Tag Archives: The Conduit

Conduit Retrospective Part Two: Conduit 2 Review

The Wrath Of Kahn. Empire Strikes Back. Judgment Day. Sequels sometimes do surpass their precursor stories in every way possible. All while continuing the overall arc. Other times not so much. Conduit 2 is a lot closer to the former. At least for most of the ride.

PROS: Improved graphics. More controller options. Split Screen Multiplayer.

CONS: Voice actors from the first game have been replaced.

HA, HA, HA: The ending is out of left field, and unintentionally hilarious.

When you first start up Conduit 2 you will be thrown into a brief montage of the end events of the first game then find yourself on an Oil Rig near the Bermuda Triangle. Right away you’ll notice that HVS significantly upped the ante on their Quantum 3 engine. Bump mapped water, reflections, and other lighting effects give the game some of the highest visual effects seen in a Wii game.  Player models, and environments are still low detail, and even drab in some spots, but the texture work is vastly improved which hides away some of these imperfections.

Environments are also much more varied in their settings this go around. This is due to the storyline that takes you all over the world. No longer confined to Washington, you’ll be in snow-capped mountains, jungles, the ocean, and more.

The control options are just as customizable as in the last game allowing for players to find the right feel for themselves. Once again you can reconfigure the look of the Heads Up Display, the sensitivity of the pointer controls, and remap the button layout. The game also takes full advantage of the Wii Motion Plus accessory. Enabling it in the options makes the pointer much more accurate, improving its tracking. For those who could never get behind the idea of using a pointer in a shooter, Conduit 2 does allow them to use a classic controller. People used to playing on twin stick controllers may feel a bit more at home. This is also fairly customizable allowing those players to remap the button layout in addition to the sensitivity of the thumb sticks.

This review is also going to be a bit spoiler heavy. Mainly because there is an aspect of the campaign that cannot be ignored. That aspect is the ending. Which we will get to. Of course in order to show you just how far the beyond the shark it is, we will need to talk about the storyline.

At the end of The Conduit  Michael Ford escaped John Adams’ secret bunker through a conduit portal with the ASE. Prometheus absorbed his consciousness  into the ASE beforehand. During the rolling credits we find out that Adams is actually a shape shifting alien Reptoid. He was sent by his race to take over the world, and some of the Drudge were beings based off of Prometheus’ alien DNA structure but intertwined with human DNA.

Right out of the gate, the game begins at the end of an exit conduit. You come out of the conduit to find yourself on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean. After you fight your way through hordes of hired mercenaries the oil rig is attacked by a Leviathan. This is one of the moments when Conduit 2 really shines. This boss fight is everything a boss fight should be. It involves running around the top of the oil rig, and manning turret cannons to bring it down. While this is going on however, small grunt enemies will come out to attack you. So you will be bouncing between avoiding the Leviathan’s attacks, and dispatching grunts before going back to fighting the boss.

As you go through the rest of the campaign you’ll travel the globe. This begins when you stumble upon Atlantis, which turns out isn’t a sunken city, but an ancient extraterrestrial  war ship. The ship’s defenses come on while you are inside, so you will have to defend yourself against them. As you fight your way through it you have to find a woman named Andromeda, and take her out of cryogenic sleep. It turns out she was led to believe Prometheus betrayed her eons ago, and you convince her over time otherwise. When you free her you are given a special battle suit in the vein of Metroid heroine Samus Aran.

Andromeda also pilots Atlantis which has the ability to open up Conduits of its own. This turns the ship into a hub level where you will return between stages. It also allows you revisit past stages, and bonus training stages. At one point you return to Washington DC to find the Drudge are in a civil war.  Some of the creatures are liberating themselves from the group, while the rest swear their allegiances to the Trust. You’ll end up saving one of the free Drudge named Thex. He then helps later in the mission, by bringing in his forces to help you in one of the larger scale fights the game has to offer. Prometheus also gives exposition about other aliens, called Progenitors. These beings are involved in secret societies around the globe who must also be convinced Adams needs to be stopped.

It is revealed that Adams intends to murder all of the Progenitors, and consume their souls.  In doing so, he can take their powers, and add them to his own. So your job is to find each of the Progenitors, and warn them of Adams’ plot to kill them for their power which he will use to enslave the Earth.

