The Conduit Review

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The Conduit is a first-person shooter that centers on an alien invasion of Washington D.C. I bought it when it released and I remember my excitement for it more than the actual game. Despite the many ports, the Wii wasn’t a system known for it’s first-person shooters, minus rail shooters and light gun games. Now I could be wrong but if memory serves, The Conduit was marketed as “the shooter” to get for Wii. That, or people were just hyping it up. I do remember looking forward to playing it because it actually looked good and I’m a sucker for science fiction. I hear “alien invasion” and I’m interested. Developed by High Voltage Software and published by Sega, The Conduit was released for Wii in June, 2009 and an HD port was released for Android in 2013. For this review, I played the Wii version and when I fired it up, I realized I never actually beat the game. I still had two missions left to complete. I remember it being decent but I couldn’t remember why I didn’t beat it.

Set in Washington D.C., the story follows agent Michael Ford and his efforts to not only prevent the alien race known as the Drudge from destroying the capital but also a shadow government organization called the Trust from taking over the country. I like the premise but the writing leaves a lot to be desired. Furthermore, the voice acting ranges from poor to average. This is one of those games where the protagonist will interact with people through transmissions and they know exactly what’s going on and they’re more or less present to simply guide you through the game and relay information. Michael, himself, never actually develops beyond the typical hero who is the only one capable of doing anything to save the world. The other two characters Michael interacts with are more interesting but they, too, aren’t fleshed out all that well and just when the plot starts to get really interesting, it ends. The campaign is very short and it ends on a cliffhanger.

The Conduit does force the player to use the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. It does not support the Classic Controller, unfortunately. You can perform all of the functions as you typically would in any other first-person shooter and you aim by pointing at the screen. The controls took me a little while to get used to but they actually work well and you can adjust various options including turn speed, deadzone, and cursor settings. Furthermore, you can change the HUD placement and transparency. There is lock-on mechanic that proves to be extremely useful because the camera will focus on the enemy you’re locked onto. Health can be replenished by acquiring certain pickups like medkits and at a certain point, Michael receives a Suit that will automatically heal injuries which means health will slowly regenerate.

Early in the game you acquire a device called the All-Seeing Eye, abbreviated as ASE. You need it to find and read hidden messages, collect Trust Data Disks, hack things, destroy ghost mines, reveal cloaked enemies, and activate trigger points to unlock Organic Locks. It’s one of those things that seems like it can do everything. Unfortunately, you can’t use it while holding a weapon and I’m the kind of guy that likes to explore the environments for secrets and having to constantly switch back and forth between weapons and the ASE became tedious. It actually gets annoying when you need to use it to destroy ghost mines because you’ll often be attacked by enemies as well and they’re constantly spawning in so you’re trying to not run into ghost mines, detonate them, fend off enemies, while switching back and forth between the ASE and your weapons.

One thing The Conduit has going for it is good gunplay. Each weapon has good visual feedback when firing. Some blood appears when enemies are shot and you can blow the heads off certain foes. The selection of weapons is pretty cool and they’re split up by type. There’s human, Trust, Drudge, and Prototype weapons which are rare and can only be found in hidden weapon rooms. You can only carry two firearms at a time along with grenades and weapons and ammo can be found seemingly everywhere, plus enemies drop weapons and ammo when killed. Trust weapons are energy based and the Drudge weapons are by far the most unique and are more “alien” in appearance. My favorite weapon is the Striker, a fully-automatic Prototype weapon that can quickly eliminate groups of foes and is great against any threat.

The Conduit comes with several difficulty levels and I played through the campaign on Guardian which I equate to normal. I did find the experience challenging but sometimes frustrating. The game challenges you by overwhelming you. Many deaths were the result of me taking damage from multiple directions. The actual enemies, themselves, are not very bright. The human enemies in particular are really bad. They will often stand right out in the open, often near explosive canisters and sometimes not even fire when they probably should. Drudge enemies come in different forms. One of the most common types is the Drones which are like soldiers and one of the more notable dangerous enemies are Scarabs which are big tough types that can cloak themselves. Some Drudge enemies can fly, Med-Mites can heal allies, and Therm-Mites are my least favorite because they roll around and explode and it’s easy to not see them coming.

