Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Conduit

Post-Launch Review
The Conduit (Wii)
Developer: High Voltage Software
Released: June 2009

The Conduit is one of the few true FPS games on the Wii. In the near future, Washington D.C. is shaken by a mysterious disease, leaving many government facilities underdefended... and open for a terrorist attack and alien invasion. Agent Michael Ford is assigned to recover a tech prototype from the terrorist Prometheus, but soon finds himself embroiled in conspiracy with no one to trust... and also aliens trying to blow him up. 

At Launch
Review scores were mixed to positive, averaging out to around 70%. Reviewers liked the controls, multiplayer, and technical aspects (which were good for the Wii), but didn't really enjoy the predictable and simple story. One common line was that the name of the aliens - the Drudge - was well chosen. Overall the technical aspects were praised but reviewers felt they were wasted on a generic story.

Post Launch
No patches since it's on the Wii.

The Good
Conduits and Egg Pods
A lot of the enemies you face come from open conduits or egg pods. Both of these types of spawner remain active until destroyed, so you can't just hang back and take your time, or you'll be overwhelmed eventually. It's a good way to force you to keep moving, though some of the spawners (notably the ones that make explosive bugs) can get pretty annoying.

They're slightly awkward, but the motion controls work great.
The default motion controls didn't work well for me, but it was fine after I increased turn sensitivity and decreased aim sensitivity. The defaults might work better on a larger screen than the one I used. In fact, once I adjusted the settings, I didn't really ever have to think about aiming, and ended up with an overall accuracy score of 55% despite using a lot of lower-accuracy assault weapons.
I find that the comfort of the Wiimote really depends on the control layout of each game, and The Conduit manages to be just slightly uncomfortable, almost entirely due to the placement of the reload key (the - button).

Control Customization
The Conduit's controls were actually inspired by Metroid Prime 3's (which is good, because MP3 had great controls). There's a solid number of options you can adjust to your liking, including aim sensitivity, turn sensitivity, bounding box size, etc. If you don't like the defaults, it's pretty easy to arrive at a setup you do like - it only took me a minute or two to find a sensitivity that worked for me (25 on both aim and turn).

The Neutral
Despite retrying a few segments repeatedly, it only took me six hours to finish the game.

The All-Seeing Eye device, central to the game's story, is a pretty cool thingy. It's a sphere that emits a funny light which highlights hidden messages, objects, and hazards, and can hack computer systems. It functions a lot like Metroid Prime's scanning interface, actually. 
Unfortunately the cool device isn't used to its full potential. You can use it to find optional secrets, and plotwise it's really just used to unlock doors and hack the occasional computer.
Its coolest use is to reveal invisible enemies, but unfortunately you can still see them if you look hard enough, so that function isn't terribly useful.

Plot and Characters
For the most part The Conduit is a typical conspiracy mixed with a typical alien invasion story. You won't be surprised to discover that the government agent is the bad guy and the terrorist is the good guy. The only mildly surprising twist comes at the end of the game. I won't spoil that one, but not because it's particularly great.

Most of the enemies and weapons look pretty good, and overall the game is quite nice for the Wii. It features some shading and reflection features that aren't normally available in Wii games due to the system's low horsepower. Outside environments look good, but whenever you're in tight areas with lots of concrete it doesn't look that great.

A few times I actually felt suspense, but for the most part the music was just there and didn't add much.

I was pleasantly surprised that the developers didn't overestimate the difficulty of using the Wii motion control, meaning that the game was actually a good challenge on the default difficulty. However, there are a few bits that are ridiculously hard. One in particular features infinitely spawning enemies from behind while others attack from the front. I retried that segment literally twenty times. No exaggeration - I checked my post-mission stats.

The Verdict
Recommendation: Maybe.
The Conduit is one of the most generically competent games I've ever played. No part of the game stands out as bad; it's just kind of... meh. I wouldn't say it's a waste of your time, but neither would I recommend it.
There are a few hints that the plot has more to it - the bad guy mentions that he's been working on his scheme for 240 years (how?) and during the credits it sounds like he's cooperating with the aliens, which is not what your ally would have you believe. And oddly, in the White House, there are multiple portraits of Washington and Lincoln, but no other presidents.
If you can find it as cheap as I did ($10) it might be worth a shot.

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