Developer: High Voltage / Publisher: Sega / ESRB: Teen [Animated Blood, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence] / Played on: Wii / Price: $49.95
It’s been years and yet whenever I hear the name ‘Conduit’ I always remember High Voltage’s lofty claims that it was aiming to make the first game “a Wii game that looks like a 360 title”.
Did it manage this feat? Hell no. If that’s what constitutes 360 visuals, we humbly suggest swapping out those Visio TVs for some Samsungs, snagging a couple HDMI leads, and having another good look. So, with two further years of development time, does Conduit 2 accomplish that feat this time? Nope, it sure doesn’t. But it comes a lot closer.
That’s the first thing you’ll notice when you start Conduit 2. It manages to flick that ‘good graphics’ switch inside the Wii that most other games can’t seem to locate. You see windows with rain pouring down them, realistically skewing your view of the outside environment. In early scenes you’re on an impressive oil rig above a ravenous sea with enormous waves. Some of the futuristic alien architecture is particularly impressive, with neon light trails running through walls and Halo-style bump-mapping texturing many surfaces. Your guns, both human and alien, look sweet as do the reload animations and the slight blur applied to the rest of the screen as you slap in another magazine.
Light glimmers and reflects nicely off ridged glass panels, which also shatter and crumble realistically, while filing cabinets and boxes send paper and debris flying into the air when hit in the crossfire. It’s good stuff, but like everything in Conduit 2, it’s not without issues.
All this detail occasionally comes at the expense of frame rates, with the action noticeably slower during more intense scenes like the air in the atmosphere is suddenly replaced with transparent custard. It’s not pleasant. Other areas, particularly the more human ones like the streets and houses of (the revisited) Washington D.C., look far more bland, like cheap sets on a trashy low-budget movie. Without those neon lights and mental alien textures the game struggles to look as pretty.
Glitches occur with regular frequency. I saw enemies’ arms coming through doors, bullet holes hovering in mid-air, and cutscene lip-synching way out of whack.
This mix of ‘good and bad’ is a sweeping theme for Conduit 2. The story takes you through a number of interesting environments, which is cool, but the script and overall story arc blows harder than your ass the morning after a hot curry.
Continuing directly on from the final scenes of the first game, you’re back in the shoes of Michael Ford as he leaps through a Conduit warp tunnel in pursuit of the almighty-sounding, utterly sinister… John Adams.
Seriously. Is this for real? Was that a placeholder name that never got replaced? It’s like the casting list for a new season of Baywatch. So Adams, a disgruntled bald man who wears a menacing white shirt, red tie and slacks, is hell bent on starting a war that will inevitably end up with him ruler of the world, or some shit, and you have to kick his ass before he succeeds. That’s literally the whole story, right there. It sets the scene for some genuinely enjoyable shooting fodder, but a narrative shocker this is most certainly not.
For the most part, the Wii Remote-powered pointer controls are about as good as they come, with just the right amount of central dead zone movement and look sensitivity on the aiming, and if it’s not to your liking you can tweak an almost obsessive number of configuration options. But by default it’s already much better than the clunky disaster that was the GoldenEye remake.
But then there’s the Wii MotionPlus option, the benefits of which I’m almost certain is more myth than actual merit. I made sure to activate MotionPlus support in the control options screen (because the game isn’t clever enough to automatically detect its presence), but struggled to notice the difference. You can literally yank the thing out of the Remote mid-game and it doesn’t complain as you would expect, or change the game’s operational behavior in any noticeable way. If you don’t have a MotionPlus don’t waste your money getting one for Conduit 2.
You can use the Classic Controller too, but with its loose analog sticks and twitchy aim this option is about as intuitive as trying to brush your teeth with a chainsaw. Just forget it.
The AI has been improved over the first game, although the enemies in that game were about as smart as Resident Evil 2 zombies. Most of them will dive for cover, kick over tables to hide behind, and charge at you when you get too close. Others stand there dumbfounded by your presence, sometimes not even shooting. Again, it’s hit and miss.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s unrefined, but it’s still fun. The guns sound meaty and are satisfying to shoot, enemies put up a good fight especially on tougher difficulty levels, and although your objectives rarely deviate from the typical ‘follow the marker and hit this button’ style of mission, it’s enjoyable just to blast your way through environments that look much better than you’re used to on Wii.
Surprisingly for Wii, Conduit 2 has a pretty comprehensive set of multiplayer options. Up to 12 players can shoot the snot out of each other in over a dozen environments with a wealth of your usual modes.
Split-screen play is also here, which is cool in an age when online play is so prominent that developers seem to have forgotten the value of good old face-to-face banter. And if you do have actual friends to invite over you can also enjoy the offline-only ‘Invasion’ co-op mode – a now standard ‘Horde’ rip off that has you fighting off waves of increasingly difficult (but rather uninteresting) enemies.
What is particularly cool is a Call of Duty perk-style upgrade system that spans all three modes. As you play any of these modes you earn points to upgrade your armor for boosts like reload speed or improved health – and the stuff you earn in multiplayer carries over to the single-player campaign, offering a nice incentive to fire up all the modes.
So it has a valid and enjoyable multiplayer offering too, but again it’s nothing particularly inspiring, especially as the weapons don’t require mastering special strategies like in Halo, and the rather generic maps lack the design mastery of the top games in the FPS genre.
Conduit 2, then, is full of ups and downs. It looks great in places but bland in others, controls decently but (like every Wii FPS) is no precision tool, has an extensive and enjoyable multiplayer mode but lacks design innovation, and while the campaign is actually a pretty decent FPS experience (which is itself a rarity on Wii), it’s fairly repetitive shooting-by-numbers with a basic plot that ends abruptly in a swift six-or-so hours.
It won’t blow your mind. It won’t raise the FPS bar. And if you play the big FPS games on HD consoles, moving to this would be like dumping Jessica Alba for Snooki. You just wouldn’t do it. But if Wii is your only console this is a refreshingly enjoyable romp arriving right in the middle of a worrying Wii games drought.