The Conduit is an action-packed game but there’s nothing about the encounters that we haven’t seen before and most enemies go down fairly easily, at least when playing on Guardian. You go from area to area killing hordes of rather dumb enemies so the challenge primarily comes from the game overwhelming you as mentioned earlier. The Drudge enemies will keep spawning in from Egg Sacs and Conduits until you destroy them. There is no radar on your HUD that will show you where enemies are located around you so you have to be mindful of your surroundings. You can crouch behind objects but I found the best way to stay alive was to keep moving which you basically have to do anyway in order to find and destroy the spawn points. Enemies will shoot at you, throw grenades, and often rush your position so staying in one spot is typically not a good idea.

My frustration with the gameplay is simply due to spikes in the difficulty. One spike in particular is during an encounter early in the game that requires you to destroy four Conduits that are spawning enemies. There’s a corridor that leads to the area where they’re all located and the entire area quickly gets overrun by Drones. I know you can destroy at least two of the Conduits from the other side of the corridor but because there’s so many enemies, they can block your shots so you kill them and more spawn in. This encounter in particular seems oddly difficult for how early it is in the game and I died more often here than at any other point. Good aim and quick reaction times go a long way in The Conduit. There was a couple of other spikes in difficulty and they were very similar to this. You’re in an area with a shit-ton of enemies and have to stop them from spawning.

I did enjoy the Washington D.C. setting and the game takes you to a decent variety of locations. You’ll blow away enemies on the streets, in a bunker, in the Library of Congress and White House, and in the sewers among other locations. However, several of these locations feature a lot of similar looking rooms and corridors. The environments are mostly linear and the game funnels you where you need to go so I never got lost. There are branching rooms and areas off the beaten paths that will often lead you to weapons, ammo, and/or secrets. You’ll sometimes have to use the ASE to unlock Organic Locks and detonate ghost mines. In many areas, you can’t progress until all of the enemies are eliminated and that’s most of the game. Kill a bunch of enemies, destroy the spawn points, rinse and repeat.

The Conduit does come with a multiplayer component which I did not get to try and does include some incentives to replay through the campaign. There are multiple difficulty levels, collecting all the Data Disks unlocks concept art, you can earn achievements if you’re into that kind of thing and unlock cheats. Some cheats are unlocked by meeting certain requirements and others are unlocked by entering promotional codes which you can find online. You can play as a Drone and there are cheats to change the appearance of the ASE and your multiplayer character. Other cheats include killing enemies in a single shot, unlimited ammo, and a fiery death for all enemies. While the campaign can be a good time, it’s also unremarkable so I can’t say it’s worth playing through multiple times. However, I did enjoy playing through some missions again with infinite ammo because it let me spend more time with the deadlier firepower.

For the hardware its running on, The Conduit is a great looking game. The enemy and weapon models look good and the visual effects, in particular, look excellent. During combat, you’ll see sparks and smoke in the air as a result of bullets hitting surfaces, muzzle flashes are bright, and the game engine allows for effects like bump mapping, reflection and refraction. Other than noticeable jaggies, I have no major complaints with the visuals. The soundtrack is okay. The game features a lot of dramatic and intense sounding tunes that fit the action but I can’t say any particular song really stands out. The sound work is another reason why the gunplay feels as good as it does. Weapons sound powerful and satisfying, explosions are loud and enemies will grunt and shout during combat. On the technical side, I didn’t encounter any major issues but the frame rate does dip when there’s a lot of action on-screen and it happens often.

Ultimately, The Conduit has problems but it’s fun and I do think it’s one of the best shooters for the Wii. It’s not a port. It was designed for the system and most of its flaws aren’t due to the technical limitations. It’s a solid shooter with good controls and great gunplay. I do wish it supported the Classic Controller and I feel the campaign is way too short but it is fun and action-packed. Playing through it again for this review, some memories started to come back. I think I stopped playing way back when because I was getting frustrated with the encounters. There’s nothing about the The Conduit as a shooter that hasn’t been done before and done better. But the good gunplay makes it enjoyable to play through at least once. The missions can feel repetitive and most of the gameplay is eliminating hordes of continuously spawning enemies with below average intelligence. But if you like to shoot things with cool firepower, and want to do it on the Wii, The Conduit delivers and it proves to be fun.

I would recommend The Conduit to fans of shooters. To be clear, it is not the best shooter of its generation or close to it. Compared to its contemporaries on the other systems, it’s very average. But as a first-person shooter designed for the Wii, it’s pretty good and it’s the gunplay that carries it. As of this review, you can find copies for pretty cheap which is another reason why I’d recommend it. For under twenty bucks, it’s definitely worth checking out.

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