The Conduit review
It was hyped to the sky, but does it fall or does it fly?
~Fantastic graphics engine
~Arguably the best controls of any console FPS ever
~Addictive Multiplayer with a variety of online modes
~Single player is short, generally lasting between 5-7 hours with no real replay incentive
~The story isn't particuarly impressive unless you delve into the backstory
~Mediocre art direction leads to bland environments and do the graphics engine no justice whatsoever
~Online tends to be laggy with 8+ people
Once upon a time there was a video games console called the Nintendo Wii. He wasn't as big or strong as his brothers the 360 and PS3 and all he had was kiddy games with a few good titles to his name. Then one day, a nice group of people called High Voltage Software came along and said "we're going to make you a quality FPS" and they lived happily ever after.
Well I never was good at writing stories, The Conduit is a First Person Shooter built from the ground-up for the Nintendo Wii, created with the intention of supplying the 'hardcore' audience with the game they've been crying for since the release of the console for the last 3 years and to set themselves apart from every other developer on the Wii. They spent well over a year working on the game, entirely for their own budget and for the first half of development didn't even have a publisher, with most shunning the idea of a 'hardcore' game on the Wii. Despite this HVS continued to work towards their goal and garnered quite a bit of interesting from the gaming media. From the start they asked fans to send them suggestions and have sine incorporated them, very few developers work with their fans and at the least HVS are to be respected for doing so, from the very beginning The Conduit was a labor of love for the gamers and never have they strayed from this objective. Eventually SEGA picked up the project, fast forward severa months and here we are, the game is out and everyone in debate as to whether it lived up to the hype.
The story of The Conduit puts you into the role of Michael Ford; a government agent with a gruff voice, awesome glasses and outstanding ability to use any weapon he comes across, whether it be human or alien, essentially your typical cardboard cutout of a badass with a gun, just without a space suit. Michael is contacted by John Adams, the head of a shadowy organization known as the 'Trust' whom have protected the United States for over 200 years; they deal with the things nobody else can handle. Mr. Adams needs Michael's help, a terrorist by the alias Prometheus had stolen an experimental prototype, and with it is a danger to national security. Adams wants Michael to assist in retrieving it. Needless to say upon arrival the subway that Prometheus' mean intend to get away on Michael discovers that Prometheus has somehow turned Adam's own men against them, and is forced to kill them to survive. After he catches up to them the last of Prometheus' men blows himself up in an attempt to destroy the object but fails. You then get a hold of the prototype, the ASE or All Seeing Eye, a device developer by the Trust that is capable of translating hidden texts and hacking into computer systems. Shortly afterwards Adams sends Michael to Prometheus' base in the abandoned military facility Bunker 13 and from there the plot unfolds.
The Conduit's plot is your typical government conspiracy story, no one is who they appear to be and there are several twists along the way. As you play throughout the game you'll discover that the very founding of the United States has connections to darker things than you imagined, and that perhaps certain people have greater objectives than they appear to. You'll also encounter aliens, and an awful lot of them. The Drudge are a mysterious alien race whom appear to be allied with Prometheus, exactly what they aim to do is for you to figure out. The story itself is told through sections of dialog at the beginning of each mission, typically with Michael interacting with either Adams or Prometheus, such interactions continue as you play throughout the game and the plot unfolds quite nicely as you go along. Furthermore there are a lot of hints at greater things throughout the game, you can use the ASE to translate hidden alien texts to learn more about the conspiracy at hand, and you'll encounter radios throughout the game that broadcast some eerie messages. Aside from that there's also a great deal of back-story that can be researched from The Conduit's official website, and when you start to get into it, it becomes apparent that The Conduit has a very deep plot. The issue is only a small portion of it is presented in the game's storyline itself, and whilst the 'piecing everything together' aspect of things works perfectly for a conspiracy plot, most gamers aren't going to bother and by extension The Conduit's story is going to be very under-appreciated. The story you're actually given doesn't really do a good job of making you want to look into the back-story either unfortunately.
