Editor’s Note: As some of you know, I’m on staff as a game reviewer for the electronic entertainment site, Avault.com. I intend to publish all of my reviews on these pages to insure I have a full record of everything I’ve written. If you haven’t read this before, enjoy!!!
Now this is what we’ve been waiting for. When Nintendo first unveiled the Wii, after fanboys paged through their wish list of new iterations in the Mario, Zelda and Metroid series, they began to dream up new and exciting applications to their favorite genres. The so-called hard-core crowd immediately conjured up light saber battles as a no-brainer application for the Wii-mote while others saw the ability to closely replicate the pixel-perfect mouse driven controls that PC first person shooter afficionados have mastered for years. And while a handful of FPS titles have trickled through the deluge of shovelware ports, none have lived up to that initial fanboy fantasy. Enter High Voltage games and the much-anticipated title, The Conduit, a Wii exclusive that endeavors to deliver hard-core action thrills while rewriting the book on how a console FPS should control.
The Conduit drops players into a Mulder & Scully fever dream – with players taking control of top secret agent Mr. Ford, a specialist for the U.S. Government, who quickly discovers that aliens are among us and may be in league with his employers. Without spoiling too much of the intrigue, the game initially sets Ford against a wily terrorist named Prometheus who may be in league with the nefarious group of space invaders that have decided to take aim at Washington D.C. and finish off what Dubya started. (I kid. I KID!!!)
While the game offers up a fairly standard single player experience that is engaging while it lasts (roughly 8 hours), developer High Voltage has really filled a void left wide open on the Wii by including a robust multiplayer suite that significantly enhances the replay value. The online multiplayer allows for 12-player matches, most of the deathmatch variety however there are some unique objective based modes including the addictive ASE (All Seeing Eye) Football mode and Bounty Hunter, which tasks the players with only hunting down a specific target lest the player be penalized for shooting the wrong guy.
As a single player title, The Conduit nicely fills a niche that really ought to be a bit more expansive this late in the Wii’s development cycle. As I mentioned in the opening, we expected the Wii (with its unique control schemes and large install base) would make a tantalizing target for FPS developers but thus far, that hasn’t happened. High Voltage saw an opportunity and took it. With a lack of competition, a fairly boilerplate single player adventure actually shines a bit brighter – offering a brief but enjoyable adventure through the shadowy halls of extraterrestrial espionage. Fans of Rare’s classic N64 title, Perfect Dark, will find a kissing cousin in The Conduit – both in its setting and its design structure that eschews contemporary FPS plotting (gone are overly scripted scenarios) for a refreshingly nostalgic run n’ gun experience. The single player title does slow things down from time to time, granting the player the use of an alien artifact dubbed the All Seeing Eye which is used to activate portals and scour the environments for cryptic clues to the global conspiracy surrounding the proceedings. Unfortunately, the game ends a bit suddenly, although what’s there leaves one pining for a Wii-exclusive sequel.
On the multiplayer front, The Conduit truly shines, providing a similar experience to that enjoyed by FPS vets on the other competing systems. While Master Chief disciples are unlikely to abandon their nightly Halo skirmishes in favor of The Conduit’s online mayhem, for those gamers who have made the Wii their system of choice, The Conduit provides a nice online forum to get your gun on. The only thing that hampers the experience is the communication hurdle dictated by Nintendo’s online policies. While WiiSpeak is supported, not enough gamers have these mikes to really effect game communication. While this doesn’t impact the pure deathmatch modes too greatly, some of the team-based games suffer.
On the plus side, the control scheme created by High Voltage is excellent, offering players full access to remap the controls to find the best fit for their play style, including manipulation of the bounding box, which can significantly aid pinpoint targeting. This is a feature that I expect many console developers would like to copy although it appears best applied to Wii efforts as the deep customization coupled with the Wiimote leads to some deft, dexterous movement abilities – a boon for the FPS devotee.
For the last year, anticipation for The Conduit has risen, buoyed by some promising demos at E3 2008. Gamers saw this title as a bright spot in a dim line-up catered towards “the casual” and put a lot of baggage onto a modest developer to elevate the Wii to the lofty heights they initially imagined for it, so many years back. Well, believe the hype. While it may not revolutionize the FPS world, The Conduit connects tightly with those core gamers who have longed for the new play experiences promised by the Wii.