The Conduit review

April 24, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Posted in Game Review, Wii Review | Leave a comment
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High Voltage Software’s impressive looking FPS hits the Wii thanks to Sega. Does it play as well as it looks?

Title: The Conduit

Format: Wii

Developed by: High-Voltage Software

Published by: Sega

Genre: FPS

So we’ve now arrived at the third of Sega’s trilogy of ‘hardcore’ Wii titles. House of the Dead Overkill brought a classic series back to life; MadWorld was a brand new IP from the creators of Okami; then we have The Conduit, a heavily hyped shooter from a team (High Voltage Software) most known for working on licensed games like Family Guy. Both HotD and MadWorld garnered critical acclaim, but neither managed to set the sales charts alight, despite their apparent appeal to hardcore wii gamers (and said gamers’ whinging over the lack of good third-party software on the format). So does The Conduit have the right combination to appeal to the hardcore and more mainstream audiences, and therefore justify Sega’s decision to support a console written off as a family format? Well not quite.

You see, The Conduit is a bit of a mixed bag really. There’s no doubting the quality of its visuals; HVS made a big noise about their custom-built quantum engine, with claims that they could get the Wii to output graphics almost on a par with the Xbox 360. While this may have been a bit exaggerated (think more along the lines of the original Xbox, which is still impressive) The Conduit is one of, if not, the most technically impressive game on Wii. Other titles like Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3 just edge it out as the best-looking game, due to these titles’ more consistent and infinitely more interesting art direction. The sound department is another strong point, with a rousing sound track and some very good voice work.

HVS should also be applauded for creating the best control system for any FPS on any console. It really is an absolute joy to control, with smooth movement, aiming and slick use of buttons and motion controls which puts every other Wii FPS to shame. Had the wii’s button placement been more FPS-friendly this would have to go down as one of the most intuitive control systems ever. And if you don’t like the default settings you can tinker with just about every aspect you could wish for to tailor the game to your liking.

The problems lie in the actual game itself though. As indicated above, the art direction is largely uninspired, with generic-looking aliens to shoot at, and a lack of cohesive design in the environments. Levels are very linear, and it’s not until later missions that you get objectives outside the usual get here, destroy this, hit these switches. You may not even get to see these thanks to some pretty infuriating difficulty spikes (prepare to weep at the end of level three). The story also gets tiring quickly – featuring aliens, terrorist groups and more convoluted conspiracies than a whole season of X-Files. Add to that some outdated gameplay elements that evoke the N64 days (think Turok, rather than Goldeneye) and you have yourself a pretty standard, albeit good-looking shooter.

So does that mean The Conduit should be avoided? Again, not quite. Despite being heavily flawed, the single player campaign is still worth a play-through as there are a couple of very nice set-pieces contained within, plus some good usage the ASE (all-seeing eye – which can be used to highlight hidden puzzles, locks or show you where you need to go for your next objective) device shown in the trailers, which show HVS are at least capable of creating puzzles that match their technical nous. The Conduit’s single-player is at least a good showpiece; standard gameplay mixed with good looks, which, sadly, is what seems to attract mainstream gamers these days.

The thing that saves it from obscurity though is the superb multiplayer. There really is no better online shooter on the Wii right now and it is almost enough to propel this game onto the must-have list. It’s quite clear where HVS have directed their attention as the difference between single and multiplayer is incredible. There are a huge number of options to play around with and some really fun and original game modes to try out. There was very little lag present when we played and it was pretty quick at serving up some death match goodness. With the fast pace of the matches, it brings back memories of Unreal Tournament in its heyday, although maybe not quite as well-balanced.

It is definitely worth looking at if you’ve been craving a decent online shooter for the Wii, and if you can stomach the more generic elements of the single player you can still get some enjoyment out of that. High Voltage have certainly put a lot of effort into giving the fans what they want, and have succeeded on a technical level. Hopefully The Conduit will see some success in the market place, if only to give HVS another chance to inject some deeper gameplay to match the graphical side. Judging by the early sales reports from America, it has already outperformed the other two Sega titles mentioned in the intro. That this is the worst of that (very good) trilogy says a lot about the state of the game industry at this present time.

7/10

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