You will then go to China to confront another alien named Li who doesn’t believe Adams is much of a threat nor does he believe you are the true bearer of the exosuit. The China stage has some of the cooler moments in this game. Statues come to life, and attack with powerful melee moves, while other enemies try to gun you down. Li is also another huge boss with an old school pattern you have to discover to take him down. He can also recharge his life bar.  While it is an overused, game convention, it is implemented at a level that doesn’t make him impossible to beat either. When you do defeat him you absorb his consciousness into the ASE. You’ll find this becomes a running theme.

The trail then leads to Siberia where you travel through mountainous terrain, discovering hidden military bases, and labs. It is here you will have to free another alien leader named Katarina. Things become really dicey however. So she will sacrifice herself in order to keep you alive. Like previous alien leaders she too sends her consciousness into the ASE. The trail then leads to Central America where you’ll discover the Lost City of Z. While there you’ll find another top ranking alien has died, and again absorb them into the ASE.

The last mission takes Ford back to the Atlantis where John Adams invades in his human form with a small army. This results in a huge horde battle, and Ford quickly dives into a conduit after Adams who tries to escape in the classic movie villain trope. In classic video game fashion however, this really leads to a second boss fight against Adams who shifts into his true form. This fight is actually a bit of a let down, as it’s not one of the more strategic gun battles as you’ve had thus far. There’s not much of a puzzle element, just one of those fights where you hope for the best. Like in the original Doom when you first found the Cyberdemon. Be prepared to empty whatever rounds you have, and hope it is enough.

Once you do defeat Adams though you find you can also absorb his consciousness into the ASE. This leads to one of the most over the top endings in any game you’ve ever, ever, (and I mean ever) played through. It turns out that the reason Thex had you absorb all of these beings into the ASE is so you could beat Adams with their combined might. However absorbing Adams into the ASE causes it to overload, and send an emergency beacon into space, where a Borg inspired spherical planet begins to travel toward Earth. No sooner does Ford find himself completely perplexed when some people pass through a Conduit to tell him they’re here to help.

Those people aren’t another group of aliens, an extraterrestrial task force, or an as of yet introduced government agency. It’s our first President George Washington, and our sixteenth President Abraham Lincoln. Both of whom are dressed like space marines. Other former Presidents, and historical figures then come piling out of the Conduit. All of whom are sporting the biggest armor this side of Warhammer 40,000.  The Conduit 2 logo then flashes in front of an outer space backdrop, and the credits begin to roll.

Now the storyline involves on an alien plot to take over the world, and the antagonist is one who shares a name with our second president. Plus it’s hinted he may have been one in the same. It’s silly, and a bit campy. But it’s still presented seriously enough where the suspension of disbelief allows most people to get invested. At least enough to want to see the story through. There have been movies, and TV shows with less plausible ideas, that many of us have been invested in. Here is the thing though. Are we supposed to buy that all of our Presidents have known about this plot, and are also hundreds if not thousands of years old? Why would all of them be dressed like Captain Titus? How did the Presidents fake their deaths so well? A little bit of camp in a story that centers around conspiracy theories can be a nice dose of comic relief. But this ending is  so over the top, and so campy, that most anyone playing it will either: A.) Laugh. B.) Ask “What the hell?” or any number of variations on the question. Or C.) Both.

Bad ending aside, the campaign really is a good time. Certainly if you love exploration in your First Person Shooters. Especially if you are the type who loves to read up on conspiracy theories. Not only do secret messages return from The Conduit, but High Voltage Software went through hours of researching conspiracy theories to implement a ton of objects referencing them. There are secret plans for H.A.A.R.P., evidence that the Dropa Stones were of extraterrestrial origin, and touch on many other conspiracies.

The artifacts you discover from these conspiracies are a really nice touch. They add more to the narrative than the campaigns script does at times. Sci-Fi fans of shows like X-Files, Alien Nation, and V will find themselves enjoying the references. After you beat the game you can go back to any stage to find any secrets you may have missed, and even play through bonus stages you may have unlocked by finding hidden coordinates. Stages are a lot more open than other shooters that have come out over the last few years. Some have branching paths, and the freedom is an appreciated touch, after the me too linearity seen in the original game, and so many other games this generation.

