If you’re reading this than we’ll assume you’re a seasoned gamer who knows his or her shit. As such, you’d be completely within your right to say that most third party Wii developers have all but abandoned fulfilling the needs of traditional gamers, and left the console an exclusive dumping grounds of dog-and-pony fashion shows, talking candy, and Majesco.
Above: Killing Mama
But remember: The Wii had always promised a different experience, one free of complicated button interfaces and the latest processers, so as to melt our faces off with something we’ve never seen before. Like it or not Johnny Hardcore, Nintendo has - to some extent - delivered on that promise. However, there was an indirect assurance made towards a specific genre that has gone woefully unfulfilled.
Not only had the Wii Remote and Nunchuk seemed poised to revitalize the console First-Person Shooter, some of us thought this was our chance to finally tell the PC mouse-and-keyboarders to STFU… Yet here we stand nearly three years later with nothing but a single FPS worth recommending and that genre seemingly having thrown in the towel. Then, there was Conduit.
“It’s pretty good… for a Wii game.” That’s a qualifier we’re sick of hearing, yet one that’s nearly impossible to escape when talking traditional Wii offerings. Luckily, it’s one we don’t really need to apply to here, since Sega and High Voltage appear to have nominated themselves as the Wii’s hardcore torchbearers. It feels great to say it: The Conduit is fun, controls well, and is, at times, quite beautiful… yes, for a Wii game.
Sure, the environments may come courtesy of the architectural design firm of Brown, Gray, and Blocky, but there are certain visual elements that can almost, sorta, kinda, trick you into thinking you’re playing a 360 game in standard def. The All-Seeing Eye for instance, the omniscient flashlight you use to unlock doors and reveal secrets, embodies textures and lighting effects just detailed enough so as not to let one get away with calling it “last-gen.” Additionally, of the healthy portion of weaponry, the alien variety in particular pops with bursts of luminescent beauty and advanced particle effects.
Same goes for (the handful of) enemies. Both humans and alien drones are animated with competent physics and personality that puts High Voltage Software’s Quantum3 engine outside the realm of the “GameCube 1.5” criticisms. Of course, you too will have plenty of time to notice such detail, since unfortunately enemies also react with relatively stupid AI, somewhat unbecoming of next-gen shooters.
Yeah, baddies will mostly sit there and take the hit, yet it almost feels like it’s a balance struck while attempting to wade players into what’s still a remarkably new frontier of controls. Oh, in case you’re not familiar with how to control an FPS with a Wii Remote, it’s all about "The Dead Zone."
Above: How The Conduit works
Instead of a mouse or right analog stick, you’ve got an invisible border on screen. Once you’re reticule moves beyond that perimeter, the screen dynamically shifts your perspective in the direction your crosshairs are headed. In hallways this works fine… In open areas, not so much. Fortunately, the game is linearly designed with that shortcoming in mind. We’d say it takes a while to get the hang of, but it doesn’t. Especially if you’re willing to tinker, since the dead zone is just one of the many things that is yours to adjust!
Stuff that sucks about reviewing games #475: You jot down a poignantly hilarious aside, heroically skewering a game for a specific fault… then you check the menu and realize that it’s optional/adjustable and you look like an asshole for not being thorough. The book hasn’t been written on how Wii FPSs should work, so The Conduit leaves you free tailor the interface to your specific liking.
Above: Our Nation's phallus... those fiends!
Adjust reticule sensitivity, increase player’s run speed, toggle the dead zone – you’re bound to find a control scheme that suits you no matter how meaty and unsightly that thing you call a hand may be. So while we hardly consider the D-pad optimal for weapon selections, quick turns and sniper zooms, at least The Conduit gave us options. Even your HUD is yours to choreograph or even dismiss altogether.
Above: GR's custom interface - not recommended!
Single-player features some pretty stellar voice work in a shell of rather vanilla conspiratorial intrigue, but that’s probably not what has so many of you interested. To be fair, just about any multiplayer that actually works is going to look pretty damned good on a system consistently starved for it, but Conduit’s still a cut above. The matches we played a few weeks back were both lag free and quick to load - basically nowhere near as horrid just about any other online Wii game ever made. Jump in, jump out – no friend codes required.
Above: Oh, you’d better believe there’s Bio-Nodes!
With its own spin on Free-for-all, Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, and Capture the Flag, Conduit’s got online options for days and days. Our favorite, Bounty Hunter, was quite unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. You’re basically charged with killing a specific player, and penalized for killing anyone else. Watching 12 players frantically scramble about trying not to kill one another is truly one of the more interesting modes we’ve ever seen.
Above: Finally, you get to use Wii Speak for something other than teaching a Raccoon to fish
But we don’t review games in a vacuum. The truth is you probably wouldn’t bat an eye at The Conduit had it appeared on PC, PS3 or Xbox 360. But there are millions of Wii owners out there starved for a classic FPS experience, and it’s beyond fair to say that hardcore hopes ride high upon the game’s success. The scores will undoubtedly differ, but rest assured we all want see the Wii become a system where traditional genres proliferate even if we can’t reflect that in the score. So, taking a page from The Conduit itself, we’re giving you the option to adjust our review score:
That leaves a possibility of an unprecedented 12 score! You go, Conduit!
Is it better than...?
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Nah. The controls are on par, but the lifeless corridors of Washington DC have nothing on the cosmic scope of ‘Troid. There’s just more to do in Nintendo’s FPS, and most of it is more interesting, even without multiplayer. Worst of all, The Conduit didn’t have presence of mind to launch its franchise into our hearts two decades ago. Shame!
Of course! Built on a promise, Red Steel was essentially a game designed on spec that failed to deliver due to technology it didn’t yet understand. Motion controlled shots are leagues ahead of this forgettable launch title. Even if the sequel rights previous wrongs, it’s still pretty astounding what The Conduit pulled off without Wii Motion Plus.
Killzone 2/Halo 3
Just for you, Metacritic!
Few developers bother to utilize Nintendo’s aging guts and motion controls to churn out exclusive, traditional content, and fewer still refine that into anything resembling a meaningful experience. The solid, yet unremarkable single-player won’t win any awards, but The Conduit still features the most finely honed online outings available on Wii, thus making it supremely worthy of our third highest score. We can’t wait to see what else the Quantum 3 engine has in store.
Jun 23, 2009