Conduit 2 demands your attention. It’s a first person shooter with incredible controls, great graphics, good humour, addictive gameplay, a wealthy amount of options and customisation, and a whole lot of style. It’s a fairly short game, but it’s full blown entertainment from start to finish, and makes no compromises or excuses for it. Michael Ford is here to kick ass and take names, and he’s all out of names. Life’s too short for formality – there’s no time for “the” anymore – this is simply Conduit 2, and it’s time to shoot bad guys.
The story in the first game was hilarious and ridiculous. The same goes for Conduit 2, but this time it’s presented much differently, and it’s funny for the right reasons. The game KNOWS how stupid it is, and enjoys poking fun at itself. Michael Ford is full of magical one-liners all of a sudden, and directly comments on the game’s flaws as you play. I guess fighting so many aliens in the first game and getting nowhere actually gave him some resilience and a personality. The story itself has everything: it’s a worldwide government conspiracy tied to an alien invasion and features zombies, sea monsters, robots, time travel, lost cities, mayan references, sasquatch, and somehow manages to link all this to real life government conspiracies of the past. I won’t spoil which ones because it’s just ridiculous and amazing when you find them in the game.
While Michael Ford coats the game with a thick layer of cheese and insincerity, the game world itself is actually quite interesting and involved. The levels are littered with “conspiracy items” to scan and hidden messages on the walls to find, and there’s some interesting stuff here. It varies from meaningless diary entries and emails to top secret information about important people. There’s some guy on the oil rig who is depressed with the current fishing situation, and blames the Conduit’s electricity for scaring away all the fish. Pointless, but a cool addition to the game world that makes it feel more alive and interesting. There’s also hidden energy crystals and ancient messages on the walls to find, providing some incentive to explore, not just to “clear” the game, but to find out more about what’s happening.
The controls are smooth and responsive, not just like any good game, but moreso than anything out there. The Wii Remote (when used properly) is the absolute pinnacle of FPS control, producing more accuracy than a joystick, and more natural movements than a mouse. It’s silly to even compare, because it still doesn’t feel close to any of those. It’s not realistic in its movement, unless you walk around with a pipe up your arse and your legs dont bend. Its strength lies in giving you a greater degree of freedom over what you see. Conduit 2’s controls eliminate the conscious barrier of “adjusting” your view. With the Wii remote, you can’t turn too little or look too far, you just point and you’re there, the same way you move your eyes. Your eyes dont “miss” things, they don’t bounce around like a nervous thumb; when you see something you look straight at it, and Conduit 2 does well to capture this in your hand.
The controls create a level of immersion that wasn’t possible before, and it turns an above-average shooter into a GREAT one. It doesn’t just enhance the shooting, it makes it more fun to look around exploring the levels and finding items. It creates a feeling like you’re poking your head around corners and over objects. It can take a bit of time to adapt to the controls and adjust to your liking, but this is mainly because of the ridiculous amount of options we have here. You can slow down the turning speed to a crawl, or spin around 10 times per second. I won’t go into too much detail about the control options – Pro Daisy explains them in much greater detail than I ever could right here (an easy-to-understand article that thoroughly explains what each control adjustment does). My setup is similar, same Dead Zone, but I use the “Human” camera view, with a lower turning speed of 18 to offset the “floaty” camera, and a higher sensitivity of 48 so I can still shoot fast and because I personally don’t mind it bouncing around a bit. Unfortunately, there’s no option to fix the floaty camera, and they’ve also slowed down the movement from the first Conduit, including a new “run” button to make up for it. It seems like an intentional design from High Voltage Software to make movement more “realistic”. The game focuses more on exploration than the first, which to them probably justifies the approach, but overall they’ve just removed an option the first game had. It’s a shame because Conduit 2 does refine a lot of other things over the first game, but instead of being a direct improvement it’s just “different”. Overall I prefer Conduit 2’s controls to the first, because while you’re inside the Dead Zone the floaty camera isn’t an issue, and primary aiming feels a lot better. This is the best FPS I’ve ever played, and the controls are half the reason why. Conduit 1 and 2 are top of the class when it comes to Wii shooters, without a doubt.
The enemy AI falls into the same cliche as the rest of the game: satisfyingly bad. Bad guys are stupid, and some will get eaten or killed before you can even fire a round in their direction. The AI patterns of the enemies aren’t made to look realistic: they’re made to trick the player. A gunman will start running back, and do a circle as you chase him, bringing all the focus to him. This is usually done when there’s a group of enemies, and while this is happening, the other 3 or 4 will all come out at once and gun you down. IF you’re still focusing on the special retarded “AI” event of the first guy, you’ll be dead when the group attacks. This “crap AI” brings you out into the open, and makes you scream “STUPID AI! SHIT GAME!” as the game hands you your arse on the death screen. More like stupid player.
There aren’t many instances of this in the game; special AI events are limited. Mostly, the AI is very basic and it’s something you don’t really notice. If you’re looking for strategy, you won’t find it in Conduit 2. The bad guys stand there, shoot, take cover, reload, and repeat. They’re pretty crap at taking cover too; usually you can still see the top or side of their head, and it’s enough to kill them instantly. Sometimes enemies that are right in front of you will run to cover instead of shooting, but you know what? Sometimes I do that too. It feels like the “safe” option in the face of sudden danger. I bet most of the time we human players look pretty ridiculous to the AI.
The enemies themselves are pretty varied, aside from human soldiers there’s a variety of aliens and robots in many shapes and sizes, from flying moth things to relentless robot dogs that have come from Resident Evil to tear out your soul. These are especially annoying because they appear after you get spotted by surveilance cameras you can’t shoot or avoid. Interactive environments aren’t found in this game. The most you can do is annihilate a desk fan or flip over a bench / soda machine. There are some boss fights to change things up, a nice distraction, but their patterns are laughably easy to predict and they aren’t very stimulating.
Difficulty can be adjusted on the fly during gameplay; it doesn’t change the game much but at least it’s fair and balanced. On the hardest difficulty, enemies shoot quicker and more accurately, explosions have a bigger blast ratio, and you die with less hits. The enemies intelligence seems exactly the same, and you can still kill them with one shot to the head. There’s no cheap tricks to make the game harder, just the simple things have been turned up and you have to be smarter and more careful. I prefer playing on the hardest difficulty because otherwise you can just run out into the open and kill everything, it’s more fun when you have to use cover and split the enemies up. Even on the hardest difficulty the game can be a bit too easy once you’ve mastered the controls.
The graphics are great. It’s one of the best looking Wii games; High Voltage Software really knows the console well. Everything runs smoothly with a good amount of detail, without having that blurry / blocky “third party Wii game” classic look. While the environments are a lot more varied and interesting than the first Conduit, there’s just not enough of them. The whole single player campaign can be beaten in about 5 hours, and I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve played each level 8-10 times. The game has a lot of achievements and hidden items to keep you playing, but more levels would be a much better motivator.
Aside from the single player campaign, there’s online play with a heap of different modes, and 4 player split screen multiplayer for people in the same room – which is sadly becoming a rare feature in today’s games. As a package, Conduit 2 is rough around the edges, but it still delivers fun where it counts. The gameplay engine is absolutely solid: movement is easy, aiming is blissful, and it all feels natural. High Voltage Software are one of the very few developers to do justice to the Wii’s potential, and the result isn’t something that’ll turn the world upside down, just a very fun game.