The Conduit has been hyped for quite a while. Announced over a year ago, the game saw delay after delay, did not get a publisher until late last year and suffered a few other minor problems. After all this time you'd expect the game to be fantastic, but is it really?
The Wii doesn't have much in terms of first-person shooters - Aside from Red Steel and Hudson Soft's two WiiWare efforts, the only FPS games the system has are multi-platform titles. It's kind of weird, really. With the Wii remote's pointer and motion controls, you'd think the genre would be a perfect fit for the system and developers would be releasing them one right after another!
Like most FPS games, The Conduit's story is nothing to write home about. You play Michael Ford, an agent in a secret North American organization who was hired after saving the president's life. Aliens, known as the Drudge, are using special portals, the titular conduits, to teleport directly to the Earth and threaten the human race, so it's up to agent Ford to stop them. Along the way he'll be involved in conspiracies and a bunch of cliché plot twists.
At all times, Ford will have two guns at his disposal. He can swap these for any others he finds dropped by enemies or lying around levels. In most cases it's handy to have a high-damage accurate weapon for small encounters and a rapid-firing weapon for large enemy groups, but you can mix and match and see what you like. He can also throw grenades, of which various types exist. Naturally you've got the regular bouncy frag grenades which explode after a few seconds, but you've also got flash grenades which temporarily stun the enemy, and radiation grenades, which explode as soon as they hit anything (Including the ground) and leave behind a temporary glowing ball of radiation which damages anything that comes close.
The main gimmick of the game comes in the form of your other "weapon" - the ASE, or All-Seeing Eye. This is basically a floating ball you can bring up at any time. It's a bit like the Scan Visor in the Metroid Prime series, and can be used for a variety of things, such as hacking computers, decoding secret messages, seeing which way you need to go and even detonating "ghost mines" from a distance. Unlike Metroid Prime though, you can't scan enemies with it, so you won't get any handy combat tips!
Sadly, most of the time the ASE feels like a chore to use. There's an animation for taking it out and putting it away, which means you can't use it any time you please without having to worry much about enemies. Scanning things takes a few seconds, and if you're hit by anything during the process the scan will be interrupted and you have to start over. This can be very annoying when you're trying to scan a secret message in an area with respawning enemies!
The game's controls are a bit odd, but you'll get used to them quite quickly. Naturally, you use the control stick to move around and the Wii remote's pointer to look around. You use A to jump, B to fire, and Z to lock on to enemies, all of which are also fairly expected. But the rest of the controls might puzzle you for a moment or two. The minus button will reload your gun, while the plus button brings out the ASE. Shaking the nunchuk throws a grenade, while shaking the Wii remote will make you do a melee attack with your current gun. The d-pad also has a variety of functions - Left cycles through grenades, right cycles through guns, and down will allow you to zoom in if your current gun has a scope function. As said, you'll get used to these controls after a while, but they're definitely the type of controls which you will have completely forgotten when you come back to the game in a year or two. If you like to mess around with control settings, it's also possible to reconfigure them as you see fit.
As you're battling both humans and aliens in the game, you can of course expect some variety in the enemies and weapons. The humans, such as soldiers and secret agents, will use all your standard FPS weapons, like machine guns, pistols, shotguns and grenades. The aliens, which have many different types of grunts, will use strange energy-based weapons which look very organic, with weird colours and ammunition which looks more like an energy ball. In the end though, the difference is mostly cosmetic - Some of the alien weapons will allow you to charge shots up, but most of the time it's a much better idea to just rapidly fire as uncharged shots have pretty much the same functions as the various human guns.
You never have to worry about running out of ammo with any weapon. Most will have hundreds of bullets when picked up, and there is an over-abundance of ammo. Every enemy you kill will drop some for the weapon they're carrying, and it will always add another 40 or so bullets to your inventory. Grenades are also incredibly common. You could probably finish some levels with nothing but grenades if you tried hard enough, as almost every single enemy will drop one! Health is similarly common, but that's even less of a concern - In most levels you'll have a suit which will automatically begin to refill your health after not taking damage for a while!
Like any good FPS game in this day and age, The Conduit features both a single-player and multi-player campaign. The single-player story mode consists of 9 different missions. It doesn't sound like much, but some of them are fairly long and can take an hour if you take your time and hunt for secrets throughout the whole stage. The locations are nice and varied, and all take place in various areas around Washington D.C., such as the Pentagon and the White House. Of course, there's also the standard library, subway and sewer levels!
While the actual locations are varied, the levels themselves can feel repetitive at times. Every single level has multiple instances of rooms which look exactly the same, and of course, it does get pretty boring and/or annoying if you have to go through what is practically the same room four times with slightly different enemies each time!
If you take your time, the story mode should take you about 6 to 7 hours to finish. But of course there's also some replay value, because High Voltage has also added those things which you'll either love or hate to the game. Yes, we're talking about achievements! Sadly though, none of them are all that special. You have to find all secret messages with your ASE in every stage, kill X enemies of each type and get X kills with every weapon. No achievements for pulling off crazy stuff like beating the final stage with just grenades! There are also no multiplayer achievements. Six of the nine stages also feature 10 collectible Data Disks, which, once you've collected all 10, will unlock one of six concept art galleries.
Speaking of multiplayer, it's pretty much what you'd expect it to be. You can play with up to 12 players in a variety of modes. There's quite a lot of different modes, but a lot of them have fairly similar objectives, such as capturing ASEs, battling in teams or only having a limited amount of lives. The game also allows you to use Wii Speak online, so you can taunt your opponents - But only if they're friends of yours!
Overall the online mode is fairly solid, but what's really disappointing is that dedicated hackers have already found ways to give themselves unlimited health, ammo and those sorts of things. This means that it's best to primarily play with friends if you're gonna be playing online a lot!
High Voltage also hyped up the game's graphics quite a bit before release. It looks quite decent for a game by such a relatively small studio, but when compared to other impressive-looking top tier Wii titles like Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, it's kind of hard to see how the graphics are anywhere close to what you'd call great. They're not bad by any means, but definitely not as good as they made them out to be.
Overall, The Conduit delivers a solid FPS experience for Wii owners. You've got a nice single-player story mode, a solid online mode and a bunch of unlockables to keep you playing for a while. Coupled with the few annoying flaws, such as the repeating rooms and everything related to the All-Seeing Eye, it's a fairly solid game. There's really nothing about it that really stands out other than the fact it's on the Wii though. If you've only got a Wii, the game's worth a purchase, but if you're a multi-platform owner you can definitely do better in terms of FPS games.