|Posted on June 7, 2010 at 11:00 AM|
The Conduit is one of few FPSs developed specifically for the Wii. It was designed to make use of the system’s unique IR controls and with its processing power specifically in mind. As such, I can say the motion controls feel excellent. As for the graphics, well they’re quite good for a Wii game, running at a smooth 60FPS, with crisp texture and lighting work, and an overall glossy finish that speaks well of the games production. However, the level design itself is painfully simple, and since most of the game is cordoned off in these tight little rooms, the visuals lack much of their impact. Personally, I would say Red Steel, which was a launch title for the Wii, had more impressive graphics (despite its jaggy edges), and much larger and elaborate level design, to boot. Far-off backgrounds look terrible, but polygonal images are well rendered. Wii owners starved for a proper shooter will find some enjoyment in The Conduit, but most will regard the technical showcase is a weak counter to the shallow level structure and repetitive gameplay.
Much of the game involves entering a room, killing all of the enemies or finding a button, and then moving to the next room via a thinly veiled loading hallway. The combat involves very little strategy, beyond shooting at an enemy while running. There is very little cover, crouching is pointless, and the enemy AI is abysmal. The gamplay is literally reduced to run-and-gun until all the enemies are dead. Rinse and repeat 50 times. The rooms change shape, some cover is added here and there, and different special levels are featured, but the combat remains disappointingly shallow. Most of the rooms will feature a enemy regenerating portal of some kind that need to be destroyed for the enemies to stop appearing. As I find regenerative enemies in general to be an irritating and illogical feature of FPS’s, I was not impressed with this aspect of the game. The areas are also far too linear and it is basically impossible to outflank your enemy or employ stealth in any way. The whole experience feels very outdated. GoldenEye on the N64 had more variation than this. I suppose the developers may have been going for a more sci-fi beat-em-up vibe.
Sometimes the player will also need to find an invisible message or button by scanning an environment with a device called the All-Seeing Eye. Of course this feature is entirely perfunctory as it requires no puzzle-solving or skill of any kind. Simply comb through a completed area and find the hidden treasure. It serves no purpose other than to slow down and player, and perhaps break up the combat. The hidden messages mean very little, other than being vague allusions to the games plot, back lack any real insight. Speaking of which, the games narrative is a lame alien invasion yarn, mixed in with a little government conspiracy, so the player can fight humans as well as aliens. The story is clichéd, forgettable and entirely pointless, especially considering the cutscenes are little more than pages of a dossier, with voice-over. The character voice work is pretty solid though.
The game features some cool, futuristic weapons (ala Perfect Dark), but they are ultimately pointless, since modern weapons like the AK-47 do more damage anyway. I did like some of the set pieces used in the game, such as Library of Congress and the Washington monument. But again, these are just skins to a very basic level structure. As I mentioned the controls are very nice, offering a level of precision in aiming not seen on the system yet. The developers High Voltage have allowed players to customize every aspect of the controls and they work well. Not perfect, but certainly better than Red Steel and ports like Call Duty 3 and World at War. Hit detection for enemies is a little iffy though, and it seems to matter very little which body part you hit, which kind of negates any precision offered by the IR aiming. I loved the inclusion of a melee attack by swinging the Wii remote. It’s responsive and feels good in combat. The ability to throw grenades via the Nunchuk is also fun, but prevents cooking the grenade like in most FPS’s. I have not played the online component of the game, but by all accounts, it’s riddled with glitches and hackers, and finding someone to play against is becoming difficult.
The Conduit is very much a mixed bag. For a Wii game it sports crisp visuals, a tight control scheme, smooth frame-rate, and some interesting action set pieces. Unfortunately, it’s brought down by poor, linear level design and zero sense of strategy. It also takes regenerative enemies to a whole new level of irritation. For a lot of gamers, The Conduit represented a beacon of hope for shooters on the Wii. It seems that beacon was something of a mirage. Even on the Wii there are better shooters on offer. The Conduit is a technical showcase at best, and a pretty shallow one at that.