A big fish in a Wii pond.
Like a Big Wheel outfitted with the engine from a Ford Taurus, The Conduit is technologically praiseworthy despite its questionable use value. High Voltage software has successfully squeezed the features, gameplay, and plot from a full-sized—if mediocre—FPS under the hood of Nintendo’s Wii. Disappointingly, The Conduit offers no incentive to convince current FPS gamers to put down Halo or Call of Duty, and it presents no easy transition into the genre for those who’ve never played an FPS game before.
[image1]To its credit, The Conduit does a commendable job of bringing the core elements of FPS gaming to the Wii. You’ll put to use a range of Halo-inspired weaponry—both human and alien—and find plenty of military and bug-like baddies to shoot along the way. The controls are highly customizable, and the addition of auto-lock mostly makes up for otherwise sluggish movement and an awkward button layout.
The Wii has had a handful of FPS games since launch, but until now, no game has dared to bring a feature set comparable to what’s found on most FPS games available on other platforms. The Conduit has its problems to be sure, but High Voltage proves that the Wii console still has more room to flex its modest processing power, and shows that there’s no good reason Wii owners should be denied a fleshed-out FPS experience. Despite an uninspired single-player campaign and a run-of-the-mill multiplayer mode, The Conduit refuses to dumb itself down for the console.
The visuals in single-player are technically noteworthy. Unfortunately, bland art design means it’s mostly a wasted effort. There are some nice-looking weapon kills and lighting effects, but the environments and weapon designs don’t break any new ground. Most of the time, you’ll be wandering bland corridors, rooms, caves, and sewers using weapons you’ve probably seen a million times before—just not on the Wii.
[image2]The Conduit’s main gameplay innovation, the ASE, isn’t put to interesting use. The ASE—or “All-Seeing Eye”—is a glowing ball that reads script, defuses mines, finds hidden areas, and accesses computer terminals. Though the device looks nice, it’s just an unnecessarily elaborate way of doing the same work that an action button ordinarily does. It frequently slows down the pace of the game too much, especially when doing tedious things like defusing mines and solving ridiculously simple combination lock puzzles.
The story is told between missions using text rather than in-game cut-scenes or pre-rendered movies. Needless to say, it’s hard to feel engaged with the story when it keeps pulling you out of the action over and over again into a bland text screen. Voice acting adds some much-needed character to the story, but even a 20-year-old game like Ninja Gaiden understood how important visuals are in video game storytelling. The plot itself is a confusing mess of government conspiracies, alien invasions, and political intrigue highly reminiscent of another FPS made for a Nintendo console.
Multiplayer borrows from the standard FPS playbook in its three play modes: deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag. With up to twelve players, online games resemble those found in the genre’s more robust titles. If you squint hard enough—or are inebriated enough—you just might think you’re playing on another console. While finding a match can be a lost cause at times, the most important elements of other online FPS games are all here: private and public matches, spectating, basic score tracking, even a very limited voice chat using Wii Speak (available only between friends). Though textures, visual effects, and framerate all take a massive hit online, nothing interferes with the core gameplay.
[image3]Unlike Sega’s other recent, more stylish forays onto the console, The Conduit doesn’t aim for uniqueness but for sameness. It wants to seem as much like other FPS games on other consoles as it can. High Voltage gets all the basics right and has overcome some of the Wii’s inherent controller limitations, but The Conduit’s sole distinguishing feature is that it’s on the Wii.
On any other console, this game would be utterly forgettable. In a genre defined by its derivativeness, it’s perhaps a compliment to say that The Conduit is so generic. The fact that there is now a game on the Wii that begs comparison to FPS games on higher-end consoles is a good sign for the platform. It shows what’s possible even if The Conduit feels more like a test run for the developer, and its release means High Velocity can call “bullshit” on anyone who says that the genre can’t be done justice on the Wii.
Regardless, it’s hard to imagine that a fan of the FPS genre hasn’t long since moved beyond the Wii, but for those few holdouts, The Conduit’s the game you’ve probably been waiting for. They say that hunger is the best sauce, so Wii owners who’ve been hungry for an FPS will probably overlook many of The Conduit’s faults. While you won’t make your 360 or PS3-owning friends jealous, you’ll have one fewer reason to feel envious of them.