The Conduit is the latest, if not the only, true first person shooter on the Nintendo Wii. Published by SEGA and developed by High Voltage (previously known for their licensed products - READ: Dora the Explorer and BEN10). High Voltage built this 3D engine from the ground up and it touting it as the latest and greatest thing to happen for the hardcore Wii fan. So is this truly the Halo Killer for the Nintendo Wii? In short, not really.
The story in The Conduit is nothing new. You're an agent with a anti-alien invasion task force called The Trust and you're tasked with, what else, stopping an impending alien-invasion. The presentation is also nothing ground breaking, granted that the Wii isn't really capable of much more than your basic last-gen cinematics and renders, but to use animated character portraits and text overlay is just a little too 1998 for me. Even though the text overlays do have voice acting (think Metal Gear Solid Codex moments) and the voices are done by Mark Shepard (Battlestar Galactica) and Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: The Legendary Journey), it's still not enough to inject excitement into a story we've all played in one form or another.
So then if the story doesn't do much to entice you (and lets face it, Halo wasn't popular because of its riveting story) then what about this new 3D engine that promises to be the saving grace of the Wii? I'll give you that it looks pretty good - for the Wii! If you were to rank the visuals for The Conduit, it sits squarely around the Halo 2 territory, which means it's nothing special by today's standards. I don't want to discount the hard work the developers have put into this title but the limitations of the Wii is just too steep for any decent development by today's standards. It does have a bit more detail, HDR, shimmer, and the rest of the fancy parts of a 3D engine but it still looks about the same as the Metroid series on the Wii. In short, it's nothing special and certainly won't be a title you pull out to "demo" your new 60 inch plasma screen for your friends.
Here's the meat of the title. The Conduit claims to have redesigned first person shooter controls for the Wii and I do have to agree, this is the best FPS controls on the Wii I've used. The previous champ was Metroid, with its accurate aim assist and combination of aiming and moving mechanic, it was as close to 1:1 movement on a console. The Conduit does their controls similarly but adds the ability for you to tweak every aspect of it. You can adjust vertical and horizontal sensitivity, your dead zone size, the turning sensitivity, and anything else you can imagine. But even with all that control, I still got motion sickness. To be fair, I got motion sickness from most FPS games that are not controlled with a mouse and keyboard. Even Metroid and Call of Duty made me dizzy. But I experienced the least amount of dizziness from The Conduit.
The gameplay of The Conduit is much like its story, as in there's nothing new. You run and gun and since there isn't a true cover mechanic such as the likes of Gears of War, you pretty much just run behind cover and crouch to avoid fire. The firefights are usually in corridors and corridors that leads into larger rooms that funnels back into a corridor. But that's where things get a bit hectic. The AI in the game is spotty at times where they will at some point gain a sixth sense. What I mean is that they will anticipate your move before you even make it yourself so a winning outcome is not possible. There was a point where I was making my way through a series of corridors with a single door into an adjacent room. In normal convention, the enemies in that room won't be waiting for you with their guns pointed at the door. In The Conduit, the AI apparently knows that you will be coming through that single door and have all but lined up a firing squad on the other side. I suppose that sort of mimics reality but it assures that you will die that very first time you open the door. I wouldn't have had an issue with this if the whole game was like that but it hasn't been. The game is usually very forgiving and even simple at times. The glaring difference with that single moment tells me that someone messed up that part of the game's AI programming.
If the controls were the meat of the game the online play is the mash potatoes that complements it. The Conduit features the first online Wii experience that ditches the horrible "friend-code" requirement of Nintendo. I'm not sure if this requirement is a Nintendo thing or just that developers never thought to use anything different. But The Conduit is capable of 12 player matchmaking in all the normal FPS glory. The game also supports Wii-Speak which means you can shout smack over the Wii's voice peripheral. It's not a headset but it will do in a pinch. Online game modes range from Deathmatch/Team Deathmatch, to Capture the Flag, and Bounty Hunter style modes. Again, there's nothing new or innovative here for the genre, but for the Wii, it's ground breaking. However, network performance was spotty at best seeing how you can only connect the Wii over WiFi. I had my basestation 10 feet away from my Wii and I was still experiencing lag on matches that had over nine players. Most reviews were done with reviewer code and were playing on developer servers that was live before the retail servers. I played over actual retail servers and the real world experience wasn't good. The only thing I could do was to drop matches and try and reconnect with another group to see if my ping improved. High Voltage does give you the option of selecting a worldwide match or a regional match. Selecting regional did improve things slightly as did hooking up a USB LAN adapter.
Where I'm Coming From
I'm a huge first person shooter fan ever since the days of Wolfenstein 3D. But I play my FPS almost exclusively on the PC due to my susceptibility from motion sickness. I don't ever have a problem with motion sickness on a PC FPS, even the Valve series of games. I'm also not a fan of Halo. I find that type of game to be repetitive, mundane, and not innovative. One of my favorite FPS I've ever played is still Unreal Tournament 2004 followed by Team Fortress 1/2 on the PC.
What I Liked
The controls worked as advertised and the amount of options for adjustment makes the game accessible to most players. This is as close to a mouse and keyboard experience as you can have on a console without actually using one. The voice acting was also very well done, with Hollywood B list actors doing a fine job at lending credibility to the roles. I didn't find their acting too forced and the casting was fitting for the character designs. The first truly "normal" online experience on the Wii was also excellent; if not in execution but in vision.
What I Didn't Like
The controls. Yes, they were good but they weren't good enough. Of the nine-ish hours it took me to finish the game and run through the online modes, I spent only 1.5 hours of that popping Gravol. The storyline reminded me of a rehash of an old episode of Stargate (and not a good one at that) and developers really need to think beyond corridor play. This later point could be because of the Wii's technical limitations but still, the end result is repetitive, boring, and unimagined gameplay.
The Conduit has the most user friendly online matchmaking available on the Wii. This automatically makes any honest gamer want to play the game online. But because of network issues (which can be fixed with updates and more servers) it does hamper the experience a bit. The normal single player mode takes about eight hours to complete with side missions and achievements to unlock. But since there's no "Gamertag" or "PSN ID" to show off your achievements, it's a little pointless to me. If you're the type to always need 100% completion, then this might extend your gameplay by a few hours.
The Conduit is a mixed bag. If the game came out on any other platform other than the PS2 or the PSP, it would have been universally panned by critics. But because it came out on the hardcore-anemic Wii, it's gaining fairly positive reviews. I would only recommend this game to someone who doesn't have a PS3 or a Xbox 360 and who doesn't suffer from motion sickness on console FPSes. The game is passable at best and boring at its worse. But the true gem that will come of this whole endeavor is the engine created by High Voltage. You can bet that the 3D engine, controls, and online architecture will be licensed to many other games.