Solid graphics, a lot of customization and upgrade options, a variety of game modes
Occasional slowdown, online gameplay has some occasional but irritating bugs, no Kevin Sorbo
If there is an award for special service to the Wii community, High Voltage Software deserves it. The last year has seen hardcore support for Wii deteriorate; even Nintendo has seen fit to look toward the next generation of systems rather than develop new properties or even localize existing Japanese titles. High Voltage, by contrast, has poured itself into the business of making hardcore experiences for Wii and WiiWare. Its first retail Wii title, The Conduit, was arguably the most-hyped game in Wii’s library, with a final product that was gorgeous but also flawed, especially in the online department. Conduit 2 sets out to remedy those ills, and it generally succeeds in spite of some problems.
From the main menu there are three choices of play: offline single player, offline split-screen multiplayer, and online multiplayer. There are a few common threads across all three modes, the most prominent being gameplay. The core play is pretty typical for a first person shooter and is largely the same as The Conduit. Players run around levels, accomplishing objectives while acquiring a variety of small and large weapons to unleash on lots of enemies. The weapons run the range from basic handguns to the pure sci-fi, including a handful of guns from the first game and a few newcomers as well. Enemies, likewise, can be anything from the mundane to the extraterrestrial, with an unsurprisingly large collection of the latter. In short, the game is a sci-fi shooter and that pretty much guides everything.
A second common thread is a currency system. Credits can be found in all three game modes, whether they be in hidden items in the single player, derived from coins in split-screen, or delved out for accomplishments in the online multiplayer. These credits can be used to purchase a variety of aesthetic and practical upgrades. Players can save up to unlock different online character models and specific gear to outfit the way that model looks. One can also purchase passive upgrades such as increased player speed or better armor. Weapon loadouts can be bought for the online combat, while the passive upgrades apply to both online and offline characters. There is, then, some interrelationship between the modes and some incentive to play them all.
A third, key, thread is control. Customization has always been a guiding principle of this franchise, and, as always, the controls are fully adjustable. The button layout, IR sensitivity, and dead zone can all be modified to taste. In addition, the game also supports the classic controller. (Wii MotionPlus is also supported). The Wii Remote and Nunchuck are the first and best option, and with them Conduit 2‘s controls represent the best way to play a shooter outside of perhaps a mouse and keyboard.
Now to the different modes. The offline story in Conduit 2 picks up right where The Conduit leaves off, with Agent Ford hot on the trail of the nefarious, ageless John Adams. The adventure begins on an offshore oil rig and continues across a variety of locations through several hours of gameplay. The tone of this game has changed noticeably from its predecessor; in place of the serious, conspiracy-laden tenor of The Conduit is a slightly lighter, campier bent. It’s a different take but not altogether a bad one, with a few one-liners that will draw a smile. At the same time, the game is pretty intense, with alien-laden landscapes and foreboding dark alleys alike.
The offline split-screen multiplayer is a new installment in the franchise, a nod to the GoldenEye series. Players can go head-to-head or play cooperatively against waves of enemies. The split-screen works well enough, with minor loss of graphics and no real frame rate drop, and it is fun for local play. This old-school mode can be played with the classic controller, although the IR actually works quite well enough here.
The online multiplayer is significantly better than The Conduit, although it is not perfect. First, the good: the whole experience is much smoother and more refined than before. The basics, like the simple matter of finding a game to jump into, take seconds rather than the torturous minutes it took with the first game. There is the aforementioned currency system that can be used to purchase upgrades. And the game uses updates to patch the online functionality of the game, presumably to forestall hackers. (Although this is no guarantee that they do not exist, Nintendojo did not see any hackers during our gameplay sessions.)
On the downside, the online game did not run problem free. Twice the game froze during online combat and required a hard shutdown with the main power button. During one session the game crawled to a halt and that, too, required a full reboot. Characters, mercifully, do not spawn inside solid rock (a nagging problem in The Conduit) but they do sometimes spawn right on top of enemies, leading to a quick and painful death. Those irritations aside, there is still more good than bad here.
A final few notes about the look and sound of the game are in order. High Voltage takes pushing the system seriously and Conduit 2 compares favorably to the visuals of any other Wii game. The use of lighting, texture, and blur go in directions no other developer save perhaps Retro Studios seems inclined to tread. The game squeezes about as much out of the system as is probably possible, and with a solid frame rate almost all of the time. There are a couple of instances of slowdown, but they are rare. Aurally, meanwhile, the game isn’t terrible, but it’s clearly a bit of a letdown. Not one of the original voice cast was brought back to reprise a role (most missed is Hercules and Andromeda cult icon Kevin Sorbo as Prometheus) and as a result the voice work feels like a step backwards from The Conduit. The music is equally so-so but not really memorable.
High Voltage famously delayed this game for a long time, presumably to flesh out the bugs. Unfortunately, Conduit 2 did not escape development bug-free. On other consoles this wouldn’t be a problem, but since whole-game patches are not possible on Wii, some issues persist. They’re not as bad as the bugs in the original The Conduit, but they still prove a distraction that keeps the game from being as elite as it could have been.
Even with those flaws, though, it’s clear that High Voltage really poured itself into this game, and the end product is better across the board. The online multiplayer especially is leaps and bounds better than that of the first game, a welcome change. Overall, Conduit 2 is one of the few decent hardcore games to come down the pipeline in awhile and it’s worth a look, especially for those who like their sci-fi shooters.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.