The Conduit Review

By Scott Alan Marriott - Posted Jun 23, 2009

The Conduit is an impressive shooter on Wii -- if only for the developers' noble attempt at delivering an experience akin to a Resistance or Halo on the "bigger" platforms. The controls are strong, the visuals have some razzle-dazzle, and the online component offers plenty of options. Yet on any other system, The Conduit would be as memorable as its title.

The Pros
  • Engaging, responsive controls
  • Strong online options for up to 12 players
  • Slick visual effects and professional voice acting
The Cons
  • Short solo campaign
  • Linear missions
  • Clich├ęd storyline
  • Repetitive, confining level design

Note to marketing folks: using quotes referring to The Conduit as the "best shooter on Wii" isn't exactly setting the bar high. It's not too far off from saying that Guitar Hero: On Tour is "best handheld rhythm game requiring a plastic doodad" or You're in the Movies is the "best Xbox 360 game bundled with a camera." With few comparisons to draw on, things tend to look a little rosier. Nevertheless, The Conduit is an impressive shooter on Wii -- if only for the developers' noble attempt at delivering an experience akin to a Resistance or Halo on the "bigger" platforms. The controls are strong, the visuals have some razzle-dazzle, and the online component offers plenty of options. Yet on any other system, The Conduit would be as memorable as its title.

Sigh-Fi

The ConduitThe Conduit's first problem is that it crams as many clichés into its game world as possible. The storyline takes place in future Washington DC, where a man named Michael Ford is sent on behalf of his secretive organization, the Trust, to investigate what appears to be a terrorist threat. What follows is a shocking story that involves conspiracy, an alien invasion, betrayal, and a viral outbreak. Shocking, that is, if you haven't played a futuristic first-person shooter in the last fifteen years. And the older games, such as Perfect Dark or Half-Life 2, did it much, much better. Here the solo campaign spans nine levels, with the first stage a 15-minute tutorial designed to familiarize players with the controls and play mechanics.

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Close Encounters of the Not-so-Kind

These mechanics generally involve shooting everything in your way while you haul your patriotic butt from point A to point B to save the nation. While there are objectives, you can't pick and choose what to accomplish. Levels are predominately comprised of hallways, subway cars, underground bunkers, and similarly confined spaces funneling you toward the exit. There are only four main enemy types, as you battle soldiers, agents in suits, and two types of aliens: Guyver-esque grunts and small, praying mantis-like "tear-mites." Though there are five difficulty settings, the AI doesn't appear to get any smarter, preferring to rush toward you with reckless abandon. They just have more health and do more damage on the higher levels.

The game's title refers to the Stargate-styled portals the aliens, referred to as the Drudge, use to enter Earth. Like Gears of War, you'll need to toss a grenade or two to shut them down. There are also some puzzles to solve using an alien orb called the all-seeing eye (ASE), which reveals the aliens' invisible "secrets" throughout levels. You'll use the ASE like a flashlight to uncover alien graffiti (or messages), crack an embarrassingly unsophisticated lock system, download data discs, and neutralize mines. So that you don't miss anything important, you'll hear a beeping sound whenever you are near something the ASE can reveal. These mandatory puzzles are gimmicky, and sadly, you can't even use the orb to bowl over enemies or play some bocce.

The ConduitIn addition to the ASE, your hero can equip two weapons as well as one of three grenade types. Weapons are grouped into three types: five conventional, three energy, and four alien armaments. While the ordinary guns are more than adequate to get the job done, the advanced weapons offer some expanded features. Charging the de-atomizer, for example, fires a spread-shot instead of a single blast, while the alien hive cannon lets you adjust the stream of insects flying out of it. The Conduit's greatest strength is how natural the controls feel, and you'll be surprised at the level of accuracy you'll have while aiming the Wii Remote at targets, especially for headshots. Yet if you shoot a leg, you won't see an enemy limp around, nor can you dislodge a weapon from a hand. These moments diminish the initial excitement you'll feel from being able to aim with pinpoint precision.

Friendly Fragging

The campaign is short -- very short -- as you'll be able to breeze through the nine missions within five hours. You can replay each mission again, but there's no real point, unless you are the type who enjoys collecting trinkets to view concept art or racking up "kill x number of enemies with y weapon" achievements. The lack of optional side objectives or cooperative play hurts the campaign's replay value. Fortunately, The Conduit includes online support for up to 12 players, which is the best reason to own the game. The three main multiplayer modes include free-for-all, team reaper, and team objective. Each offers between three to six variants, which sounds impressive, but most are familiar. Apart from the typical time- and frag-limit matches, capture the flag, kill the carrier, and team-based play, the most interesting choice is "bounty hunter." In this free-for-all variant, you are trying to gun down a specific player. Hitting your target earns you points, while shooting other players causes you to lose points.

Multiplayer games are easy to get into with three tiers of matchmaking: friends, regional, and worldwide. Joining or creating a game will take you to a lobby that allows you to vote on weapon sets, options, and map types. There are seven maps in total, including areas set in an infirmary, warehouse, bunker, and sanctum, with two maps optimized for two to six players, three designed for six to ten players, and two recommended for eight to 12 players. Standard options include adjustable respawns, kill limits, game time, and respawn time. You can even alter your HUD by clicking and dragging menu layouts around the screen, though the character customization is limited to just color schemes. As you play, you'll earn experience points so you can advance through a leveling system spanning 24 ranks.

The Truth is Out There

The ConduitJudging the game from a technology standpoint, the developers deserve praise for pushing the Wii into territory that many probably didn't expect it to go. Yet the actual content has little to offer for veteran shooter fans, and Wii owners who aren't Wi-Fi enabled would be better served with Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Yet if you have been desperately searching for a competitive online shooter with robust options, The Conduit will be a near permanent fixture in your motion-sensing console. While it's not up to the experiences offered on the more advanced Xbox 360 or PS3, The Conduit is easily the best online shooter on Wii. As the saying goes, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."