When The Conduit released in 2009, I think everyone saw the untapped potential of the game. The game looked great, had an impressive multiplayer component and overcame the difficulty of using the Wii Mote and Nunchuck to aim by boasting one of the most customizable control schemes ever found in a console First Person Shooter. Unfortunately, it was bogged down by unvaried environments, corridor shooting that was found in shooters a decade ago and a very bland art style. High Voltage seems to have listened to the complaints of the first game and addressed almost all of them in Conduit 2 but is it enough?
Conduit 2 takes place right where the first game left off *Spoiler alert from the first game* with protagonist Michael Ford stepping into a conduit to chase after John Adams, the leader of the Trust, who is revealed to be cooperating with an invading alien force called the Drudge. *End spoilers* Unfortunately, the story in Conduit 2 is not that interesting or original and much of it is centered around this chase after Adams, although there were some twists that I won’t spoil for you.
The focus of the game is not in its story but centered around the action and there’s lots of it. The first game had very basic gameplay and although the controls were probably the most refined for an FPS on the Wii, most of the game mechanics felt dated. Like I said however, almost everything is improved upon in its sequel.
The bland corridors and generic interior levels are replaced with a much greater variety of environments ranging from an oil platform to Chinese architecture and a snow covered Siberia. While the levels are still linear in nature, they are much more open and because every level has a different art style, it keeps things interesting. You can tell High Voltage really spent time into making their art direction more unique this time around and it paid off. It also doesn’t hurt that once again, Conduit 2 trumps most third party games in the graphics department. It’s definitely one of the prettiest games on the rapidly aging Wii technology.
The game’s gimmick called the All Seeing Eye (ASE) makes a return in the sequel. The ASE acts almost like a visor that reveals hidden objects or collectables and allows you to hack terminals and doors to progress through the levels. It is now more intuitive in pointing you in the right direction because of this visor but it doesn’t play a huge part in the gameplay unless you’re looking for every collectable, which there are alot of.
And of course a shooter would not be much fun without guns and enemies to shoot. The guns vary alot and there is a nice selection ranging from standard military weapons to unique alien weapons such as the Phase Rifle that allows you to shoot through walls, the Hive Cannon that shoots exploding bugs, the Aegis Device that can capture incoming projectiles for you to launch back at enemies, the AR-C Eclipse that lets you turn invisible and more. These weapons are really fun to use and to add even more variety, each weapon has a secondary fire.
As for the enemies, one of the biggest complaints about the first game was the lack of different types. While it’s been improved upon in the sequel adding Trust agents that charge at you and a larger variety of Drudge aliens, it still feels like you’re shooting mostly the same enemies throughout the game. There is, however, a larger emphasis on boss fights and that is where the enemy design shines. These are huge, epic and memorable fights and was a great design decision to include these to break up the monotony of blasting through grunts.
To mix things up, you can now knock over certain objects for cover. While this does provide some variety, I would have liked to see more of these objects scattered throughout the levels as opportunities to use this mechanic is a little sparce. And while enemies can also create cover for themselves in the same way, the enemy AI in general is not that great. They’ll move and take cover but they’ll rarely (if ever) flank you or try to flush you out of cover with grenades. This makes the combat mostly amount to Time Crisis-like ducking and popping out to shoot before taking cover again. You can challenge yourself by using the Widow-Maker Turret or taking advantage of the AR-C Eclipse’s stealth mode but on the default difficulty setting, there really is no point when you can more easily abuse the poor AI. To make matters worse, the AI has an occasional problem with pathfinding and enemies sometimes get stuck behind cover allowing you to simply walk behind them. This isn’t an extremely common occurrence but it’s worth mentioning.
The writing and voice acting is also pretty bad from most of the cast but this is particularly true for protagonist Michael Ford. While a lot of the dialogue is meant to add humor and a touch of lightheartedness to the game, some of the one-liners are laughably cheesy and this combined with the poor voice acting really distracted me from the game at times.
The default controls can be a little finicky but luckily, the vast customization system from the first game returns here. You can set everything from the button layout, the reticule and turn sensitivities and the dead zones. I must say that because of all the things you can tweak, it will take a long time for you to find the exact settings you’re comfortable with but I urge anyone who plays this game to be patient and take the time to do it. Once you find your preferred settings, the game controls like a dream. Combined with the fun weaponry, even shooting basic grunts in the face is very satisfying.
The game supports either Wii Mote and Nunchuck or Classic Controller (/Pro) as control styles (there is no Game Cube controller support) but I highly recommend using the Wii Mote and Nunchuck even though you may be more comfortable with dual analog sticks. Because the game design itself is fun but nothing exceptional in the crowded FPS market, the sleek controls is the biggest draw for this game and you’d be doing yourself and the game an injustice by using a Classic Controller. Take the time to find your preferred sensitivities and button layout and stick with the Wii Mote and Nunchuck. By the time you get used to it, you won’t even think about using dual sticks to play this game. It really does add to the experience. I should also mention here that it also supports Wii Motion Plus for added accuracy but since I do not have the attachment, I could not try it.
While the story mode is short but a huge improvement over the first game, the real legs of this game is in its multiplayer. Conduit 2 is one of the strongest and most robust multiplayer offerings on the Wii. You have all your now standard multiplayer bullet-points like XP gaining, customizable characters, upgradeable equipment and perks. The game supports 12 player lobbies, includes 12 maps and multiple game modes ranging from standard Deathmatch to ASE Basketball. When you start up a private match, you can also adjust settings like health regeneration and gravity to create custom games.
In addition, the game supports 1-4 player split-screen, either competitively or in the new co-op mode called Invasion. Invasion is your typical Horde-like gametype where you and up to three other players co-operatively hold out against wave after wave of enemies. The multiplayer portion of the game is already extremely robust but this mode is just icing on the cake.
All in all, Conduit 2 is a solid FPS, a huge improvement over its predecessor and definitely one of the best FPS on the Wii. Unfortunately, when you enter the saturated FPS market, it’s not enough anymore to simply be good. You need to be great just to get noticed and while Conduit 2 is a valiant effort, it’s not enough to stand out from its competitors if you play First Person Shooters on other platforms. However, if you only own a Wii and are looking for a solid campaign and a fantastic multiplayer experience then look no further.
And be sure to check out our interview with High Voltage Software‘s Keith Hladik.
Conduit 2 was released on April 19th, 2011.