A conduit’s role is to get things from one place to another. The Conduit’s self-proclaimed role was to bring both ‘next generation visuals’ and ‘hardcore gaming’ to Nintendo’s Wii, a console that seems to be doing conspicuously well regardless of the odd derivative and often crushingly dull firstperson shooter. The makers of The Conduit insist that it’s ‘a gamer’s game’, but it’s difficult to see any gamer other than one with particularly low standards being satisfied with what is a distinctly mediocre production.
It has two good points, though, one of them considerable. Multiplayer provides a brisk and no-nonsense shootout, with the usual deathmatch and thing-capturing variants, although it’s as vanilla as they come. The Halo interface has been studied closely and fitted around Wii’s capabilities (including Wii Speak) and, compared to the average online experience on Nintendo’s platform, it’s a breeze to set up and join games. You may not choose to play it if you have access to any decent online shooter from the last three years, but at least it’s there.
The controls also work well – if a little sluggishly on the turn – and can be extensively tweaked. As well as the usual options, the opportunity to expand or contract the dead zone and set the sensitivity of the game’s reactions to Remote and Nunchuk thrusts means The Conduit is just about flawless in terms of aiming. The problems lie in what you’re shooting at.
It is unfortunate that High Voltage has produced a Wii engine capable of slick visual effects and then used it to create a world with such a paucity of artistic identity. Fighting bug-men and men in suits wearing dark glasses, you negotiate humdrum levels with about as much architectural interest as a submarine interior. Your enemies, meanwhile, are more A than I, either crouching behind boxes and popping their heads up in the same spot ad nauseam, or pathetically running right into your shotgun sights. Almost all of the battles in The Conduit beyond its first few levels revolve around killing respawning enemies and then destroying their spawning pods. This is not progress for the firstperson shooter genre.
More things that dull the brain. Grey corridor leads to boxy room leads to grey corridor leads to boxy room. The exact same layouts used two, three, even four times over. The Pentagon apparently sharing an architect with the Washington DC sewer system. Corridors that feel like they will simply go on forever. And then, just to rub it all in, a puzzle template that completely fails to inject into the action the sort of additional, non-combat interest it was intended to deliver. Revolving around a bauble named the ASE, which beams a probably mystical symbol at walls to reveal ‘hidden’ messages and triggers, you must scan your environment in order to open doors. So, once all of the baddies in a location have been dispatched, it’s a matter of looking closely at the walls and fittings around you to find the scannable bits. It’s a constant task, and it never gets less monotonous. And, despite claims to the contrary, The Conduit is not a brilliant-looking game, something the ASE mechanic serves to highlight since you’re forced to pick its visuals apart with such scrutiny.
Nintendo is claiming that The Conduit might attract Halo fans to its console, but this game isn’t fit to wait Master Chief’s table. It is, however, a good argument for the abandonment of that pernicious and so often misleading label, ‘hardcore’.
‘Danger! High Voltage Software’ shouts the developer’s logo. On this evidence, it’s a warning that should be taken seriously.