For all the presumptuous talk surrounding 2009′s The Conduit, the game, billed as a full-featured, precedential shooter that would hold up to the best of the competition and set the standard for the Wii, was ultimately a middling bore.
Though it boasts of improvement and expansion, in this sequel Wii owners promised another “defining FPS experience” receive only a weak amalgamation of rehashed tropes.
The opening, speaking towards the main character, really says it all: “It could’ve been anyone.” The ambiguous individual in question is Michael Ford: former Secret Service agent and, as of Conduit 2, newly-minted template man, as quick to let fly a subtle, measured line–”I own!” or “Happiness is a headshot!” spring to mind–as he is to dispatch a member of the equally dull Drudge alien race. No longer content as a stubborn soldier, Ford is now simply an abject dick, spewing glib remarks that quickly unravel any importance the story may have mustered up till then. His unfortunate transformation from a modest, gravel-voiced grunt caught in a pseudo-conspiracy of governments and aliens to a flip caricature of a bored Duke Nukem is indicative of the game’s underlying indifference and lack of respect for its own product, even as it serves it to you.
The introduction breezes entirely past the events of the first game, making little attempt at assigning significance to people, places (Mere seconds after being devoured by a sea serpent, I was aboard an alien ship deep under the water), or things. The All-Seeing Eye, an interesting tool for scanning and uncovering secrets in the first game, returns as a universal lock pick for myriad mechanical doors and not much else.
In its absence, what actual substance Conduit 2 has is difficult to define. The unique experience it promises boils down to a combination of elements from other and better games, with second-rate execution. It has the aesthetics and scope of Halo, the location-hopping of TimeSplitters, and, to a certain extent, the precision combat of Call of Duty. The problem is that none of these characteristics are pulled off particularly well. The environments are of decent scope, but also distractingly muddy and visually uninteresting, with cases of framerate crawl. In small, short doses, shooting enemies is a manageable and inoffensive task. When lines of enemies crash mindlessly upon you–as they do in far too many spaces, lazily populated with spawning pods–it’s another story.
A heavily-advertised feature of The Conduit, precise personalization of the motion controls, carries over to Conduit 2. Though being able to configure HUD layouts, dead zones, and axis-specific sensitivities doesn’t make things outside the menus that much better, the system for doing it is at least well-built and intuitive, especially the in-game adjustment feature. Even when fully optimized, though, the controls have the same persistent, untameable float of most Wii shooters.
Controls and frustration are things that can be reasoned with in this game, maybe even grown used to. “Boring” and “obnoxious” are not, however, and that’s largely what Conduit 2 is. Everything about it smacks of a cheap, half-hearted sequel a to a game which actually had some real ambition and enthusiasm. It throws a bunch of completely unoriginal, uninspired material at the wall, all of which sticks and creates a bland, forgettable paste of a shooter.
Things We Liked: Multiplayer can be a decent experience. The control configuration system is apt. The ending?
Things We Disliked: An exercise in boring, uninspired design and workmanlike mediocrity. Retconning the main character into an ass. Struggling with motion controls in the middle of a firefight. The humor. All of it (“Conduit travel is made possible through ‘blast processing’”).
Target Audience: The Wii-only shooter crowd. Enthusiasts of the first game. Kids looking for a T-rated shooter.
(Conduit 2 – Developer: High Voltage Software. Publisher: Sega. Available for Wii. A copy of the game was provided by the publishers for review purposes. Unfamiliar with CFD!’s review system? Read our newly revised explanation here.)