The Conduit review: The Conduit

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Typical Price: $79.95
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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Great controls. Technically impressive visuals.

The Bad Monotonous levels. Respawning enemies and invisible bombs are frustrating and cheap. Generic art design and story. Uneven difficulty.

The Bottom Line Outstanding controls aren't enough to save this generic and often frustrating shooter.

6.5 Overall

As one of the few exclusive first-person shooters for the Wii, The Conduit has garnered a lot of attention. From a technical perspective, The Conduit is an undeniable success. The controls in particular are outstanding, finely tuned to make gunning down enemies while sprinting around the battlefield fun and satisfying. Visually, the game is also top-notch, filling the screen with enemies, explosions and fancy lighting effects, without the slightest drop in frame rate. However, as entertaining as The Conduit can be, the bland level design and relentless monotony of the single-player campaign create an air of sleepy boredom, and the multiplayer is too unremarkable to entertain for long. The Conduit has an impressive backbone, but it's too generic to capitalise on any of those technical feats.

You play as Michael Ford, a Secret Service agent with a penchant for gunning down hostile alien forces. Your role changes throughout the game as your supposed allies reveal their true identities, but the cliche story and personality-free characters offer you no real reason to care about these supernatural events. The lack of compelling exposition makes it difficult to get sucked into this world. The plot is conveyed by static dialog boxes before levels, giving the game a stale energy that it is never quite able to shake. Though, despite the bland tale this game inexpertly weaves, there is one nice touch that adds a bit of flair to the drudgery. There are radios scattered throughout the campaign with broadcasts filling you in on the back story of this ravaged land, and catching a bit of news as you mow down enemy forces gives you some much-needed context.

The real draw in The Conduit is the outstanding control scheme. Conceptually, it's nothing special. You aim your gun with the remote, walk around with the analog stick, and perform various moves by hitting buttons or performing specific motions. However, the execution is nearly flawless. You can aim with pinpoint precision, easily lining up headshots from across the screen or spinning around to cut down a critter creeping up behind you. With more than 10 different actions to keep track of, it can be difficult to find the ideal controller set-up, but you can customise the controls to suit your play style. For instance, the default setting forces you to thrust the remote forward to perform a melee attack, but that drastically reorients your viewpoint, which makes it difficult to aim your next shot. You can easily map that action to the D pad, though, and use the remote swing for a less important move. Furthermore, the aiming sensitivity and strafing can be tweaked until it's ideal, which makes the shooting in The Conduit satisfying.

If only the rest of the game could have lived up to the impressive controls. The levels are poorly designed, alternating between generic shooter cliches and frustrating enemy encounters, with nary a sweet set piece battle or over-the-top boss fight in sight. Although you travel through a few different environments — including underground government bases, war-torn streets and stinky sewers — the only difference among these areas are slight visual changes. They all play in exactly the same way, making for a repetitive and ultimately forgettable experience. Every level is comprised of narrow corridors herding you from one alien battle to the next, with dull key hunts serving as the only taste of variety.

This huge enemy doesn't put up much of a fight. (Credit: GameSpot)

The lack of interesting objectives creates a monotonous feeling, but questionable design decisions make the campaign even more gruelling. Your bug-like enemies quickly incubate and hatch from fertile eggs, and you must continually hunt down these replenishing wombs to stem the flow of angry aggressors. Although being forced to constantly track down well-hidden nests gives the game a tireless pace, it leads to a number of cheap deaths because you constantly find enemies sneaking up behind you, shooting you from above, or attacking you through paper-thin walls. Furthermore, these nests are often hidden in devious locations, forcing you to risk death to incinerate them. At certain points in the game, you will also encounter nearly invisible bombs that must be disarmed before they blow you to pieces. On their own, they're slightly annoying but hardly life threatening. But when you're forced to travel down a long corridor populated by these translucent explosives while trying to avoid snipers perched above and foot soldiers swarming on the ground, they just pour gas on the flames of frustration.

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