Needless to say for what it's worth The Conduit has a solid story, it gets you from Point A to Point B and will keep you interest to the end if nothing else, after all this is an FPS, not Metal Gear Solid.
The graphics in The Conduit are arguably one of the major points of interest, The Conduit runs off of the Quantum 3 engine, developed by HVS for the Wii this engine brings a lot of 'next gen' effects to the Wii such as bloom lighting and bump mapping, which is incredibly impressive when you get down to it. The actual tech used by the engine vastly beats out most other engines on the Wii when it comes to creating photo-realistic graphics, examples being the highly detailed enemies and weapons or the absolutely astounding water effects, at it's best looking moments The Conduit can easily pass for a 360 game in regular quality. Unfortunately these moments are few and far between because of The Conduit's incredibly mediocre art direction.
"No matter how you dress up a turd, that doesn't change the fact it's still just a turd, except now somewhat prettier."
I can't really say I'm all too fond of that analogy but it gets the point across, The Conduit's environments are bland, unnecessarily bland and they do the graphics engine no justice whatsoever. The environments themselves are in fact highly detailed, but the bland design really makes it hard to tell. The game does have it's moments, the Jefferson Memorial, the ruined streets of a Washington, the final area of the game, ect, but these moments aren't enough to excuse the sheer 'blandness' of the most of the environments, and it's a real shame because had the engine been applied to something with art direction along the lines of Metroid Prime 3 for example, the game would have looked absolutely fantastic. Instead we're left with incredibly details enemies and weapons that stand out against the general environments, far too much so.
Needless to say the graphics do still provide an amazing technical advancement for games on the Wii, and the engine itself is astounding and hopefully will improve in future games by HVS, but unfortunately The Conduit is a case of fantastic tech let down by mediocre art direction.
For the most part The Conduit’s music was created by Diego Stocco, the leading force behind many of the songs for a CD called Epic Textures, and after listening to it Michael Metz (The audio director for The Conduit) got into contact with him and asked him to do the music for the game. To the say the very least it paid off, The Conduit’s music is perfect for the game, whether it be the ambient themes that play as you wander the deserted streets of Washington, or the epic theme that plays as you face down hordes of aliens, The Conduit’s soundtrack rarely falters. It’s not spectacular to the point where it’ll leave you speechless, but it’s pretty damn fitting throughout the game and they did a fantastic job of using music to enhance the atmosphere of the game.
As far as the voice work in The Conduit goes, a designer at HVS by the name Rob Nichols knew Mark Sheppard, Morgan Sheppard and Kevin Sorbo from being a coordinator at several conventions they’d been to, and asked them if they’d help with The Conduit. The three of them ending up voicing Michael Ford, John Adams and Prometheus respectively. Aside from the main characters the enemies had their own dialogue, which was acted perfectly for the most part, whether it be the puppet humans talking to each other, or the Drudge shouting about who knows what in their own language.
The sound effects in the game are solid as well, the human weapons sound like they should, the Trust weapons tend to make buzzing electrical sounds corresponding with the design and the alien weapons love to make squishy noises, all of which are really fitting.
Overall The Conduit’s sound never really falters and fit the game near perfectly throughout the experience.
If there’s one thing The Conduit excels at, it’s the control system. You can customize nigh on everything, from what buttons do what, to your turn speed, horizontal and vertical view, Wii remote dead zone, and so on. In fact it would be easier to list the things you can’t customize. You’re given three control set-ups that you can use if you wish, as well as a Custom setting which you can alter as you please. All alterations are done in real-time, so you can test the effects of every change you make without having to go in and out of pause menus. You can even customize this during multiplayer matches, although in both the single player and multiplayer sides of things you have to be weary of been attacked, the alterations are in real-time and by extension you are vulnerable while altering your controls. This sheer level of customization is pretty much unheard of in any game ever, and it’s utterly disgraceful that this has only been introduced in the seventh generation of console video games, let alone on what is considered the ‘weakest’ of the three current generation consoles. The sheer level of control you have over the control system, the sensitivity of the game controls and petty much everything regarding The Conduit’s controls surpasses anything seen on a console FPS up until now.
