For: Nintendo Wii
From: High Voltage Software/Sega
ESRB Rating: Teen (blood, mild language,
By Billy O'Keefe
"The Conduit's" visual aptitude has been the source of buzz since the game's unveiling, but a Wii game best known for its graphics is like a baseball player who leads the minor leagues in hitting. If it's going to stand out among a sea of gorgeous, full-featured Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 first-person shooters, "The Conduit" needs more than just the best graphics on its platform to stick around.
That's where the game's attention to movement swoops in. "Metroid Prime" and "Medial of Honor"
already illustrated how uniquely cool a Wii first-person shooter can feel, and "The Conduit" drives the point home. Motions made with the Wii remote skillfully translate to the onscreen character's handling of the game's guns. The default settings are spot-on with respect to turning sensitivity and differentiating your character's head and hand movements, and a laundry list of adjustable
settings gives players who disagree a foolproof degree of on-the-fly fine-tuning. Under optimum settings, it feels great — neither necessarily better nor worse than the traditional controller method, but unique in a way that makes for a fun, divergent experience.
The attention to movement, as it happens, saves "The Conduit" from the rest of itself, which otherwise suffers from a severe lack of identity and some common missteps that would be less forgivable in a more traditional shooter.
Nothing about the storyline is particularly bad: It's entirely sufficient, with good voice acting and a plot that takes us through some cool environments. But nothing about what happens is particularly extraordinary, either, and most of it results in the same enemies attacking you in increasingly familiar waves. The game's looks, while certainly nice by Wii standards, aren't pretty enough to hide these bouts of repetition.
But the most glaring of "The Conduit's" issues lies in its enemy A.I., which ranges from indifferent to relentless with very little in between. Enemy soldiers occasionally take cover, but they're more likely to just stand still and let you unload. Some of the game's other enemies, conversely, pounce at you and keep coming until you find and destroy the conduit from whence they came.
The massive discrepancy between A.I. leads to a similar rift in difficulty, with cakewalk sequences punctuated by instances that just feel cheap.
But it bears repeating that the unique control scheme makes these issues more forgivable than they normally would be. Disappointing though some of "The Conduit's" facets are, it's still fun to play a shooter this way, and until it becomes a more common experience, this suffices.
That goes as well for the online multiplayer (12 players). It breaks zero ground, and the Friend Code system remains a bummer. But it works and, free of those A.I. issues, it's pretty fun. In a nice (and depressingly unusual) touch, "The Conduit" supports the Wii Speak microphone, though whether anyone will bother hooking one up anymore remains to be seen.
(c) 2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.