Though the Wii is certainly a good console in many respects, it isn’t exactly the go-to gaming machine for fans of original first-person shooters. Although it houses ports of popular FPS titles from other systems and does have some worthwhile titles in the genre, it really lacks a signature series. This is the problem that High-Voltage Software was attempting to solve in making The Conduit and its new and improved sequel, Conduit 2. It’s true that Conduit 2 is a shooter that’s easy to like, with good controls, piles of options, impressive graphics, and the ability to not take itself too seriously, but its numerous flaws stop it from becoming the title Wii owning FPS fans have been waiting for.
Conduit 2 aims to be a top-notch sci-fi shooter, complete with bug-like extraterrestrial weapons, shiny alien settings, a convoluted and slightly inconsequential storyline, and armies of space monsters and soldiers involved in, of course, a far-reaching conspiracy for the power suited Michael Ford to fight. On the surface, all of this is done fairly well, particularly in the single-player campaign. The story is interesting, if not a bit silly, and the weapons you loot from the quickly disappearing bodies of your foes, both human and alien, provide you with fun and interesting ways to explode everything that dares step within ten feet of your path. The game also goes beyond expectations by providing piles of options for players to fiddle with, ranging from the ability to choose the minute details of the control scheme to the ability to scoot things around on the HUD until even the most OCD gamer is satisfied with the layout.
As nice as all of this is, however, Conduit 2 has some problems that are very difficult to ignore. One of these issues is with the game’s difficulty level, which is incredibly uneven. In some spots, including certain boss battles, you can get hit with a massive attack and then stand in place, waiting to recover, as the enemy regains its bearings, while in others, swarms of incredibly fast enemies mob you, chipping away at your health from all sides as you run directly into another stream of their persistent brethren. Multiple difficulty levels are available upon every continue, but they don’t really make much difference. Whether your enemy takes one bullet or twenty to kill, being surrounded and constantly outrun is extremely difficult to deal with, particularly in some of the game’s more confusing and difficult to navigate areas.
It’s easy to complain about a game’s uneven difficulty, but Conduit 2 suffers much more from the fact that it’s loaded with bugs, both big and small. Glitches in the sound, such as syllables that repeat on an endless loop until the game is restarted, and the common sight of an enemy flailing while stuck in a wall are both irritating, but easy to overlook. However, those are far from the biggest problems present. In some situations, the autosave system will save in a spot where your character is dying, leading to an endless loop of instant deaths that are stuck to the save file, forcing gamers to start over. The menu is also prone to freezing, with system restarts required to get anything about the game, including the Wii’s controllers, back in working order. While it is nice that High Voltage Software provides patches for Conduit’s 2 online multiplayer, these problems derail the single player campaign at worst and cause unnecessary frustration at best.
In multiplayer, things are a little less dire, provided that you play online. High Voltage Software provides patches that keep all of the standard multiplayer modes, including deathmatch, capture the flag, and several fancy variations on both, running very smoothly. The framerate is high, no glitches are present, and, at least during my play sessions, lag was not an issue at all. The game even attempts to search for players with an experience level that parallels your own, which, while not always successful, is at the very least a nice touch. All of this makes Conduit 2’s multiplayer fun and easy to recommend to Wii owners who want to hop online and start massacring faceless foes in a social setting. It is also noteworthy to mention that Conduit 2 is one of the few games to support the Wii USB headset; the original Conduit made use of the WiiSpeak peripheral.
Unfortunately, both the co-op and competitive offline multiplayer modes are saddled with the same issues as the offline single player campaign. While there is some fun to be had swearing at the game’s glitches and crashes with a group of close friends, when the top half of your screen turns seafoam green and your opponent starts floating and becomes paralyzed, it gets really tempting to put on your copy of Goldeneye 007 for a more reliable shooting experience.
As much as I’ve been complaining about the game’s general lack of polish, I do have to admit that this didn’t extend to the production values. The locales in Conduit 2 look excellent, with detailed landscapes and shiny sci-fi settings to traverse, and the enemy designs, particularly the alien ones, are well done and nicely presented. Some of the human characters do not fare nearly as well, sporting slightly awkward animations and strange facial expressions, but they don’t do much to detract from the game’s overall look. Conduit 2’s sound is even better, with sparse, but ominous music, sound effects that sound appropriately destructive, and a voice cast giving a goofy, but solid performance that really helps the game’s less than deadly serious sci-fi story along.
When playing Conduit 2, it’s difficult not to judge the game for what it is in the face of what it would have been with just a bit more bug testing. The frequent glitches, crashes, and spoiled save files seriously hinder gameplay, making it difficult to recommend this to anyone who intends to do much past the title’s online multiplayer modes. If you can ignore these problems, Conduit 2 is an entertaining FPS with nice graphics and a good sense of humor, but for me, that proved to be very difficult.