July 7, 2009

The Conduit: A Review

Simply put, The Conduit just works.

I've heard a lot of things about The Conduit, and I've read a lot of reviews. I try to tune them out. For the most part, The Conduit has gotten positive press. I would say that the game is all that it ever promised to be and has lived up to my expectations. I've seen a lot of people making comparisons to other games; saying it's simply not as good as Halo or Killzone. That's not the point. The Conduit isn't trying to be that type of game. It never was, and it seems like people only expected it to be after it was finally released. It has also, however, been compared to such classics as Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. Is this a bad thing? Were those not superb games?

It seems like people's gripe with The Conduit is that it's style is oldschool. I'm fine with that. In fact, I can basically pick apart every complaint I've read about the game:
  • It's a linear game where the objective is to get from point A to point B while killing everything in between. If I'm not mistaken, isn't that the objective of all FPS games?
  • There is not enough enemy variety. How many enemies do you expect? All the bases are covered. There are at least 10 different enemies, both alien and human. You have small enemies that melee, enemies that heal, enemies that blow up, ones that fly, your basic foot soldiers, as well as larger enemies.
  • Environments are not destructible. Is that really a necessity, and were you honestly expecting it?
  • Levels are repetitive and sometimes boring. How many shooters have levels that aren't?
  • The story is generic and predictable. They often are, aren't they?
Overall, I find the game's criticisms unfounded. The game plays like a mix of Halo and Gears of War. IGN states that the game contains "Run and gun, enemy spawners, and little else." How can you criticize a game for containing the basic elements of two of the most successful shooters of all time? I just seems ludicrous to me. Rather than criticizing the game, I would compare it to Halo in a positive way. I think the two games are very much similar. Putting Halo 2 and 3 aside for a moment, let's think back to the first game. It contained four Covenant enemies and three Flood forms. That's seven enemies. Nobody seemed to care. They were having too much fun. In Halo, Cortana would give you orders to 'go here' or 'do this' and you would have to kill everything along the way. Nobody seemed to care. They were having too much fun. The environments were not destructible, but nobody cared because they were having too much fun. Were the levels sometimes repetitive and boring? Extremely at times, but people loved the game anyway. People are heavily criticizing the story of The Conduit, yet I don't see a problem with it. I think what they're really complaining about is that it's open-ended and leaves room for a sequel. Not everything will always be explained or included the first time around. Patience is a virtue. I will say this, however: the game has two major plot twists- the first I saw coming from a mile away; the second... was actually pretty surprising. The game even has a Halo 2-esque ending to it. Even the plot for Gears of War was downright bad, but everyone enjoyed the game just as much and it was a million seller. Speaking of Gears, The Conduit employs a mechanic like Gears of War in which you must kill all the enemies and destroy their spawners to advance. Everyone seemed to love it in Gears, but suddenly, in The Conduit, it's archaic? Give me a break.

There are four areas where you will never hear anyone complaining about The Conduit: visuals, audio, weapons, and controls. The visuals are the creme of the crop for a Wii title. In fact, they're pretty good in general. They would really be up there were it not for the mostly generic landscapes. Characters, weapons, and animations look top notch. The game even has motion blur. Screenshots don't really do the visuals justice. You have to see them in motion. The audio is also excellent when it comes to music, effects, and voice acting. I have a slight gripe that the game has no cutscenes, but rather conversations in between levels. They're kind of like the codec conversations from Metal Gear Solid.

The weapons are plentiful and, though I've never played Resistance, are some of the coolest I've ever used in an FPS. They're categorized into Human, Drudge, and Trust. The human weapons are your standard-fare machine guns, pistols, rifles, and rocket launchers. I appreciate the absence of a sniper. The Drudge weapons up the ante, however. Almost all of them provide some sort of alternate charge up fire. A few make use of the remote in creative ways, as well. The hive cannon's spray of explosive bugs, for example, can be changed from a straight stream to a wide spray by twisting the remote. Likewise, the shrieker's ammo can be guided by your aiming reticule. Trust weapons are pretty intense. They're all electric/ energy weapons that are all fun to use and can turn enemies into a pile of dust. The game also employs a feature in which you can use you're All Seeing Eye device (more on that in a moment) to uncover 'prototype' weaponry. These are the strongest weapons in the game but have a limited amount of non-replaceable ammo. There is a pistol that, hands down, beats Halo's. The ASE is used for puzzle solving and, while most people complain it's under-utilized, I think it's utilized wrong. The thing beeps when a secret or danger is nearby. That takes the fun out of discovering these things for yourself.

The controls, as you probably know, are fully customizable. FULLY. As in, everything is customizable just about any way you can think of. In fact, you can even alter the running speed, turning radius, aiming, HUD placement and transparency, and more. If Halo revolutionized FPS games on consoles, and motion control is the next big thing, I think The Conduit has just done it again. Personally, I found the default layout to be quite adequate with some slight adjustment to aiming and turning, but the option is there if you need it.

The game also features online multiplayer. It's the best on the Wii. It plays quite like Halo, actually, with a few key differences. First, it's free. Second, I seemed to simply jump into a game already in progress after choosing a general game type (free for all, team, or objective). Each type has several subtypes within it, but they can't be chosen pre-game. Players can vote on the gametype, weapons set, and level prior to the match loading (within a 60 second period) and the game will load up whatever won in each category. There's options to play with friends (you need your code- but luckily the game tells it to you right there), play with people in your area, or play with people around the world. I don't have any friends, so I attempted to jump into a worldwide game. Mistake. The game found players and loaded up but my character was stuck in a void and wouldn't move. So, I tried local. Much better results. Games ran smoothly for the most part. My character would freeze up upon occasion, but it played smooth otherwise. My one gripe is the lack of level options. There aren't that many and probably will never be more. There also didn't seem to be many weapons scattered about the levels. People just seemed to play with whatever default guns were in the weapon set.

The biggest problem I have with the game is that it's too short. It took me about five hours to complete on the default setting. Luckily, there are multiple difficulty levels and unlockables. Don't be fooled simply because it's a Wii game because it gets tough fast- especially when enemies keep spawning and attacking you and you want to take out the spawner but you can't because of the invisible mine in front of you that you can't blow up because you need the ASE but it leaves you defenseless against the onslaught of enemies that you can't stop because you need to blow up the respawner that you can't get to because... well, you get the idea. The game includes unlockable art galleries and even achievements, though they don't count for gamerscore like they do on Xbox. Certain ones will, however, unlock cheats giving you incentive for another playthrough.

At the end of the day, The Conduit is more like Halo than people want to admit. I've read some crazy reviews of this game. Some say that if the Wii is your only game system and you're looking for an FPS you won't be disappointed. Problem is, if the Wii is your only game system, chances are you're not into this kind of stuff. Others say that if you own an Xbox or PS3, you won't find much to like here. Don't believe it. I own an Xbox which I enjoy very much, but nothing on Xbox can give me the kind of experience I get from playing The Conduit. The game is damn immersive. I forget I'm even playing it on a Wii. The controls are that tight and the game looks that good. I wish I could play more FPS games with a remote and nunchuck because that's my new preference and, quite possibly, the new gold standard.

Visuals: 9- The Quantum 3 engine is brilliant.
Controls: 10- Any Wii FPS in the future with less will be considered inferior.
Gameplay: 9- Does the job for me. It's oldschool, and I like it.
Sound: 9.5- Great voice acting, soundtrack, and effects.
Replay Value: 8- Multiplayer will last you longer than campaign, but there's also reason to play through again.
Overall: 9/10

Final Thought: One of the best games on Wii, the best FPS on Wii, and a damn good FPS in it's own right.

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