SummaryA much needed reprieve for Wii owning FPS lovers.
The GoodRecently I've had a bit of a change of heart. I used to be one of those irrational morons who would hate the Wii for absolutely no reason. I was one of those people who didn't perceive it as "hardcore" enough to scratch my gaming itch. All of this changed when I watched Nintendo's E3 conference in which Shigeru Miyamoto demonstrated the Skyward Sword. Was it the gameplay that changed my mind? Not particularly, was it the graphics of the next Zelda installment that changed my mind? No. In fact my change of heart had nothing to do with a game, it was Shigeru Miyamoto. He burst through that partition onto stage and demonstrated the game with such conviction and vitality. It was his smile. He was so happy at what he had helped to create. That man's happiness changed my mind. I was so bitter towards him for creating things that others didn't. What did I have to hate about a genuinely good, happy man who only wants people to enjoy themselves?. Then something kind of fell into place and all of the hate went away.
I had lumbered under the assumption that you could only game on the PS3 and the Xbox 360 for too long and so I went and traded in my PS3 and got myself a black Wii, a decision I am not regretting. To think I had been depriving myself of this console just makes me realize how silly I was to deny it.
So here I was, with my new Wii and a plethora of games to choose from. What better way to begin than with one of my favourite genres? The first person shooter. I followed the Conduit while it was in development and IGN were giving blow by blow coverage of its development. It seemed like a real winner with advanced graphics other games on the Wii lacked and a really customizable FPS experience. I picked this up along with a couple of other games and took it home to try it out.
The Conduit begins with a flashback that harkens to events encountered later in the game and acts as a nice little tutorial to introduce you to the fundamental dynamics the game relies on. You are introduced to destroying conduits (the titular portals that the insidious Drudge use to gate into the war zone D.C becomes), using the A.S.E and becoming familiar with the controls. After this the game begins in earnest and Ford (the protagonist) is placed several days in the past to the beginning of events.
When you begin the game you notice two things. To begin with the control is outstanding. You use the pointer to aim your reticule, this fluidity adds a degree of control over the whole experience like I have never encountered before in an FPS. The closest thing you could liken it to is using a mouse. The difference is using a mouse feels clinical, it feels like you're going through the motions positioning the cursor over an enemy, clicking the left button and firing ad naseum. The Wii remote being an extension of your arm making the experience more organic. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed you can lash out by thrusting the Wii remote forward to execute a melee attack and throwing grenades is accomplished by flicking the Nunchuck forward. If, for some reason, you're not comfortable with the default control scheme you can not only mix up the button configuration but the dead zone, or the invisible boundary that dictates when your view begins to rotate. You can also re-size your HUD, relocate elements or remove it completely. This kind of control over EVERY single element in an FPS is pretty much unheard of even in the most "hardcore" of experiences on other consoles. To put it bluntly, it's genius.
The second thing you notice when you begin the game is how good it looks. The texture work is vivid and smooth, some areas of the game seem so organic and realistic that it really impressed me. Character models and weapons are bump mapped competently, shining and shimmering while particle effects light up the screen in a dazzling display of high developmental standards. Even characters that aren't bump mapped are so well designed and animated that they will never fail to drop your jaw. Even the tiniest of incidental details like trees or piles of rubble or even cars have had the utmost detail packed into them to make the crumbling D.C around you seem as organic as possible. There is definitely room for improvement but the Conduit should be considered a design standard for Wii FPS in future.
The A.I is generally quite good, but isn't without its foibles. Enemies will try to flank you and will naturally go for cover. The Drudge opponents, who are armed with their own unique weapons will also use the secondary fire on their weapons which involves charging them before firing. Your human "Trust" opponents will try and blind you with flash bangs, with the occasional hilarious consequences. In general the combat is quite solid, there is plenty of it and it is evenly paced to balance the combat with exploration and ambiance.
The Conduit comes with a few notable features. To begin with it features a fully feature online, competitive multiplayer mode with experience system and multiple skins to use for your character. The game also features cheats, an achievement system and bonus promotional material that can be unlocked with the right codes. The achievements range from killing a certain amount of enemies, using a certain weapon a number of times or collecting disks or messages. Anything that extends the replay value of a game is welcome and the Conduit features plenty of it.
The BadThe Conduit does a lot of things really well, but some of those things are so fundamentally flawed it is hard to overlook them.
To begin with the particle system in the game is great, but there is just too much of it. When more than one person is using a Trust weapon the screen is so full of particles it becomes a chore to simply see what is going on. Another problem with the weapons is how you can just sort of fall down occasionally, dead, without any understanding of why you died. This normally happens when a Drudge charges their weapon and fires it either off screen or as they come around a corner, which is a surprisingly common occurrence.
Another problem with the combat arises from the Conduits and egg sacks littered around the levels. If there are any of these around, enemies will constantly re-spawn. This isn't a problem most of the time as you can just destroy them however if you don't know where they are or the Conduit is one that isn't designed to close then you have to put up with waves and waves of enemies. This is frustrating, as you are forced to shoot things or use the A.S.E to hack into computers while you get pounded by enemy fire. This can potentially force multiple restarts, as you can probably guess, it's really annoying.
Then there is the A.I which is normally quite good. Unfortunately there are just moments that make you want to slam your face into a desk. I mentioned before that Trust soldiers use flash grenades however they use them like regular grenades, detonating them so close to themselves that they blind themselves as well. When the duration of disorientation subsides you can see them wobbling about letting you shred them with gun fire.
There are too many situations where you are forced to trudge through multiple corridors that look virtually identical or bland, industrial sewer areas. There is very little variation in the aesthetics of each area and the repetition begins to grate after a while. You'll be walking down a hallway saying "this must be it, it must change after this" but it doesn't change until you finish the level.
Then there are the story elements. The acting in the game is abominable, with some lines being read wrong with incorrect intonation and laughable pacing. The story itself is forgettable and run of the mill. The conspiracy elements are interesting, if not a little vague and aren't elaborated enough to form anything truly compelling.
The Bottom LineWhat we have in the Conduit is a game that truly gives hope to Wii faithfuls looking for a solid FPS experience to sink their teeth into. The solid engine, outstanding graphics and customizable experience in general makes for an FPS that even eclipses those on more powerful hardware. There is nothing else like the Conduit out there in terms of what it delivers.
It's a shame then that High Voltage delivered a package that has the capacity to frustrate as much as it impresses. The combat is hit and miss, sometimes causing you to die when there really didn't seem like a reason for you to die. Constant enemy re-spawns lead to the game feeling like you're playing Gauntlet at times and the bland hallways and murky sewers do not make use of the superb graphics engine the game runs on.
That said, I did really enjoy the Conduit. It's probably the most technically accomplished FPS on the Wii and one you should definitely pick up before the sequel hits stores in 2011.