A portal into mediocrity
Although The Conduit accumulated an admiral chunk of accolades for its technical prowess and engaging multiplayer, its potential rapidly diminished due to lackluster level design and a predictable pace. With Conduit 2, developer High Voltage Software has tweaked the gameplay and added crucial new features to deliver a sequel that still carries a few hiccups but is an overall improvement.
Wasting no time with tedious exposition, Conduit 2 thrusts the player—once again in the worn combat boots of ex-Secret Service agent Michael Ford—into a globe-spanning manhunt for the treacherous John Adams via portal-like conduit devices. Along the way, Ford uncovers yet more nuggets of conspiracy and subterfuge while preparing an especially cold dish of revenge for Adams and his shadowy organization, the Trust.
In a dramatic shift from The Conduit‘s confining Washington D.C. setting, Conduit 2 tosses in various locales and features more imaginative level design than the Capitol’s bland and stifling corridors. This time around, Ford’s mission sends him to exotic destinations such as China, Siberia, and even the fabled city of Atlantis, resulting in some terrific vistas of rocky mountain ranges and stormy skies. An increased amount of scripted events keeps the momentum at a steady rate. However, I found it difficult to take advantage of creating impromptu cover by tipping over tables and vending machines; waltzing into the middle of a room didn’t diminish my chances of survival in the slightest. Additionally, the heightened eye candy doesn’t fully mask each zone’s linearity. While the path sometimes splits into tactically advantageous routes, I’d inevitably wind up in an area that’d be locked down tight until every foe was defeated.
Thankfully, a few over-the-top boss fights offset the stagnancy somewhat. It’s not every day that shooter gamers can square off against a gargantuan metal sea serpent that breathes lasers, but High Voltage managed to incorporate traditional elements of boss battles—such as glowing weak points—into a genre typically bereft of massive beasts to sink bullets into.
As one of the few exclusive first-person shooters for the Wii, Conduit 2‘s near-flawless execution of its robust control scheme is a welcome carryover from the previous game. Every button of the Wii Remote can be reassigned for custom control setups, but there’s also a plethora of tweakable settings that include turning speed, cursor sensitivity, and dead zone adjustments. The payoff is an extremely satisfying shooting experience, as lining up headshots became a snap once I tailored the game to my preferences.
Of course, nailing headshots in Conduit 2 isn’t an entirely difficult affair, thanks to the woeful intelligence of the computer-controlled enemies. I’d frequently encounter aliens and soldiers alike jogging against walls and standing obliviously still as their comrades fell next to them. In one area, I was able to calmly melee a hulking juggernaut of an alien to death after it became trapped in the middle of a flight of stairs. Why bother wasting ammo when inanimate objects can do the job for you?
But your trigger finger better be primed for Conduit 2‘s far more engrossing multiplayer. The game’s creative and powerful arsenal of weaponry shines quite strongly here; I particularly enjoyed the AR-C Eclipse rifle’s intriguing dynamic of cooling its cloaking generator via sustained fire. The 13 different multiplayer modes include staples such as Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag along with more strategic fare like Bounty Hunter, a hunt-and-be-hunted cornucopia of tension similar to Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood‘s Wanted. The ability to alter loadouts and purchase weapons and upgrades with points is nothing new by now, but it’s a successful system that will keep multiplayer mavens coming back for more.
Conduit 2 is a definite step up from its first incarnation, but still fails to grasp its full potential. The single-player falters due to ho-hum combat and moronic AI, but the top-notch controls and enjoyable multiplayer just might be enough to push this second attempt over the top.
SUMMARY: An underwhelming campaign can’t suppress the fantastic multiplayer shooter experience on the Wii.
- THE GOOD: Fantastic multiplayer and more varied levels
- THE BAD: Single-player still underwhelming, cheesy voice acting
- THE UGLY: Harebrained AI behavior