The Conduit is filled with cheese.
Preface: As with the original game, I’ve elected to spend additional time with Conduit 2 to provide the most complete and informed opinion as possible of its quality. I believe that this is the type of game which requires a good deal of time investment and exploration (in online multiplayer) before a conclusion can be drawn about its merits. As such, after roughly two weeks of play (and following an inconveniently dead Wii and some lost data), I now present my conclusions.
Not all of us press-types were in love with The Conduit, but I, for one, was impressed by its shameless sense of ambition. Having suffixed plenty of sentences of my own with the ubiquitous “for a Wii game” qualifier, it was nice to witness a first step toward what seemed like remediation—headlined by better than adequate pointer-based FPS controls, relatively impressive visuals, and online play that didn’t seem like it was born of a mid-nineties-era PC game.
This guy is actually one of the most interesting parts of the single-player
Alas, in spite of its first-mover advantages, the game truly wasn’t anywhere close to perfect. Had it released on a different console, it most assuredly would have been overlooked, dwarfed by the ever-present big-budget giants of the industry. Its single-player mode was lacking at best—most often tedious—overflowing with infinitely-spawning ankle-biting nuisances and countless invisible object scavenger hunts that were enough to make you check the trade-in values at Amazon. It was prone to occasional lockups, and the laggy (albeit competent) online play—while certainly great fun—really only flourished as a result of its complete lack of competition from anywhere else within the little white console’s library.
Conduit 2 promised to change all of this. With a revamped single-player formula, enhanced precision via Wii MotionPlus, and an even better online mode, it seemed as though it might be the shooter to top. However, apart from a number of notable improvements, the unfortunate truth is that the franchise’s progress has lagged behind that of the rest of the industry—even within the Wii market, where EA’s GoldenEye 007 recently took top marks as the console’s best shooter to date.
As with the first game, Conduit 2 features both single and multiplayer modes. The control scheme is still just as versatile and customizable as it ever was, and the precision is only enhanced (seriously) by Wii MotionPlus if you’ve got it. Also like the first game, the single-player adventure is mostly lame. Continuing the story of likely hero Michael Ford and his hyper-intelligent alien accomplice, Prometheus (who speaks to us through the sci-fi metal ball known as the All-Seeing Eye), the adventure is about as run-of-the-mill as the paint-by-numbers protagonist himself.
Granted, some major improvements have been made. For starters, you’ll find significant refinements in the way of gameplay—such as the removal of the reviled ghost mines and mostly optional ASE puzzles (thank you HVS)—which make the entire trip more palatable. The art style has also been given greater attention this time, leading to starkly contrasted environments ranging from ocean-locked oil derricks to snowy Siberian hills (hello, GoldenEye) and even the depths of Atlantis (lawl—but we’ll get to that in a moment)—thankfully more diverse than last game’s Washington D.C.-fest.
But the gripes are overwhelming. The first big issue with Conduit 2’s campaign is that it’s quite short. It personally took me around six hours total, though some players report having completed it in around half that (I’m not entirely sure how that’s possible). There are only several different environments/missions to explore, and most of them translate to nothing more than the oft-referenced “nicely-decorated hallways” of vintage FPS yore. This is unfortunate if for no other reason than that it seemed by all initial accounts as though the sequel would outdo the predecessor in the realm of longevity.
But there is one area in which Conduit 2 most certainly does top its forebear: laughs. Whether it’s intentional or not, the game features some of the most asinine storytelling and affiliated presentation of any half-serious game in recent memory. Half-serious? Heck, to be honest, I’m not entirely convinced that’s even an accurate adjective. See, the game’s ideas are most assuredly ludicrous, but the way it’s presented, it almost seems as though the shift to comedic undertones was decided on in the eleventh hour. And I’m not positive that even many of the voice actors knew of this approach. High Voltage Jon St. Johns it up for Michael Ford’s character (think Duke Nukem), which is already silly enough, but nothing comes close to the ridiculous storyline.
