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The Conduit Review

The Conduit has for two years been one of the Nintendo Wii’s most-hyped games. Not only is it a first-person shooter, a genre that’s arguably under-represented for the Nintendo Wii, but early demonstrations showed that its graphics were better than most Wii titles, and its development by High Voltage Software seemed to hold good things in store.

Maybe it was the hype. Maybe it was the pre-release press. Maybe it was simply gamers’ expectations after reading and hearing nothing but praise for the better part of 24 months. But now that The Conduit is here, the game just doesn’t quite hit the mark in as many ways as expected, and it has some shortcomings that could have — and should have — been addressed. Our resident Wii-ophile has spent extensive time with The Conduit and offers this review:

My first impressions of The Conduit weren’t all that positive, and in fact the game made me sick, so I didn’t play long. On the good side, throwing grenades feels great, and switching between grenades and guns is very seamless. The melee punch feels good too; responsive, but a tad awkward to “stab” forward with the Wii Remote. On the bad side, however, there seemed to be too many control options, it’s not as slick as its “prime” competitor on the Wii (Metroid Prime 3), and enemies feel a bit cheap. On the whole, The Conduit doesn’t leave you initially feeling like it’s a AAA game, it feels more low budget. And in that context they did good.

After those initial impressions and spending more time with it, The Conduit does improve, but only if you tweak the controls, held them more steady and really invest in learning the game’s “language.”

Still, The Conduit definitely feels low budget. Shooting guys is fun because of the Wii Remote, but there is about a half-second delay between the time enemies get hit and the time they go into their death animation. It’s annoying and cheesy. Along those same lines, the game often just feels cheap like a piece of furniture from Walmart. I have trouble going through doors sideways. I get stuck too easily. Using strafe and turning at the same time doesn’t result in you turning faster, as in other first-person shooters. And overall, the game just doesn’t exude a solid feeling.

But the graphics are good, and the environments are interesting enough. The All-Seeing-Eye (ASE) mechanic also works well, by which you to press a button to make a glowing hovering orb with a light detector come out and your weapon go away. You use the ASE to collect things, find secret doors, messages, detect and blow up invisible mines, and it tells you where to go a la the blue line in Dead Space.

The alien weapons are cool as well (think Prey), as are the aliens. There is a one-shot one-kill pistol, which is fun, but it seems to be located only in a couple of secret vaults along the way. The reloading animations for some of the guns are annoying to watch because they use a blur effect for the background while this is going on, the result of which induces headaches. They do other weird effects, too, like turning the screen a slight green if you heal. I find these effects annoying and visually irritating.

The story doesn’t seem like much, so in all honesty, I stopped trying to follow it and the experience improved. They tell it in big chunks between loading areas, which makes the loading times seem non-existent. There is some surprisingly decent narration that helps you through the game, too, almost like a tutorial yet it is still present after one-third of the way through the game. It gives you warnings about traps located throughout and lends some context to why you press buttons or blow up valves. The voice is very faint by default, though, and attempts to adjust it don’t appear to have any effect.

Multiplayer is robust in terms of options, but frame rate seems a tad low. It supports 12-players and WiiSpeak, and there are more than enough modes and options. My son has played it quite a few times — and gotten his arse whooped. I grabbed his controls once or twice and got a few kills, but mostly I got killed.

I don’t think developers are quite there yet in terms of finding the ultimate Wii Remote FPS control scheme, like Bungie did with the analog stick and Halo. I think there are a few things to try yet. Like making L/R on the analog stick turn instead of strafe; strafing could be done by holding down Z or C on the Nunchuk. That way your pointer is just for aiming on the screen and doesn’t turn.

In The Conduit, you hold down Z to lock the screen on a bad guy (targeting), which has the same effect as causing the pointer not to turn the screen for the most part. It will follow the bad guy around, but I find that just locking the screen on a group of guys makes the shooting more fun. I don’t even worry about targeting a guy, but just locking the screen so you’re free to aim over the entire screen without causing your character to turn. But, in the end, I do believe that the future of console control for FPS games is with some sort of Wii Remote pointing functionality. It just plain beats the analog stick in terms of speed/precision for aiming/shooting, and it’s easier to get used to.

The Conduit seems to embody this tangent: close by no cigar. The Conduit is decent, but I wouldn’t pay $50 for it; maybe $30. Between cheap enemies and not enough polish, The Conduit just falls short. If only a game like this had a budget to match an Xbox 360 or PS3 game.

Score: 7

— Chris Karalus

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