Needless to say such customization would be useless if the controls didn’t work well, and thankfully they do. The Wii remote’s IR pointer is sensitive and nearly always responsive when it comes to aiming; it’s practically as fluid as a mouse when it comes to aiming. The few motion controls in the game aren’t particularly good, they pick and choose when they work but by extension you choose what they control. It’s pretty much impossible for me to fault The Conduit’s controls because you can customize them to your own preference, there are absolutely no flaws in the system whatsoever and the controls translate to the gameplay perfectly.
In my honest opinion, The Conduit has the best controls of any console FPS ever.
The Conduit is your typical ‘run n gun’ FPS. You go from Point A to Point B through a linear route and you shoot anything else that moves. The level design is simply, you proceed through corridors with occasional enemies and side rooms scattered about, with bigger battles taking place in larger, generally more open rooms. Checkpoints are reach at various points at the level and you’re informed of them by a little on-screen message, although other than said message you’re given no indication of there been a checkpoint. Just like most FPS you have a HUD that shows you your health, ammo and other important things however just like most other gameplay options you can customize it, whether it be re-arranging it or making it more transparent, or even making it invisible if you wish. The style of gameplay itself is pretty cover based, most of the time you’ll be ducking under cover and leaping back up while taking down several enemies. Alternatively you can just run in and shoot everything that looks hostile but you’ll find yourself dieing a lot, most of the enemies in The Conduit have near perfect accuracy.
And that brings us to the next major point of gameplay, the enemies. During the first two missions and most of the third you will face off against humans, ranging from Trust agents whom have sided with Prometheus and corpses that have been reanimated with a neurotoxin. These enemies are very easily dealt with and provided you make use of the jump and crouch buttons you’ll be find against them. Needless to say about halfway into the third mission you’re introduced to the ‘Drudge’ the alien race that serve as the main antagonists of the Conduit. Aside from been equipped with weapons that can practically one hit kill you, the Drudge generally attack you in groups and constantly respawn from ‘Conduits’ the game’s main gimmick. Essentially the Conduits are portals that serve as spawn points for the Drudge, and until you destroy said portals the Drudge will continue to spawn infinitely. The enemies’ variety is somewhat diverse, all the enemies have an insect theme and all look connected but different enough to make you consider them separate race of an alien species which is interesting.
You have the Drones which are merely the front-line soldiers, typically armed with Strike Rifles they spawn from Conduits and tend to be the main enemy you’ll face throughout the game, as well as your main source of deaths earlier on. You also have a variety of smaller enemies, known as Mites which are typically quick but rely on physical attacks. The smaller alien forces come from Egg Sacs which are also spawn points, The Conduit’s gameplay generally revolves around you destroying all the spawn points in an area and then moving on. The variety among the smaller enemies is interesting, with blue mites that are quick and rely on physical attacks and the orange ones that roll towards you before self-destructing. Later on in the game you’ll also encounter smaller foes who carry incredibly powerful weapons such as Warp Pistols. Among the other enemy types you have the Skimmers whom are your aerial adversaries, and among the game’s ‘miniboss’ enemies include Invaders, large tripod-inspired aliens that really don’t do anything aside from slow you down with their tremendous defense. Needless to say the really challenging enemies in The Conduit are the Scarabs; considerably larger and more durable than Drones and armed with much more dangerous weapons, Scarabs also spawn from Conduits and some are equipped with cloaking devices you’re forced to reveal with the ASE before attacking them.
Overall The Conduit has a nice variety of enemies, and the AI is somewhat impressive, with enemies ducking behind cover and running away when harmed, whilst pressing to attack you and teaming together while you’re low on health. The way conflict with the enemies is generally handles basically comes down to getting rid of the spawn points fast and then taking out all the enemies without dieing, which is surprisingly difficult, even when on the lower difficult settings.
