The Conduit
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-06-27 Wii FPS T (Teen) High Voltage Software / Sega

The most hardcore of Wii owners have been begging for an equally hardcore Wii FPS experience for years, and while The Conduit does offer FPS gameplay (including 12-player, Wii Speak compatible multiplayer), it is in no way the beacon of light we were all hoping for.

The story in The Conduit is a predictable take on the standard "aliens invading the earth" formula. Special Agent Michael Ford has been drafted by a secret government organization which may or may not be run by saboteurs to stop the aliens and defeat a terrorist named Prometheus who is apparently behind a disease that is infecting the population, but might really be on your side.

Gameplay is entirely linear and broken into less than a dozen missions (each of which can be completed in less than an hour) that take you through various Washington D.C. landmarks: the White House, the Library of Congress and so on. However, the graphical design here leaves much to be desired, as once you've seen one room inside a building, you've seen them all.

The same nondescript bookshelves, tattered draperies, and knocked about furniture populate the majority of every above-ground environment you'll play through, while underground sewers have the same linear "finish one room before moving onto the next" pattern, allowing for virtually no in-depth environmental exploration, other than standing around listening to police chatter on radios in each level. The foreground details, however, are of a fairly high quality for a Wii game, especially when discussing the various species of aliens or large variety of weapons Ford has at his disposal.

Missions are introduced via radio communication between Ford and whoever is helping him at the time - the voice acting here is decent, but bordering on the over-dramatic - there are no cutscenes (at least not in the standard definition of the word), and you are never given a substantial introduction to any character, including Ford. In fact, the game's manual tells you more about Ford in a single paragraph than the entirety of gameplay does. Instead of fleshing out both characters and the conspiracy-filled story, you are simply thrown into a game of cat-and-mouse as one or more agencies seem to forever be one step ahead of your progress.

The Conduit utilizes both the nunchuck and the Wii Remote, with the analog stick allowing you to control Ford's movement throughout an environment, while simply pointing at the screen with the Wii-Remote allows you to aim (pull B to fire).

Another button to become familiar with is +, which by default controls Ford's ASE or All Seeing Eye, a handy floating orb with an advanced flashlight beam that can expose alien technology implanted on walls or placed on tables, detonate mines from afar, hack man-made technology, translate alien text and more.

While the standard controls for basic character movement and weapons fire are quite fluid, the aiming system is hindered by the incredibly frustrating camera. As both camera control and aiming with the reticule are controlled by pointing the Wii Remote at the screen, the game creates an invisible border around the outside of the screen, which, once pointed at, allows you to move the camera in a 360 degree fashion.

However, when you are moving the camera, the aiming reticule is no longer accessible. While this isn't a cause for concern in an empty corridor, when you are being ambushed by a dozen foes from all directions, including those coming from areas within (or behind, if you prefer) the invisible border on your screen, it creates a real level of frustration and anxiety as you are forced to stop everything and move the camera so that the targets are in the center of the screen before you can resume your attacks. Meanwhile, your enemies are filling you with lead or slashing at you with their claws.

What's more, when activating a melee attack, you are asked to make a stabbing motion with the Wii-mote towards the screen, which, in theory, causes Ford to pistol whip, nudge or otherwise maim any character within arm's reach, but by doing so, the reticule flies off into the stratosphere, and you are once again left helpless as you spasm in the corner looking at either the ceiling or the floor, trying to discern which way is up and where all of those bullets are coming from.

Just as you can control the button mapping to suit your own needs, you can also control the camera sensitivity, but it's really easy to make things worse before they get better, as making the pointer either too sensitive or not sensitive enough comes with its own set of drawbacks. Either your pointer will fly by enemies at the speed of sound, forcing you to miss shots altogether, or it will creep at a snail's pace, allowing enemies to pick you off before you can even fire a shot.

Other customization options concern the HUD, which is by default adequate, but can be tweaked to place any of the basic information (weapon picture and ammo count, health bar and so on) wherever you see fit on the screen, and the ability to change Ford's running speed, among other more technical options (sound volume, brightness, etc.). Altogether, the sheer amount of customization available in the game is staggering, but most potential changes are fairly inconsequential.

With the months of hype leading up to The Conduit's release, I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed by the final product. With a better storyline and more attention to the camera control system, the game might have lived up to the hype, but as it stands, The Conduit is simply average from beginning to end.

Special thanks to Kyla Keefe and Sega for providing a copy of this title.