Conduit 2 – hands-on

For Wii-owning hardcore gamers, the original Conduit was a shining beacon of serious first-person shootiness amongst a dark sea of casual party games. Yes, there have been other straight-laced FPSes for the Wii, but even then only a few of them have been better than mediocre. Conduit 2 (dropping the “The” from the title as it would sound a bit clumsy) will be returning to show that the Wii can indeed be a home for games designed for gamers. For those who haven’t kept tabs, the Conduit universe features a Washington, D.C.-based conspiracy that escalates into an alien invasion, with the player employing both conventional and alien-tech weapons to shoot galactic foreigners in their mandible-adorned visages.

Conduit 2 picks up immediately after the end of the first game, with shadowy government agent Michael Ford having entered a conduit that leads… somewhere. The answer to the mystery is revealed right off the bat, although more questions arise. Ford arrives on an off-shore oil platform, which is connected to Atlantis. We don’t yet know the lore behind the game’s version of Atlantis, but we do know its function: a hub for launching missions through conduits. Conduit 2 aims to make its world much more open for player choice instead of the linear progression of the first game. Choices of missions lead on branching paths to unfold the central mystery.

Conduit 2, like its predecessor, looks exceptionally good for its platform’s limitations. Whereas the first game emphasized impressive visuals, Conduit 2 sets a precedent for Wii audio by rewriting the Wii’s library for DVD-quality sound. Now the world comes that much more alive with sounds intended to be the best on the system. It also has optimized the way it streams resources, allowing for more enemies and weapons, creating greater variety of challenges.

Weapons, of course, are the best and most critical part of any FPS, and the greater variety really shows here. We got to play with several new toys, with a focus on the sci-fi death-deliverers. One weapon is an actual living creature you lug around and stuff disgusting things into to reload. Anyone who’s played Resistance on the PS3 will recognize it as the Bullseye: it fires a rapid stream of bugs instead of bullets, and using the secondary fire mode launches a dart that “tags” an enemy, which then allows subsequent shots to follow said enemy. So, for instance, when we were dealing with a powerful alien lumbering toward us, we tagged it and then backed up around a corner, firing bugs out which swarmed around the corner and peppered our foe with impunity.

There’s also the Aegis gun, which collects and fires back bullets like the mech gun from District 9; there’s the X-ray sniper rifle like the Far Sight from Perfect Dark, and another gun that fires bullets that reflect off the scenery. It doesn’t stop there, though.How about a proximity mine launcher? Or the rapid-firing bolo gun? One of our favorites, though, has to be the stealth gun. In normal mode, it’s basically a normal rifle, but it heats up rapidly as you shoot. In the alternate mode, you turn invisible and the gun cools down. Fire too much, you overheat. Stay stealthed too long, you freeze. But of course, each mode alleviates the drawback of the other, providing a very tactical sneak-and-ambush minigame.

Interactions with the AI have become more complex and challenging. Enemies know when you’re aiming at them even before you fire, and so will side-step or take cover, making them slippery little bastards and much more interesting to fight than the aliens in the first game. Sometimes if you throw a sticky grenade on one, he’ll take the optimal route – a suicidal rush straight for you. There is also a second enemy faction that gets involved in the fighting, making for some three-way confrontations. A lot of these encounters are little side-vignettes that you can choose to participate in or not. You can sit back and watch aliens and humans blow each other away, or you can come stomping in and ruin all of their days.

Above: The ASE has been simplified based on player feedback so that's it's less intrusive to the story's pacing

The Conduit franchise doesn’t just rely on its sci-fi conspiracy single-player game to carry it, and the first game provided one of the most robust online multiplayer experiences for the Wii. Naturally, Conduit 2 plans to ratchet up just about everything that was great in the first Conduit. There will be four-player splitscreen and twelve-player online play. There will be a whopping fourteen different online modes, including the new Invasion mode which brings the ever popular Horde gameplay with players working together to fight off increasingly difficult waves of enemies. We don’t know the exact number of maps available, but we’re promised a ton of them, including favorites from the first game returning with spruced up visuals and designs. There will also be achievements and perks to earn, including custom loadouts that allow you to create your own look for your character.

Conduit 2 is currently set for a February 15, 2011 release, and with all this info to take in, we hope we get another chance to explore its giant list of improvements.

Dec 8, 2010

Matthew Keast
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.