The role of the ASE was also expanded in this game. The last game limited it to being a key for weapon closets, a graffiti translator, and cloaked bomb detector. This time, it is used to find artifacts which, as described earlier, tell more of the story. It also finds coordinates, and weapons. The ping system has also been changed from an automatic ping to a manual one. So it won’t be going off on its own whenever you stand near a possible cloaked threat or a secret. It’s a small change, but it does make hunting for secrets something you’ll want to do.

One thing that may disappoint you (aside from the ending) in Conduit 2, is the voice acting. The entire cast was changed. Most notably Mark Sheppard was replaced with Jon St. John, while Max McGill, and Sam Mowry were cast in place of Kevin Sorbo, and William Morgan Sheppard. The new cast isn’t bad. But they bring very different portrayals of Michael Ford, John Adams, and Prometheus to the series. Jon St. John brings a vocal flair similar to his Duke Nukem performance to Michael Ford. It isn’t exactly like Duke Nukem, as it isn’t as deep. There also aren’t a lot of witty or crude one liners in the script. But the character still has a lot more bravado in this installment as a result. It certainly isn’t a terrible performance by any means. But because it so different from what was presented in the first game, it can come off as jarring.

McGill, and Mowry don’t fare quite as well. Prometheus ends up sounding a lot more mechanical here. Adams is a little bit closer in terms of the character’s over confidence. But the delivery still ends up being a far cry from what we saw in the original game. Again none of the performances are absolutely dreadful. There were certainly well-intentioned efforts put into them. But because the new cast are different people who had different ideas on how to portray these characters, obviously the result is different, and different enough to turn some people off.

By contrast, the biggest improvement to Conduit 2 has to be its multiplayer. Once again, seeing how the game’s online multiplayer is no longer functional, you won’t be playing it. Over the course of the three years it was playable over the internet, the game  received several patches. The developers made a commitment to reduce cheating, implemented a customizable system for players to have specialized load outs, and even costume designs. The game also has a Call Of Duty inspired levelling system allowing the truly devoted to unlock, and level up weapons. There was again an achievement system, and the game allowed you to pick friends, and rivals through your non private games which allowed you to essentially friend them without having to get their friend code. Sadly you didn’t get as much in the way of game type tweaking in non private games. You could only pick from a few grab bag modes.

The modes that were present were the typical Free For All Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Last Man Standing modes. ASE Football returned, along with a horde mode, where players tried to survive waves of enemies. All stuff you’ve seen before. But it was really well crafted. Map designs were built around the modes. There weren’t nearly as many lag, or performance issues as in other Wii online multiplayer titles.

Fortunately, Conduit 2 added in 2 to 4 player split screen multiplayer. So all of the mayhem you could experience online, can at least be played locally with friends, and relatives. Some of the multiplayer maps are truly great romps. My favorite being the crash site where you can climb into the crashed space craft, and turn on its afterburners. Anyone foolish enough to stand behind it is burned to death pretty much instantly. Some of the new weapons in Conduit 2 are also really cool. One of the best is the mobile turret, where you can place the turret, then through secondary fire go to a completely different area with a tablet, then use the tablet to remotely fire upon enemies through a camera app.

Conduit 2 is one of the best games you haven’t played, and one of the better games to come out near the end of the Wii’s run. If you own a Wii or a Wii-U you owe it to yourself to check this game out. If you are a multi platform owner who likes shooters  it’s worth a look. If you love stories about conspiracy theories, and Sci-Fi themed B-Movies it’s probably also something up your alley. Provided of course, you can deal with such an out of place ending.

Still, one can’t help but wonder if High Voltage Software will ever be allowed to show us where the Conduit could go from here.

Final Score: 8 out of 10


The Conduit Retrospective Part One: The Conduit Review

Conspiracy theories can always make for a good story. Sometimes they are simply a fun romp held together by contrivances, and speculation. Other times they are deep stories, that bring up philosophical questions. Some are so good in fact, they will make the possible seem plausible because they are told so well.

The Conduit is between these two ends of the spectrum.

PROS: PC level controller customization, campy story, voice acting, satisfying gun play.

