Review: Conduit 2

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Picking up right where the first game’s lousy cliffhanger ending left off, Conduit 2 continues the sci-fi FPS saga of Agent Michael Ford, who has hopped through a conduit portal hot on the heels of antagonist John Adams. This time Agent Ford means business, suiting up in the armor of The Destroyer to put an end to the alien invasion once and for all.

As a sequel is supposed to do, Conduit 2 is an upgrade over the first game in every conceivable way, building off of High Voltage’s solid but ultimately disappointing attempt to bring ‘next-gen’ caliber FPS action to the Wii.

Like The Conduit, Conduit 2 is easy to pass off as ‘the Wii’s Halo’. However, unlike before, the sequel does establish an identifiable personality of its own with its purposeful B-movie attitude (Jon St. John, AKA the voice of Duke Nukem, has taken over the lead role) and a more distinctive art style that breaks free from the generic sci-fi themes that stunted the original. The Conduit essentially became a tech demo for the Quantum3 engine, showing that graphical flourishes like bump mapping, motion blur and reflection/refraction could be accomplished on the dated Wii hardware. Conduit 2 goes a step further, and combines the shiny graphics with more diverse and interesting environments and gameplay.

To an extent, the single-player campaign still seems somewhat incomplete, clocking in at a brief four hours on a normal play-through. It’s not the short length on its own that bothers me, but rather that once I was finished I was left feeling like there was still so much potential left untapped. A few bonus levels, achievements, and collectibles in each stage, which you hunt down using the All Seeing Eye, a device that allows you to hack computers and scan for objects and hidden messages sort of like Metroid Prime, do extend the game’s lifespan, though. So if you plan to 100% complete the game, you’re looking at eight or so solid hours of gaming entertainment.

Those hours are packed with fun, too, because all in all Conduit 2 is an absolute blast to play, and the fact that the storyline revels in its blatant mediocrity makes it much easier to accept and enjoy for what it is.

High Voltage clearly took fan and reviewer feedback from the first game to heart, because every gameplay component is bigger and better. Gone is the original’s antiquated corridor shooter design, replaced by larger and more diverse environments, greater variety in enemies and objectives, and an even deeper arsenal of futuristic firepower to wield against your alien foes. The campaign takes you around the globe from D.C. to China to Siberia to South America, and there is so much more to see and do at each stop along the way. The opening act set aboard an offshore oil rig amidst a heavy rainstorm gets things off and running on the right track, climaxing with an epic showdown against a giant leviathan that sets the pace for the remainder of the game in much the same way the hydra boss battle did in the first God of War.

In addition to some thrilling boss fights, many other upgrades have been made to broaden the game’s scope, the first of which is the new hub world. After the opening level, you find yourself in Atlantis, an alien craft at the bottom of the sea which serves as your home base for the rest of the game. In Atlantis, you are able to dial in where the conduit will take you and customize your equipment loadout for the level ahead. Even when the final chapter has been completed and the credits have rolled, whenever you load your completed save file you return to Atlantis so you can replay stages and unlock new secrets, and this basically serves the same purpose as a ‘New Game +’ mode.

As The Destroyer, Michael Ford is outfitted with a special suit of armor granting him adaptable combat abilities, in some ways similar to Crysis’ Nanosuit. At the Arsenal Replicator terminal in Atlantis, you can use collected blueprints to unlock new gear and set up equipment loadouts, including one primary and one secondary weapon as well as up to four simultaneous upgrade module slots for perk-like passive benefits, such as quicker reloading speed, improved melee, stealth, tougher armor and so on. These loadouts, in conjunction with an in-game store where you can exchange credits for new weapons, upgrades, and skins, are shared between single-player and multiplayer, so you always feel connected by a singular progression as you play both sides of the game.

Putting this customization system to good use, Conduit 2 is armed with a vast array of cool and exotic weapons to take into battle (somewhere around 20 different types). The standard pistols, shotguns and assault rifles are covered, but the more futuristic guns, such as the sniper rifle that can see and shoot through walls, the pistol that fires ricocheting bio-material bullets, the cannon that shoots out swarms of exploding bugs, and the deployable turret you fire manually by remote control, provide the means for a lot of fun experimentation. Only two guns can be carried at a time, but you are regularly given the opportunity to swap weapons so you can mix things up on your terms.