Regarding the weapons you have a total of 18 weapons in The Conduit, six human weapons, six Trust weapons and six Drudge weapons, along with several single player-exclusive weapons that can only be found through secret areas. The human weapons include your typical set, you have you average pistol, shotgun, rapid-fire weapon, long distance weapon, rockets, ect. Trust weapons are more unique and technological, the Deatomizer for example launches three blasts of energy with the middle one acting as a target for the other two, which will circle and enclose on whatever the center shot hits. Furthermore you can adjust the positioning of the three blasts by turning the Wii remote. Another example is the Carbonizer, which is essentially a big laser. As for the Drudge weapons they consist of more alien design, with the Warp Pistol launching shots that will bounce of walls while the Shrieker launches missiles that you guide using the Wii remote. I don’t plan to explain all the individual weapons but the Trust and Drudge weapons tend to make solid use of the Wii remote in very innovative ways, and there’s quite a learning curve with some of the weapons. In the single player you start each mission with two weapons and as you kill enemies you will have the option to swap a weapon you have for the weapon the enemy left behind, although as you play throughout the game you’ll probably find only a few weapons you stick to.
One final thing I’d like to discuss in this section is the ASE, which you’ve heard mentioned throughout this review but never really explained. Basically once the ASE is activated it projects a holographic ‘eye’ which reveals objects normally hidden to our eyesight. Among such objects include the seals for Organic Locks that make areas inaccessible until you’ve searched the area with the ASE, or Ghost Mines which are essentially invisible bombs that will detonate at close range. Once you locate something of interest you can ‘charge’ the ASE to affect said object, in the case of Ghost Mines it will detonate them for example.
While you’ve got the ASE out you can’t use weapons so you’re limited to throwing grenades and melee attacks when it comes to defending yourself, so as a general rule you’re better off clearing an area before pulling out the ASE, something that becomes apparent since in several missions you’re expected to hack things using the ASE, namely computers. Aside from these you will occasionally encounter eye symbols which once you interact with them essentially act as combination locks consisting of three rings. You rotate the rings until you get them all into the same symbol as the ASE and you’ll unlock hidden areas, all of which contain secret weapons that generally prove to be significant help during missions.
Overall The Conduit has a pretty standard gameplay set-up, it’s you’re standard FPS with a few minor puzzle elements mixed in but for the most part it’s cut from the usual cardboard, if you like FPS you’ll love it but if you don’t it won’t change your mind.
One of the major reasons The Conduit has gathered so much attention is that it sports a competitive online with up to 12 players and a variety of modes. Matchmaking is broken up into Friends, Regional and Worldwide. In Friends you can connect with people you’ve added to your Friend’s Roster through the use Friend Code mean whilst Regional lets you connect with stranger from the same nation as you and Worldwide will connect you to strangers from anywhere in the world. Once you’ve connect to Nintendo Wi-Fi connection at least once you’ve given a 12 digit friend code that you give to other people and if they give you their code you can add them to your Friend’s Roster, once you’ve both added each other you become friends. You also have the ability to directly import people from your Wii address book into The Conduit, so if you have their Wii System Code added already you can skip the Friend code process altogether. Another method by which you can get around adding Friend Codes is that you’re able to add friends of friends directly from friend matches into your roster; by extension it’s possible to build a Friend’s List simply by adding one code. You can add a max of 64 people to your Friend Roster, and once they’re added you can join their games and vice-versa.