CONS: Multiplayer is no longer playable. Unique ASE mechanic far too underutilized.

ODD: Head shots that decapitate aliens but not humans. Strange.

Made for the Wii as an exclusive labor of love, The Conduit tells a narrative of a centuries old plot by a secret society to allow extraterrestrial beings to take over the world. The protagonist of the story, Michael Ford, is a secret service agent who saves the president from an assassination attempt.

In doing this Ford, unwittingly throws a wrench into the works of this plan. This causes a man named John Adams (Who shares a name with our second president) to contact him, and recruit him to do work for a shadow government entity called the Trust. The Trust is over 200 years old, and has access to many top secret technologies at its disposal.

The Trust sends Ford on a counter terrorist mission to find a man named Prometheus (Named after the character in Greek mythology). Prometheus is said to be behind the invasion of Earth by aliens known as the Drudge. But just when Ford thinks he’s caught him, Adams double crosses him, and it is here where The game really begins to take off. Ford will traverse throughout Washington DC fighting off alien threats in his quest to track down Adams, uncovering all sorts of vast conspiracies along the way.

The Conduit was novel in its release because at the time, very few first person shooters were being released on the Nintendo Wii. Developers decried the underpowered graphics hardware, praised the infrastructure of Microsoft’s Live service, and Sony’s horsepower, and went for those. Developer High Voltage Software, (who had mostly made licensed tie ins throughout its history) looked at the console’s pointer controller, and decided it could be used to play shooters.

HVS really surpassed expectations with its in-house engine. Called the Quantum 3 engine, it allows the Wii to produce some lighting effects previously not thought possible on the system. While the environments are not littered with detailed textures, or high polygon counts, The Conduit does feature some impressive effects. Explosions, lens flares, reflections all make for a few “Wow!” moments. Sadly, this does make for a little bit of unevenness, as some drab areas will lead to some really impressive ones only to go back to some drab ones.

The Conduit’s biggest victory however, has to be its emphasis on tweaking its control scheme.

You can change everything from what button, or gesture does what function to how sensitive the pointer is, to how big or small you want the bounding box to be. You can even change the colors, opacity, and layout of your Heads Up Display. Do you want your health bar in the dead center of the screen for some reason? You can certainly do that. Do you want to make the D-pad your pause button, and melee attack? Absolutely. For the truly insane, you can remove the HUD altogether. Of course most players will try to set the layout as close to a familiar setup as possible. Once you have it configured properly it definitely controls very nicely. While it doesn’t give you quite the precision a good mouse on your computer does, it is more responsive than most analog pads. It even beats out a lot of other Wii shooters in terms of tweaking controls, and user interfaces.

You can even map melee or grenades to motion sensors adding a little bit of interactivity to the experience.

As for the game itself, it is admittedly a bit of a mixed bag. The main campaign takes a lot of cues from other more successful games on other platforms. The most notable one being Half-Life 2. The game takes a very linear point A to point B approach to level design. This is far from the only game over the past decade that uses this blueprint. But few are able to mask it with an environment full of supplemental subtext the way HL2 does. To its credit though, The Conduit will keep you involved enough to finish the campaign. This is in large part because of TV show caliber performances by Kevin Sorbo, Mark Sheppard, and William Morgan Sheppard. While they can be campy at times, they all do give the game a TV movie feel. Other bit players are peppered throughout the background for those who wish to look for things. Notably some Military radios players can eavesdrop on, as well as AM radios playing parodies of popular, and fringe talk shows as well as news media.

The game borrows Halo’s weapon limit system, as well as the regenerating health system popularized in so many shooters. It does work in the game as it makes players have to think about which few toys to carry into which areas. One final thing the game borrows is the spawn point system from the old arcade game Gauntlet. There are portals that allow aliens to come through until they’re destroyed, as are egg sacks that allow smaller ground level enemies to keep spawning until they are destroyed. It works fine enough initially, but it does become formulaic. Eventually they’ll be the first thing you look to destroy in a shootout section. A.I. is nothing revolutionary, but it’s really no worse than what you’d find in the typical Call of Duty title. Enemies will try to find cover, or try to cover another enemy. But sometimes you will see a bad guy just stand out in the open like a sore thumb.

