I had the pleasure of visiting Sega's San Francisco office yesterday for what was apparently a rescheduled multiplayer event for their upcoming Wii FPS The Conduit. I guess the first one had some major technical snafus in regards to getting the network online, so they had to abort. But everything was up and running smoothly all afternoon, and I got the opportunity to get my first hands-on experience.
There were 12 of us in the room, filling out The Conduit's maximum player limit. Several of the guys from High Voltage were on hand to guide us through our two-hour playtest, and they wasted no time getting us into the game. After re-arranging the on-screen HUD elements to my liking -- an absolutely fantastic feature, by the way -- we launched into a warm-up round of capture-the-flag, which just so happens to be my favorite mode of every game ever. My best reference point to Wii first-person shooters is Metroid Prime 3, so that's what I used to get my feet wet in this opening round (movement controlled with the nunchuck analog stick; turning, aiming and shooting with the remote).
I have to admit, I ran into some problems. Basic movement and aiming wasn't an issue, but every time I tried to make sharp turns right or when I had to turn quickly in a tight corridor, my point-of-view would freak out and I'd have to stop for a few seconds to regain my composure. Of course, that's when I was shot in the back. However, I am 99.9 percent certain this isn't the game's fault. Since there were six of us sitting next to each other and opposite another row of six writers, there had to have been some signal interference going on (the guys to the left and right of me were experiencing the same thing). These are far from typical gaming situations, so I feel pretty comfortable chalking my problems up to that.
This is where I really appreciated High Voltage's flexibility when it comes to customizing their game. Not only can you re-arrange the HUD, and not only can you re-map every single function and motion on the controller, but in attempting to resolve my movement issues I noticed several motion and sensitivity adjustments in the menu. Since we were on a tight two-hour schedule, I couldn't get my settings exactly the way I wanted them, but I did get it a little better in time for the game's most interesting mode: Bounty Hunter.
It's all 12 players in a free-fire situation, but you only get positive points for killing your one designated target. All other collateral kills bring your score down, so you have to be very careful about pulling the trigger on the right weapon. It's a mode fueled by pursuit and paranoia, since you also have to worry about the guy assigned to kill you (positive points are awarded for defending yourself against your hunter). Your target will switch upon a successful kill, so it's kind of like a constantly rotating 1v1 match played amidst 5 other 1v1 matches. The potential for hilarious chaos is huge.
Between rounds, everyone can vote on the game type, weapon set, and map -- there are many variations and combinations of these elements, which is further evidence of High Voltage's dedication to giving the Wii an online FPS experience that's closer to what we'd find on the PS3/360/PC. Actually, the game did start to vaguely remind me of multiplayer Goldeneye on the N64 with modern online amenities, and that's a pretty good place to be. Here's hoping that other Wii developers take notice and follow suit.