Control is another strong point. High Voltage once again earns high marks for implementing such a robust system of control customization. The motion control functionality on its own is superb, and with the Wii Remote you can gun down Drudge with point-and-shoot speed and precision (or you can always use a classic controller if you don’t like motion control, though unfortunately GameCube controllers aren’t supported). But the kicker is the depth to which you can customize everything to suit your own personal preference. The entire button layout can be remapped, each individual component of the HUD can be rearranged on the screen, and sensitivity and dead zone parameters can be adjusted for optimum performance. Wii MotionPlus support has also been added since the first game, however in my testing I didn’t notice any performance benefits when turning it on.

As for multiplayer, Conduit 2 provides familiar competitive fraggin’ for four players split-screen or 12 players online, complete with staple FPS match types and a full-featured ranking system. There really aren’t any surprises to be found if you’ve played any multiplayer shooter within the past five years, but the fun collection of weapons, smooth controls, addictive sense of reward and strong player base (so far) definitely push this game to the top of the Wii’s multiplayer heap. I only wish the game’s new Invasion mode was playable online. This cooperative wave survival mode is a blast in split-screen (or by yourself), but as someone who rarely gets a chance to enjoy couch co-op I would love to be able to team up with other players online. It’s probably my favorite mode in the game, so it sucks not being able to get the most out of it.

You know what else sucks? The bugs. Conduit 2 is infested with bugs. Bugs of the absolute worst kind. Let me rattle off just a few glitches I’ve experienced:

  • I’ve fallen off a ledge and watched as the entire level architecture and my gun disappeared as I was stuck floating in mid-air with just the background sky and my character’s hands visible. I could spin and fire and hear the sounds, but couldn’t move or see anything but the sky and my hands.
  • I’ve seen enemies get stuck behind and clip through walls.
  • One time I was walking forward towards what was supposed to be an invisible checkpoint waypoint, but the level architecture past the invisible barrier hadn’t loaded in yet and it looked like I was going to walk off a ledge into a bottomless pit.
  • A word of dialogue from the ASE guide got stuck in a loop which repeated nonstop through gameplay, cutscenes and the pause menu like an annoying alarm clock. I had to reload a previous checkpoint to get rid of it.
  • I’ve seen the framerate slow to an unplayable slow-motion stutter, again forcing me to reload an old checkpoint.
  • I’ve also had the game completely freeze up three times, which is an extremely rare occurrence for Wii games in my experience.

  • I encountered all of these bugs in my initial four hours through the campaign, which is completely inexcusable and terribly disappointing for a sequel of this magnitude. To be fair, though, the multiplayer has been more stable. Initially there were some severe lag and disconnect problems, but those have largely been taken care of, and so far I haven’t seen any of the glitches that popped up during the campaign in multiplayer matches.

    The good news, however, is that High Voltage has committed to supporting the game post-release through downloadable updates, and so far three or four patches have already weeded out some of the more serious problems and solidified online performance. Quick and consistent developer support like that is awesome, and High Voltage should get credit for the dedication. But it doesn’t excuse the game for releasing in the unfinished state that I found the game in during its first week – I’m sorry, but the ongoing trend of ‘rush to release, patch to complete’ has to stop!

    Because of these bugs and a couple other shortcomings, Conduit 2, like its predecessor, is a game that leaves a lot of potential on the table. Yet through its troubles, it still succeeds in its delivery of an upper-tier Wii FPS experience where the first game could not. If you only intend on playing through the campaign, you’re probably better off with a rental. But let me be clear: Conduit 2 is a great all-around game with arguably the deepest combination of single-player and multiplayer of any Wii FPS.

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    Pros:
    + Lots of cool weapons to play with
    + Much greater variety to levels and gameplay
    + Tight controls with tons of customization options
    + Unified in-game store system provides constant replay incentive
    + Deep and satisfying multiplayer
    + Impressive graphics

    Cons:
    – Infested with bugs
    – Single-player campaign still doesn’t quite live up to expectations
    – Invasion mode is offline only

    Game Info:
    Platform: Wii
    Publisher: Sega
    Developer: High Voltage Software
    Release Date: 4/19/2011
    Genre: FPS
    ESRB Rating: Teen
    Players: 1-12 (2-4 split-screen, up to 12 online)
    Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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    About the Author

    Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!