The matches themselves are broken into 3 categories; Free For All, Team Reaper and Team Objective. Free For All matches basically pit everyone against each other, and within Free For All there are several kinds of matches; Quick Match pits everyone in the game against each other and the first person to reach the kill limit, or whom has the highest number of kills when the time limit is up will win. Marathon is basically a timed match to see who can kill the highest number of other players by the end of the time limit. Three Strikes and Last Man Standing both use a ‘lives’ system which limits the number of respawns a player gets, with the former granting players only 3 lives and the latter having 10. The final 2 modes aren’t necessarily about direct conflict; ASE Football places an ASE on the map and the person who can hold onto it the longest wins, although while you’re holding the ASE you can only use melee attacks and grenades to defend yourself. The final Free For All mode is Bounty Hunter, in which every player is assigned a target and you get points for killing your target, but you lose points for killing people who aren’t. You’re also constantly been hunted by someone else, although you won’t lose points for killing your Hunter.
Team Reaper basically breaks players into a Red team and Blue team sets the teams against each other. In Quick Match it’s the first team to reach the kill limit, in Marathon it’s the team with the highest number of kills by the end of the match and in Shared Stock each Team has a pool of lives their players share, and the first team to lose all their lives loses.
Finally you have Team Objective, which also breaks players into a Red and Blue team but sets them in a ‘Capture the Flag’ style game, in which players have to capture the opposing team’s ASE and bring it back to their own to score a point. Quick Match and Marathon both work in the same manner as the other game modes, simply with kills replaced with ASE captures. Killing Override is a mode which you can still win by simply capturing the ASE a number of times, or you can reach the kill limit instead. Finally Single ASE forces both teams to fight over a single ASE and try and get it back to their ‘home base’ and by extension lead to a lot of back and forth gameplay.
Something else worth bring up is that the game supports the Wii Speak peripheral, which enables you to talk to other players while playing online. Wii Speak in itself costs additional money and is vastly inferior to the headsets the other consoles can use, but even so it’s a method by which you can communicate with friends and is certainly worth looking into if you get The Conduit.
Overall The Conduit’s online has a variety of modes which are loads of fun to play for both Casual and Competitive gamers and they’ll probably keep you entertained for months. Unfortunately the online requires all the players to have a good connection, and if even one players has a bad connection to the Wi-Fi server then games can experience severe lag, which really hampers on the enjoyment you get out of online, and is a common problem on the Regional and Worldwide settings, and is generally more apparent when matches get 8 or more people in them. Even so these faults are avoidable and the sheer amount of fun you’ll get out of the online makes up for these, The Conduit easily has the best online experience on the Nintendo Wii.
Replay Value/Unlockable Content
The Single Player of The Conduit doesn’t really have a great deal of replay value; it has several difficulty settings that gamers can challenge themselves with and throughout the campaign there are a total of sixty discs hidden which you can find with the ASE. For every 10 you find you unlock a Concept Art Gallery so there’s some replay value to be had there. Aside from that there are also several hidden message throughout the levels that can be revealed using the ASE to reveal more details about the plot.
Overall though the campaign has little replay value and you probably won’t find yourself playing it more than once or twice. The Multiplayer however offers a great deal of replay values, extending the life of the game by potential months depending on your preferences.
The Conduit’s replay incentive lies entirely in the Multiplayer, but it’s good enough to have you coming back for a long time.
The Conduit is a first person shooter built from the ground-up for the Wii sporting amazing controls, a fantastic graphics engine and addictive multiplayer with a decent single player and storyline to boot. It’s got a great deal of back-story for the more ‘into it’ players to delve into and offers a lot of fun times ahead with its online mode.
Needless to say, a somewhat cliché story at face value, mediocre art direction, short single player and somewhat laggy online compromise the experience, it’s still nowhere near bad but it’s also not perfect. Needless to say, High Voltage Software put a lot of effort into this game and that hard work and co-operation with the fans has paid off, for the ‘definitive FPS’ on the Wii, The Conduit is a fantastic title and at present is easily the best FPS on the console, and more than likely will remain so for quite a while.
If you're a Wii-only owner looking for a solid game with a decent single player and fun online experience then The Conduit is what you're looking for, but if you own either the 360 or PS3 then The Conduit really doesn't stand out against their bigger shooters, aside from a fantastic control system and somewhat dated style of play.
Score: 3.5/5 or 7/10
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