The Conduit may not have set the world alight when it released in 2009, but that can easily be attributed to the hype it had to live up to – thrust upon it by creators, High Voltage Software. Having listened to fan feedback, the developer has returned to the series, aiming to deliver a sequel that improves upon its predecessor. Yet will Conduit 2 fall foul of the same issues, or does this now fulfil the previous promise?
Picking up from where the original game left off, the plot of Conduit 2 continues to centre upon protagonist Michael Ford’s pursuit of John Adams – the head of a secret organisation called The Trust, who Ford had previously been lured into joining under false pretence within the original game. Prometheus, a conspirator who had aided Ford in uncovering a galactic conspiracy spearheaded by Adams, also returns to assist you – his essence continuing to inhabit the mysterious spherical alien device, the All-Seeing Eye (ASE), that Ford carries.
For those that didn’t play through The Conduit, an opening cutscene easily brings you up to speed with the back story before you initially discover Ford dusting himself down on an off-shore oil rig in the Bermuda Triangle, the location to which Adams had escaped to at the end of the first game. What follows is a globe-trotting sci-fi adventure – taking you across locations such as Washington D.C, China and Siberia, to name but a few – during which Ford is tasked with seeking out artefacts that will allow him to locate the remaining progenitors who may enable him to defeat Adams.
High Voltage Software has made a concerted effort to offer more diversity within this second instalment, both in terms of visual design and also the enemies that you encounter. Graphically this is one of the strongest contenders for Wii, and the team should feel proud. Heightened boss battles now add much-needed variance, whereas the selection of worldwide locales allows for varying art styles and scenery to inhabit them. The developer even playfully jests at having to use the same rooms within indoor environments in places, with Ford exclaiming “Whoa, wasn’t I just in this hallway?” to which Prometheus responds “Sometimes building planners save time and money by repeating the same structure multiple times, just like in your earth video games.”
On that note, there has been more emphasis on providing Ford with more personality within the sequel – turning to the skills of veteran voice actor John St. John, best known for his role as the voice of Duke Nukem, who replaces Mark Sheppard. Prometheus, previously voiced by Kevin Sorbo of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys fame, has also been replaced by a new voice actor, and whilst this is enough to discern fans of the original an enjoyable rapport between the dialogue of the two characters still remains.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the actor and actress who voice the roles of both Adams and Andromeda respectively. You’re never led to fear Adams, and despite having a history with Prometheus the character of Andromeda remains an insignificant addition that the player never particularly cares for – with delivered lines echoing such sentiment.
You’ll once again find an impressive array of both human and alien weaponry at your disposal, although with ammo boxes regularly littered throughout levels you’re more than likely to continue to stick to your favourites once you’ve discovered them. However, whilst well-varied, the weapons could do with a little more consistency in fundamental design. Whereas some offer secondary fire modes, others merely offer the function of being able to aim down the scope as their ‘extra feature.’ Having to experiment to see what each weapon offers soon becomes more of a nuisance, and I am sure there will be many players who fail to stir up enough interest in fully exploring the merits of each. The game would’ve easily benefited from primary and secondary fire for each across the board.
Improving upon its predecessor, Conduit 2 offers a range of control schemes beyond the usual Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo. Whilst such a set-up remains the default control method, further support is offered for both the Classic Controller and Wii MotionPlus – the latter of which provided an improved level of control and accuracy, and more importantly making those headshots all the easier to pull off.
Successfully adding replay value are a number of collectables, including ‘Conspiracy Objects’ and blueprints, scattered across campaign levels, that provide the player with credits once scanned with the ASE. These can then be spent within Conduit 2‘s aptly titled ‘Store,’ where you are able to unlock weapons, upgrades, character skins and armour parts that vary in use across both the campaign and multiplayer. There is a vast quantity on offer, and those that invest their time into the game are sure to feel rewarded.
Answering the cries of fans, split-screen multiplayer is now available – something that the original lacked – allowing up to four players to battle it out locally. As perhaps can be expected, the more players you add the more you’ll find the graphical quality dips to ensure the frame rate can hold out, but for those who prefer local to online competitive play will certainly find plenty to enjoy here. Invasion mode is certainly a highlight, where all players must work as a team to fend off waves of spawning enemies – reviving each other where necessary, and accruing credits to later spend on unlocking further content for your account as mentioned previously.
Taking the fight online, you’ll either be able to battle it out with friends in private competitive matches or dive straight into four varying playlists for up to 12 players; Big Team Grab Bag, Free for All Grab Bag, Hardcore Team Games and Hardcore Free for All. Matchmaking works incredibly well, and, having made your choice, you’ll soon find yourself in a lobby awaiting further players. From here, you’ll then all be able to vote between two map and rule set combinations before finally heading into the match.
Matches were largely lag-free, although there was the odd discrepancy with individual players jumping around a bit. A further issue that did crop up, is that there isn’t a way of ensuring you’re playing opposing players using the same control scheme as you. Whilst I prefer the use of the Classic Controller Pro, it did seem in certain instances that those using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo were at an advantage. Within team matches, you are also able to call for assistance if you run out of health – a revive mechanic ensuring that those that co-operate as a unit soon gain the upper hand. Voice chat is also supported for those with the Headbanger headset, although it is based on proximity in free-for-all matches and to teams in team-based modes. Regrettably, there wasn’t much chatter!
Conduit 2 also falls foul to a number of bugs and issues that were seemingly unable to be ironed out prior to release. Whilst improved, the enemy AI in places is particularly questionable. For the occasions where you are impressed as enemies dive away from grenades and sensibly run to take cover from incoming fire, you’ll soon stumble upon instances in which enemies attempt to shoot you through walls or groups that stand idly by as you pick them off individually from afar. The lip sync during cutscenes is also atrocious in places, and unnecessarily lowers the otherwise reputable level of quality that High Voltage has achieved.
Considering the game has received a delayed release it was a particular annoyance to discover that the game was continually hampered by these, although High Voltage Software is continuing to support the game through patches released to those that connect to the multiplayer servers via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Each time you connect, the game will check that you are up-to-date and download additional patches where necessary – such support is incredibly welcome for the Wii.
Such gripes don’t detract from Conduit 2 being able to better the original in every way possible. Unashamedly oozing B-Movie appeal throughout – even though its storyline isn’t quite up to scratch – Wii owners looking for a worthy first-person shooter to expand their software collection can do no wrong with High Voltage Software’s latest output. Battle cries of “Get off my planet!” as you blast your enemies into smithereens with a range of sci-fi weaponry never fail to raise a smile, and a surprisingly deep, varied multiplayer portion will continue to entice those looking for extra longevity. Don’t miss out.