What was the first thought that crossed your mind when you first heard about the Wii’s motion controls? If it was something like "yeah, this will be great for first-person shooters", then you were not alone. Unfortunately, at the dawn of the Wii’s life, it soon became clear that the first shooters released on the system weren’t up to much. Then High Voltage Software came along and decided to try their luck at creating a shooter that would blow the competition away with its impressive graphical engine and multiplayer options. That shooter became known as The Conduit.
The Conduit guides you through a slightly confusing story about an alien invasion in Washington D.C. and other strange happenings. You’re Michael Ford, a heroic government secret agent and after being recruited by the leader of a secret underground organization called The Trust, you’re asked to investigate certain mysterious events surrounding the invasion. As you progress through the b-movie-esque story, you’ll come across conspiracies and characters that aren’t what they seem to be. But by the time you’ve reached the sudden, open ending, you might even feel an itch to see how the story will develop in the sequel.
Overall, The Conduit is a fun shooting romp that looks and sounds good and has a decent multiplayer mode. You can tell that High Voltage Software invested time to create a new standard for shooters on Wii as the art style and presentation are great. The game takes you through several very linear missions where you go against humans and an insectoid species of aliens called Drudge. The game controls well with the regular WiiMote + Nunchuk combo, but if the default controls aren’t to your liking, you can tweak them extensively until you’re happy. No other controller types are supported.
One of the game’s highs is the weapons selection. During the missions you’ll find a variety of human, Trust and Drudge weapons to fill the two weapon slots you have available. Especially the high-tech Trust charge weapons are excellent, like the Deatomizer Mk4. You’ll also marvel at the original biological Drudge weapons with cool names like the Warp Pistol and Shrieker. Unfortunately, you can’t aim down the sights of any gun in this game; instead some guns have a scope for sniping. Next to using regular weapons you can throw human fragmentation grenades, flash grenades and alien radiation grenades by flicking the Nunchuk. Throwing grenades this way is actually fun and immersive. You can also do a melee attack by flicking the WiiMote forward. At one point in the game, you get the Trust armour, which is a cool suit that allows you to regenerate your health.
An interesting addition is the multifunctional All Seeing Eye (ASE). The spherical object can be used to find hidden relics, data discs and messages. It’s also capable of overriding locks, hacking computers and detecting and disarming mines.
Ford will meet his opposition in the form of humans (turned into puppets by some kind of nerve gas), Trust agents and Drudge. And to be frank, they’re all stupid. Their limited A.I. sometimes forces them to hide when being fired upon, but most of the time you can just imagine them holding "shoot me" signs. Especially the small alien critters (called "Mites") are useful for target practice. There’s not a lot of variety in enemy skins, which is often evident as you engage groups of identical twins. Sometimes you come across alien artefacts stuck to a wall: either they’re regenerative units, regenerating both Drudge and humans close by or pulse boxes that send out radiation affecting humans. Finally, the titular conduits are portals from which Drudge emerge. It’s best to destroy them as soon as possible or you’ll be fighting an endless stream of Drudge. The game only presents sporadic boss fights and they’re usually against a certain type of large alien critter.
Sometimes the ASE will start beeping to warn you about cloaked enemies and ghost mines that are close by. As for the mines, you can use the ASE itself to disarm them, but at times the ASE beeping will just confuse you and you’ll run into the mine anyway and die instantly, which is very annoying. Luckily there are frequent check points.
The Conduit was also released as a Special Edition which includes the standard retail version of the game, a nice slip cover and a bonus booklet. This contains a foreword by some of High Voltage Software's top dogs as well as a selection of artwork from the game's pre-production and tips for online and offline play. Finally, there are promotional codes that unlock a skin and a special ASE for the single player mode and a special Secret Agent skin for your online character. These extras aren't spectacular, but due to its reasonable price, the Special Edition is worth getting.
The game offers a decent array of multiplayer modes, ranging from standard free-for-all and team-based deathmatch to a couple of original modes, like varieties of "Capture the ASE". All of the single-player weapons are available online, but the weapon sets are determined per match instead of per player – you can’t choose your personal loadouts and that’s disappointing. The game’s online performance is more than acceptable, though sometimes the game gets choppy when all twelve player slots are filled. Rare bugs are a huge let-down, especially the one where you are spawned into a game, but can’t do anything and have to reset the system. Wii Speak is supported for people who want to discuss tactics or just like to talk trash.