Conduit 2 Review
For all its novelty and innovation, the Wii has been unable to scratch one nagging itch: the shooter. Yes, the exceptions spring to mind (the Metroid series, for example), but these great games are still very rarely seen on the console. The Wii-motes's radical new gameplay style makes shooters risky territory for the console to step foot on. People want to be able to hit their targets, but they don’t want to feel as though some invisible force is guiding them in the process. What’s more, the console has an unshakable “youthful” image that sits awkwardly among shooters. Parents don’t buy a Wii for their children with the thought of putting firearms into their hands.
Fortunately, the sequel to the moderately successful shooter Conduit manages to incorporate satisfying levels of gun-slinging slaughter without going overboard. The developers at High Voltage have demonstrated an excellent ability to listen and respond to feedback, improving upon nearly every facet of their original creation. Conduit 2, it should be noted, remains an action game at its core. There are no thought-provoking morality plays, heart-wrenching dramatic outbursts, or convoluted storylines. The narrative is the traditional bare-bones plot upon which each adventure hangs. It's a technique that has worked for many movies and television shows and one that remains acceptable for plenty of video games. And while Conduit 2 makes no effort to break new ground in storytelling, it does assemble a clumsy array of scenes and dialogue that will likely invoke groans of embarrassment from any adult player. Similarly, nothing in the customization department is nearly as complex as would be found in a typical role-playing game; however, the option to upgrade your weapons and cosmetic features are certainly a welcome touch. These are implemented through a currency-reward system, giving the player a heightened sense of choice and control.
When it comes down to it, Conduit 2 remains a cleverly constructed shooter. The expected frustration of the Wii controller can be ameliorated with plenty of adjustment tweaks to suit the player’s unique taste, while popping in the classic control pad offers a quick solution for those who haven’t the patience. Much of the game’s strength lies in its tightened pace and campaign length. You won’t need more than a few hours to get through it, but it’s a pretty sweet ride that never grows too dull. The mixture of boss battles and refreshing locations spruces up what could have easily been a lackluster shooting effort. In fact, it’s very easy to get fired up right from the start, where the game shamelessly flaunts itself in a “Yeah, I'm awesome” sort of way.
Granted, the emphasis on action over narrative will not be a bother to everyone. The controls remain the greatest source of aggravation. A game engine that does not play by its own rules, even for a small fraction on the time, will be very distressing for players accustomed to triple-A titles. A terrific visual design helps lessen this problem. Thoughtfully constructed levels in a colorful variety of locations ensure that the eyes are well-treated. Conduit 2 may be one of the most visually striking games ever to grace the Wii. The frame rate's occasional struggle to keep pace is a testament to the vast graphical showcase that’s been packed in.
These slow-downs become far less apparent in multiplayer, thankfully. Smooth, flowing online action actually contrasts with some of the more abrupt moments of the campaign, but then again, lag would be an even more troublesome concern here than in any single-player mode. The standard assortment of game types are available: hunting and defending as found in any shooter classic as well as a few odd bits that work with varying levels of success. It's important that the modes work and don’t feel like a lazy afterthought, as they do in many similar titles. Conduit 2 seems to focus on maintaining an attraction through familiarity, as though the exotic component of the Wii-mote was an embarrassing blemish needing to be concealed. There’s enough trigger-happy joy here to keep you busy long after the campaign ends, guaranteeing valuable longevity. Hopefully, a bolder design philosophy will allow future iterations to break new ground rather than settle for “good enough” in meeting player expectations.