Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Review: The Conduit

Platform: Wii

Players: 1 (up to 8 online)

Rating: Teen (Blood, Mild Language, Violence)

Developer: High Voltage Software

Publisher: SEGA

Since this review is going live on July 4th, it's only fitting to do a "patriotic" game.  There's really not many examples of "modern" patriots in gaming.  Save, of course, for Michael Ford.

The Conduit centers around a Secret Service agent named Michael Ford.  Ford stands as the only human who knows the truth about what really happened to DC during "the event."  People went missing, fell ill, the nation was in panic mode.  Ford reports to an operative named Mr. Adams, who tasks for with missions pertaining to a terrorist known only as Morpheus.  After a string of missions pursuing Morpheus, Adams betrays Ford and leaves him to die.  At this point, the game takes a cliched "who do you trust?" turn and Ford begins pursuing Adams instead.  The story reeks of B-movie cliches and tired writing.  In some ways, that's actually kind of good.  By making the writing as cheesy as it is, The Conduit nudges its way into the "so bad it's good" territory.  Even so, don't go into this game expecting an epic storyline.  It doesn't exist.

On top of the story line, the game design is bland, too.  Enemy characters seem stuck in the late 90's.  The stand out in the wide open, no cover, and shoot aimlessly in Ford's direction.  Sure, sometimes they hit, but overall the AI leaves much to be desired.  Players will use a device called the "All-Seeing Eye" to open doors, find secrets, and solve puzzles.  While this may break the monotony for a little bit, by the end, most players will just be glad to be done with them.

The best use of the All-Seeing Eye, however, was uncovering hidden messages spread throughout the stages.  Messages like, "you aren't paranoid, you're right" and "Area 51 and the Bay of Pigs incident were flukes" pop up sporadically throughout the game.  Some of them reference well known conspiracy theories, others reference the work of The Trust, the insidious shadow organization pulling the puppet strings in the background.  It's a neat idea, but doesn't really add to the replay value in the long run.

The only multiplayer in The Conduit is online.  Up to 8 players can battle it out in deathmatch, team dethmatch, or capture the flag.  Players can vote on weapon sets, tailored to themes like "small arms," "explosive weapons," and the like.  There used to be a decent community, though now it's largely populated by hackers and gltichers, so it's not anywhere near as fun as it used to be.  Nintendo has not been anywhere near as stringent on combating cheaters as other games.  It's kind of sad, too.

If there's one thing that The Conduit does right, it's the controls.  High Voltage did absolutely everything right with The Conduit and made the controls completely customizable.  No, really.  Go into the control menus.  Every button can be reassigned.  Everything in the user interface can be moved to wherever the user wants.  Does that grenade display annoy you in the upper left? move it to the upper right!  Are the subtitles too low on the screen?  Move them to the top.  The amount and depth of customization is something that all AAA shooters should have implemented a long time ago.  Of course, with this level of customization comes a bit of toll.  Players need to spend time fiddling with the controls in order to find their sweet spot.  Once that point is found, go nuts.  But some people will want to pick up and go, which is fine.  But the best possible experience comes from experimenting to find one's perfect spot.

Back when The Conduit came out in 2009, IGN called it "the best shooting game on the Wii."  In a sense, It kind of is.  There are few shooters on the Wii, even fewer first person shooters, and even fewer that aren't Call of Duty.  The Conduit was ambitious then, and it's still regarded in that sense.  Did it stumble along the way? Absolutely.  There were a lot of things that could have been improved upon.  But it's still a fun game, quirks and all.  It's worth at least a playthrough or two.

Also, as a reminder to my readers, Submit your questions for Treasure Bin's first Ask Me Anything, coming August 1. Have a happy 4th, and enjoy the fireworks!

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