From the day the Wii came out, fans of the first-person shooters have been dreaming of the ways the Wii remote could be used to revamp favorite genre. Save for a few meager entries, these dreams have mostly gone unfulfilled. Onto the scene comes High Voltage's The Conduit, which has for a time promised to be all those things previous Wii games failed to be, namely a hardcore FPS game built around the oft maligned motion controls. To some extent, The Conduit is a complete success -- playing The Conduit could very well be glimpsing the future of shooter controls. That said, the game is held down by shortcomings that will likely turn it into a footnote in the history of motion controls rather than the revolution it might have been.
Take the story as an example. The Conduit's story isn't bad -- at least It's not incomprehensible or anything. It follows Michael Ford, a government agent dropped in the middle of an alien conspiracy to take over the world. It works, but it is utterly forgettable, tackling about every single attached cliché imaginable. Evil futuristic soldiers? Check. Early betrayal? Check. Generic looking insectoid aliens? Check. The game leaves you in the dark about a lot of basic stuff. Look at Ford, you barely learn anything about the man beyond his name and therefore he is never much of a protagonist. You can jet through the single player campaign in under six hours if you don't stop to take in the sights, and odds are, once it's done you probably won't want to visit it all that much.
Thankfully, supplementing the scant single player experience is a multiplayer game that is fun. The Wii has had its problems with multiplayer in the past, often falling victim to its loathed friend codes and they strike here as well. If you're looking to play with particular people you may have to jump through those old familiar hoops. That said, if you're just out for a quick game the game sports some nice quick menus to get you into a match with relative speed. The multiplayer modes are a bit basic -- free for all, team deathmatch and team objective -- but they're fun and if you're an FPS fan that for some reason only has a Wii this is probably the best game currently on the platform.
It would be foolish to go any further without discussing the controls, as they really are the star of the show. With The Conduit, we finally have a solid outlet with which to explore where motion controls could take shooters and the road ahead does seem to have potential. The control scheme is pretty solid. You move around with the nunchuck and aim with the Wii-remote. The game comes with a preset scheme, but smartly the developers left it open to customization. The original set up is pretty terrible and the option to map things to the Wii-remote as you please fixes what would have been an otherwise dire set up. Better yet, the game lets your tweak almost every single aspect of control. Don't like the way your cursor moves? Adjust the sensitivity. Don't like where the reload button is? Move it. The game is very thorough with its flexibility.
Despite the ability to remap the controls at leisure, the buttons positions on the Wii-remote never quite lend themselves wholly well to any configuration. You're never going to escape all the awkwardness. More annoying, is the fact that it is incredibly hard to find a sensitivity setting that makes turning around feel as natural as it does in FPS games with more standard controls. In some ways, aiming in The Conduit feels like a free roam on rails shooter. You can move around, but the gun play often works best when you're stationary and can just focus on aiming.
When you try to turn in a different direction, you have to wait until your cursor hits a particular point on the screen and then you'll start to move. Again, you have a lot of control over this and you can get it really close to perfect, but it never quite seems to make it there. Finally, this method of aiming may not work well for those with shaky hands. The Conduit's controls are certainly interesting, but there are likely to be people who prefer a more standard controller.
The Conduit looks and sounds nice, considering the wimpy hardware. The visual style itself is pretty generic, and the textures can be a bit underwhelming, but overall the game has a crisp appearance that doesn't take from the experience. The sound is pretty good as well, with the voice acting sticking out in particular. If you don't know who Kevin Sorbo is, then you missed out on the goofy goodness that was Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. He takes on a big role in this game and it's nice to see him getting some more work besides B-movies and his bit part in Meet the Spartans.
The Conduit is not a must-have game if you already have even one of the many excellent shooters on the market. The presence of motion controls are no replacement for any of the many great features and values that more standard games bring with them. That said, if you're a hardcore gamer looking for another reason to actually justify your Wii, this is one should be good enough.