A brief look at the history of The Conduit would be somewhat of a roller-coaster ride. Initially hailed as the Wii’s savior, then scrutinized by nearly everyone leading up to its release in mid 2009. At release, it was actually successful, even garnishing some decent scores from the gaming media. But it was also nearly universally brushed by everyone as a mere distraction and at best, a rental. Looking back now at its meteoric rise to spotlight a few years ago and hindsight will tell us that it was a little absurd. On many levels the original Conduit succeeded, but it fell flat on even more. It was a freshman try from a developer who had not done something this ambitious. But regardless, when I played it back then, I saw potential, I saw it in the controls and the tech. I guess the real question is whether Conduit 2 succeeded where the first did not.
The answer in my opinion is a big, fat yes. This game may not be perfect, but compared to the ultra generic first game that took itself too seriously, Conduit 2 looks like a polished diamond. I’ll first start with the technical details of the game. The graphics are what many people were drawn to with the first game, and to be perfectly honest, it really didn’t quite deliver what everyone was hoping for. Of course we are talking about the Wii here, and though it is more powerful than people give it credit for, there are still a limited number of pixels for Conduit 2 to paint its picture with. But regardless, if you play this game on a plasma television (it seems to look considerably better on plasma) in 480P then you will catch yourself forgetting that it is a Wii game at all. From impressive lighting effects to richer textures and environments than just about any other game on the console, this game can dazzle. But of course, when put up to serious scrutiny you will find many flaws. The character models are a bit waxy looking and the lip-syncing can be pretty lousy. But like I said, if you just play the game and try not to focus on just the way it looks, there is a reasonable chance you will just forget that it is on the Wii at all. Which, let’s be honest, is about as good as you can get on the Wii.
The audio is similarly impressive, it is about as good as you can do with no digital output. It is loud, boomy, well balanced and even has a hint of true surround sound in it. I would say overall, this is the most impressive game I have heard on the Wii. Sadly, the soundtrack itself is not a complete winner. While some of the lower more moody stuff is impressive and fits well, it will often break into a more energetic pseudo orchestrated piece that actually just sounds cheap. There are other similar moments that use a more hard rock sound that works a lot better (think Falling Down with slow, deliberate drums and a clear, heavy guitar riff). So just expect to have some weird moments when it comes to the soundtrack.
As for glitches and slow down, there are almost none to speak of. I experienced a glitch in a boss battle where a character was walking about while hovering 2 feet off the ground; but that is a pretty minor issue, so I think they bug squashed pretty well in this game. But back to the slow down, there are a hand-full of moments where the game becomes slightly too much for the Wii, and when I say slightly I mean just that. It will be noticeable, but the game will adjust itself pretty quickly and really was never a factor. Surprisingly, my Wii had more slowdown while pulling up the game icon from the Wii menu!
As for the single player, I was actually genuinely into it. The first game was too serious, and the fact that it took itself that way and was too generic just left a bitter taste. The story progresses nicely from where the last game left off. The story eventually brings you to a hub world which makes it nice and easy to revisit to past levels to get collectibles (it specifies what items you are missing on each level) such as: weapon blueprints, unlockable bonus levels, upgrades and so forth. And on the note of collectibles, it is gratifying to not collect 100 random flags for no reason whatsoever. They do an admirable job of making it feel like you are actually unlocking stuff. In fact, some items that you scan just give you points to spend in the multi-player store so you can get a nice head-start with your online load-out.
You can tell that they knew there were problems with the first game, they dropped the bad and ran with the good. Gone are the mundane office buildings and hallways. Environments are now much more open and engaging. Instead of taking place exclusively in D.C., the hub world makes travelling easy and convenient story-wise, so prepare for wide open levels, and even more with lots of nooks and crannies. I’ve mentioned the seriousness of the first game several times, and I’m glad to report that this game is much more tongue in cheek. There are random pop-culture references (Ninja Turtles anyone?) in places where they thought they would be fitting comedically, and even some self-deprecating humor about video games. So it is an amusing change of attitude. As for the story, itself, it’s certainly better and clearer than the first game, though the quality of the story is nothing groundbreaking, just mildly stimulating. Of course, they kind of committed themselves to complete the story by leaving the first game open for a sequel. So I will be curious to see if they can come up with something a little more daring in their next property, once they wind up the Conduit series of course.
Now if you remember, the last game left us with the worlds cheapest cliffhanger. This games ending is much better, the story feels likes it gets wrapped up, even though it has an ending that undoubtedly makes you want to play the next game (assuming you liked this game of course). Like you might have heard, it is undeniably a WTF ending, but in a good way, at least for me. The first game was serious, the second tongue-in-cheek, and if this ending is any indication then the last one will be all out coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs! And with all this chatter about the next Nintendo console being “Signitificantly more powerful” than the current-gen systems, then I can not wait to see what HVS will do with some real hardware!
There are a few detractors in the game though. The worst is poor AI, and the less serious second are a few too many ankle biters which were particularly annoying, most of which require a considerable melee flogging. However, due to limitations of the Wii-mote, you can either have accurate grenades, or accurate melee. And having to choose one or the other is simply unacceptable, but frankly this is more Nintendos fault more than anything. You can always play with the classic controller if you want, but I found it much more inaccurate and clunky. You can take that as an endorsement for pointer-controls, or as an insult to the classic controller, but I’ll tell you, it is a little of both, but mostly the former. The pointer controls are, in fact, splendid (underused word of the month). In the last game, I had to tweak my controls a bit to get them to fit, which you can still do of course, but I found the default sensitivity remarkably close to perfect for my taste. You can also move around different buttons and HUD layouts, all of which are much appreciated (listening game industry?). You will also recognize a lot of the weapons from before, but with a little better tuning, and many additional weapons. My personal favorite being a weapon that runs either hot or cold. Hold the fire too many times and you’ll overheat. Or use the guns built in active-camo too long and it will freeze over. There are a number of different strategies you can use with this gun that I have never found my self doing before in a game. You might even find yourself going invisible to the limit so that you can fire longer without the gun overheating, or vice versa. Even my jaded brother perked up when he saw that gun!
Now the last thing to talk about is the multi-player, I, unfortunately, was not able to evaluate the split screen. Though I was able to play a little online. The modes are a combination of classic and new modes that will keep you interested for a while. And the upgrading system is similar to black-ops with an in-game store where you spend earned credits. I personally prefer the MW2 model, but to each his own. It is fun and encourages continued play. So I am alright with it. I never had a problem getting into a game quickly, and I was even trying the online out in the middle of a non-holiday workday! The experience was a mixed bag in terms of lag and choppiness, in one game, it was quite choppy until the player dropped out, it immediately became smooth after that, so obviously one lousy connection can have a significant negative impact. But, thankfully, Nintendo gave HVS the authority to issue firmware updates, a Wii first (I believe they had to severely twist Nintendos arm on this though) if I am correct. So you might even be able to expect new modes and levels (do not take this as any sort of confirmation, merely a possibility), and certainly expect them to issue updates smoothing out issues like I just described.
So overall, I would call Conduit 2 one of the most satisfying experiences I have had on the Wii, even close to the likes of Metroid Prime 3! Between a much better mood (thanks Jon St. John), better level design, better mechanics and just an overall more fun experience I wholeheartedly give this game a…
4 out of 5.