Wii Review: The Conduit

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Player controlled Michael Ford walks through an airport, blasting away at US agents who have been overtaken by an as of yet unidentified alien species. As the agents attack, they pass through loud metal detectors, of course sending off a warning signal to the player that an assault is underway.

It is important to note that prior to this action, the airport was evacuated by mere minutes according to the in-game dialogue. This begs the question as to why explosive oxygen canisters (red, of course) are sitting all over the hallways, primed to blow with a few bullets. Apparently the metal detectors do not work as advertised for people to come through the que with those in tow.

That is only one example of the last generation logic and design on display in The Conduit, a rather vapid first-person shooter on a console that can certainly deliver a fun experience in the genre.

Wrongly hailed as some form of savior for the Wii, the game might have made it as an amateur design, possibly as a Xbox Live Arcade or PSN affair. After all, such thrilling concepts as an alien race fighting against the player as they attempt to take over Washington are all the rage. As if that plot development wasn’t primed for a Sci-Fi Channel original movie, the inevitable line, “We don’t know who you can trust” ruins all suspense.

Mechanically, The Conduit is sound. Guns deliver a fair sense of satisfaction, particularly alien weapons which deliver significantly more push. Aiming is wonderful, although tossing grenades with the nunchuck is miscalculation considering how easy mistakes can be made.

Multi-player is fine and enjoyable since the mechanics are sound, including a unique mode entitled Bounty Hunter. Here you only earn points for killing your target; other enemies are fodder although also looking to kill you to clear their path despite a point loss.

Back to single player, Conduit delivers average and marginally enjoyable play until the A.S.E. (All Seeing Eye) comes into play, an impossibly stupid concept that stops the game cold. It is used to find secret objects, but also to unlock doors which have hidden switches on the wall (planted by the aliens). They can only be found with the A.S.E. out, meaning you are defenseless should the room still contain foes.

The problem is compounded by breaking one of the key rules of game design: Infinitely spawning enemies are not fun. Conduit has these points by the hundreds, requiring grenades to be thrown into the holes transporting aliens to stop the flood (or busting open egg sacks). However, battling through countless tiny enemies with an AI pattern set to “swarm” and hopefully getting a grenade through is a battle that is played out the first time you encounter it.

Adding to the aggravation is the sound hidden objects make when you’re near them. It is needed because these objects are never logically hidden, fine for unlockable extras, not so much for door locks. As you’re fighting, the game is constantly prompting you to pull out the A.S.E. to look around, breaking another critical design rule: Avoid repetitive noises, which could have been solved here by waiting until the room is clear before sounding the alarm.

Don’t worry Wii owners, there has to be something else coming down the line that doesn’t commit such blatant design errors.

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