When it comes to Conduit 2, we critics are partially to blame. After playing this sequel to one of the Wii’s most-publicized shooters, I realized that High Voltage Software must have read reviews of the original game and made some changes. The multiplayer, the art design, the main character’s lackluster All-Seeing Eye device, the lack of variety--all of these issues have been addressed. It feels validating for a critic when a developer reads reviews and genuinely tries to change the things that didn’t work.
It’s when they change the things that did work where I start to take issue.
While the story is forgettable, it would have been acceptable if it gave you interesting enemies to fight. While the original game had solid AI, Conduit 2 really drops the ball here. While the first game’s more humanoid enemies took cover and worked together to flank you, these guys are often more content to simply stand still and shoot you--if you’re lucky, they’ll run a little in one direction or another while firing. It makes sense when they’re sniping from a distance, but it really takes you out of the game when you hold your shotgun to a guy’s face and he just stands still and continues pegging you with his pistol. The Drudge aliens are even worse, tending to simply rush you much of the time. Whether they’re big guys that soak up an impossible amount of bullets, or the speedy little anklebiters that are nearly impossible to shoot, I was not surprised--in a bad way--when I found out these guys had wiped out most of humanity.
High Voltage did try to inject some variety into the encounters by way of boss fights interspersed every few levels. With the exception of a PG-ified version of the ship battle with Irving from Resident Evil 5 and one who spams insta-kill attacks that take up most of the area, these fights are mostly pretty fun. Let’s just say that, by the end of my time with Conduit 2, I was more than happy to have the chance to fire a few hundred alien parasites into Adams’ skull.
As monotonous as the single-player can get, at least HVS put some effort into the multiplayer, addressing my chief concern with the previous game--split-screen. The biggest let-down of The Conduit, in my opinion, was the exclusion of local multiplayer. It had an in-depth online mode, but (call me old-fashioned) I much prefer to grab a bunch of buddies, a twelve-pack of Coke, and sit around a TV fragging each other. High Voltage heard my cries, and has implemented split-screen for four players this time around. In addition to the standard multiplayer modes, splitscreen players also get to enjoy Invasion mode, in which you work together to thwart several waves of enemies. As dumb as the Drudge are in this game, killing them is made much more enjoyable when competing with friends to do it. The online play seemed to run fluidly in my playtime, and in a nice touch, the game supports the Headbanger headset for voice chat. Unfortunately, it does not support the more widespread Wii Speak microphone, which is disappointing seeing as the first game did support that peripheral. To the game’s credit, it does support patching so High Voltage can weed out the exploits that plagued the first game.
Now for the most divisive part of the game--the graphics. Visuals can be divided into two subsections--the engine and the art style. High Voltage has pulled a 180 here. As mentioned, the first game’s bland, repetitive environments have been replaced with a diverse array of settings, and the water effects are quite convincing as well. Texture quality could use some work, but the art style is mostly improved. On the other hand, the Quantum3 Engine that gave the last game huge environments and lots of effects, all with a rock-solid 30fps framerate, has inexplicably been replaced with one that slows the action to a crawl when things heat up. It is difficult to aim the Wii Remote when your targeting reticule is constantly jerking all over the place.
The game is also a glitchy mess. The opening requires you to jump through a window to escape poison gas. On my first go, I jumped through the window... and the floor... and the planet Earth, apparently, as I found myself floating in 3D space until I died. Once in a while, when you pick up a gun, the game takes several seconds to load it, so you’re walking around getting shot for several seconds before you can fire back. Several times the targeting reticule froze in place, stopping me from aiming (my Wii wasn’t the problem, as during these moments I had no issues pointing around the Home menu). That’s to say nothing of the enemies who turn around at a moment’s notice--sometimes you’ll sneak up behind someone, and then they will instantly be facing you without even a ‘turning’ animation. Glitches like these caused me many unfair deaths, and would have made me toss the game on my shelf, never to be looked at again, if I weren’t playing for this review.
The different aspects of sound have been switched around, too. While the first game had campy dialogue, it was offset by the quality voice acting, with each voice feeling like it fit its respective character. Conduit 2 provides a genuinely funny, reasonable script... that’s hampered by the fact that they got Duke Nukem to voice Ford this time around. Upon recounting the details of his pursuit of Adams to an inquisitive alien, Ford proclaims, “Ever since then, he’s been trying to kill me, I’ve been trying to kill him... it’s sort of a... thing we have.” It’s a genuinely funny line, in context. Unfortunately, lines like these make me cringe when everyone is acting seriously and then the main character suddenly screams out these lines in a sarcastic voice.
High Voltage, if you’re reading this, I really appreciate that you value the feedback put forth by both reviewers and your fans. Hopefully you can take some of these observations into account and make a superior game. We can tell you guys are talented and passionate, but this game doesn’t sate the appetite for a great shooter. On that note, since you’re such good listeners at HVS, I think we were all disappointed that this game did not come with a bucket of wings. Just sayin'...