Dudes in the helicopter wanting to get shot
I’ll just say this (spoiler alert!): super-generic Michael Ford partners up with some hateful chick in the depths of Atlantis who opens portals to various places around the world on his behalf. You don this slick (also super-generic) space marine-looking Halo suit, even though you’re chasing some (also super-generic) business-like dude, with all the underpinnings of a manipulative G-man (per Half Life), but none of the sophistication and mysteriousness. He’s actually an alien too (surprise!). In fact, the game takes it so far as to insinuate that most world leaders were the product of alien control. And just in case you weren’t 100% on board with its allegations, once you take down the final boss (aforesaid alien business dude), none other than American legend Abraham Lincoln walks out of a portal in a space marine suit of his own, ready to rock some presidential ass. Oh yes, I am for real.
So anyway, yeah, it’s insane. What’s the most logical response, then? Perhaps YouTube the single-player ending and launch right into multiplayer.
Well, at least, that would be a good idea… only problem is, venturing through the single-player campaign once (or, God forbid, multiple times) earns you currency and extra bonuses for multiplayer (power-ups and perks, etc.). And, as you might have guessed, literally everyone other than you online has already done this. So the scales are actually completely uneven until you suffer through the story mode—and that’s really the only way to level the playing field (after which the level-gaining XP further enhances your options).
Apart from that minor niggle, multiplayer (in a fortunate divergence from single player) is quite a lot of fun. Joining games is generally pretty smooth, and while some occasional lag does apply, the matches are mostly problem-free. In a nice improvement over its predecessor, Conduit 2 now provides the developers the option of patching the game—one of the first times we’ve seen anything like that on the storage-challenged Wii. So it’s less likely that we’ll encounter any widespread corruption in the realm of hacking like we did with The Conduit (which essentially ruined its online appeal after long enough).
You’ll find twelve total maps, three returning from The Conduit and the remaining nine of which are new. The mode selection is different as well: you basically choose between either Free-For-All or Team (and Hardcore or not) and then the game pulls modes from a so-called “grab bag”. The two which are randomly selected for that particular match are then voted on by the participants, and the winning mode is selected. So there’s no way to play just one particular mode in multiplayer—you’re forced to try and enjoy nearly all of them.
As such, this also means that there’s no way to disable objective-based gameplay in multiplayer. In other words, if you’re just here to shoot at people all traditional-like, you might be annoyed by the unavoidable complexity. Plus, those who would rather not play by the mandated rules simply end up disregarding them, which just makes the game not as fun for those who actually want them. Ideally, Deathmatch Mode would be separate from Objective Mode—something which would entirely correct the problem. It’s not clear to what extent the game patching can be used to change what’s already been finished, but if it’s possible, it’d be great to see an update for this in the future.
As for the list of other improvements (some of which also apply to single-player), all of the weapons of the first game make a return, plus some fresh ones as well (of course). New secondary functions/enhancements have been added for for all weapons (such as the TPC Launcher’s proximity grenades or any number of newly-added aim-down-sights functions), and there’s also some pretty sweet loadouts and perks. Depending on how you feel about the latter, you may find it irritating that some of the combinations provide some pretty cheap results—but that’s all part of the formula, so just know what you’re getting yourself into.
Y halo thar
You’ll also find control points, which come in three flavors: speed, health, and damage. Stand near one for long enough to gain control and you’ll find yourself rewarded in any of those three areas for as long as your ownership of it persists. Should you end up getting killed (and surely you won’t), you can choose from between four different preconfigured loadouts for when you respawn. These types of amenities may be taken for granted in most big-budget FPS games, but it’s nice to see it coming to the Wii finally for those of us who want to enjoy some pointer-based competition once in a while.
Finally, there’s also some split-screen multiplayer available, and it includes a special mode called Invasion, which is essentially your conventional “shoot till you drop” infinite swarm mode. It’s fun, and the split-screen multiplayer as a whole is a good option for those who still have access to friends in close proximity.
Weighing all of these pros and cons together points to one of the best first-person shooters on an otherwise admittedly starving console, though there are pluses and minuses to consider when choosing between this and GoldenEye. Be sure to check out my review of that as well for more specifics on what works well in both games.