time with no limit, which leads to some people hiding out by a ammo cache and endlessly spamming grenades. Worse are the glitches and hacks. I've played frequently over the last week, and it seems that The Conduit's activity is slowly and steadily growing. It seems that hackers have abandoned The Conduit for Goldeneye or MW3 because I didn't find any. Glitchers, however, have not. It's not as bad as it used to be, but there was one guy who kept glitching out of the map. Eventually he stopped for some reason. The worst glitch would have to be weapon mixing, which is a very easily done glitch using an ammo cache that causes you to let gun A fire gun B's bullets. Like combining a SMG and the SMAW for an auto rocket launcher. It's only a real problem when everyone has a rocket launcher. Which is a sad possibility.
Maps, specific modes (you can select deathmatch, team deathmatch, or team objective first, but what specific mode you play is based on the vote), and weapon sets are selected with the voting system. Everyone can vote for each one they want, then one is randomly chosen. The more votes the more likely it is to get picked. There was a time when you'd be lucky to play a public game and not have it be explosives on Streets, but it seems that all those idiots who only voted for explosives have left. I played a single game of explosives over the last week. Over all, when you play with people who don't abuse everything and actually play the game, it's a lot of fun. You used to have to play private games for that, but it seems that the people playing now have made it possible in public games too.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: The Conduit (US, 06/23/09)
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