Character designs are honestly pretty cool. The insect look of the alien enemies is quite nice, with some real life inspiration. Human enemies also are also well designed, and varied. You’ll see men in black, mercenaries, research lab guards, and more as you play throughout the campaign. Even the weapons are inspired by the enemy designs. There are a host of weapons based on real world military armaments. But there are just as many alien themed ones. Some of them are your expected laser guns, and plasma rifles. But the look of these weapons also has a very organic, insect theme to them. This correlates with the insect designs of the Drudge.

The audio is also really good. The soundtrack is a blend of electronica, and orchestrated music that marries with the B action movie feel the game goes for. Weapons, explosions, and even small details like footsteps are presented well. In between stages there are animated cinema screens with Michael Ford talking to Prometheus or John Adams. Again these sections are well acted, but It really would have been nice to see these done in engine. Be that as it may, the cinema screens are utilized about as well as they could be.

One element of the game that feels underutilized is the highly touted All Seeing Eye. When you first start playing The Conduit you will find it rather cool, as it lets you decode hidden alien, and masonic texts hidden in the game. Finding enough of these will help you gain achievements, and unlock concept art.  The ASE  also lets you unlock secret doors that lead to experimental, and alien weapons.  Many of these weapons are exclusive to the secret rooms, and do higher damage to enemies than many of the other weapons.

Also, in some areas there are invisible bombs it can detect. Once detected, the bombs become more, and more visible. Concentrating the ASE on them long enough, can destroy them from a safe distance.  It can also find cloaked switches that correspond to certain locked doors. All of this sounds great, and it is. The first two or three times. Unfortunately, you’ll begin to see it become formulaic. There simply isn’t enough variety with the ASE. It becomes little more than a key before long. You will enter a level, have a shoot out before getting some more exposition, and then the ASE will start to go off.  You’ll immediately realize you need to find a hidden lock for a secret room, a locked door,  or a bomb.


It’s really too bad that it becomes so limited here. Because it could have been much better. Part of the fun in this game are the National Treasure, X-Files, Alien Nation, V, styled tropes, and influences. Seeing the ASE implemented even further as a way to find clues, or translate a lot more than graffiti would have elevated the experience a great deal.  Some more use as an interactive narrative would have certainly been welcome.Nevertheless, the game does keep everything together throughout the campaign hitting all of the notes you’d expect. There are even some awesome boss fights along the way.

The Conduit also featured multiplayer.  I say featured because the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection servers are no longer running. But I felt like I should talk about the game’s multiplayer because of its significance.  It was pretty decent initially, bringing competitive gameplay to an underserved audience. But there were a number of problems with it.  In terms of online modes  it was relatively sparse. The game had the prerequisite death match mode. Aside from that, It had one called Bounty Hunter (a variant of death match where each player has to kill a specific player), and ASE football where one player holds an ASE for as long as possible without being shot to death.

There was  also Team Reaper (Team Death match like mode), Team Objective (Which is a Capture the flag like mode), and Marathon which was timed. Multiplayer maps were mostly pretty good, the best probably being Streets, and Pentagon. The Conduit was also one of the few games that took advantage of the Wii Speak accessory. This allowed players to use voice chat in multiplayer game modes.

Multiplayer wasn’t all it was cracked up to be however. When playing against only your friends it could be a lot of fun (Even if you did have to exchange Friend Codes). But publicly the game eventually became rife with cheaters, and griefers. Far too many to recommend it over other multiplayer shooters that would come out soon after. People clipping through walls to unreachable areas. People using a glitch to gain access to unlimited missiles. Even loading into a test level that was never intended to be seen were all things you would have run into again, and again. There were sometimes bad lag issues when far away players connected, resulting into shots that didn’t register as hits. Or rubberbanding, and other hated things. Also, take into account its better levels are also in the much improved sequel. At this point, there would be little incentive to play this mode even if you still could.

Aside from the multiplayer mode the game does have its own set of achievements you can go for if you are so inclined. Some of them are your garden variety rewards for simply getting further in the campaign. Others are rewards for pulling off certain challenges, such as killing a certain number of an enemy type with a specific weapon. The game also had a number of unlockable extras through a promotional code system. The codes were given away with the special collector’s edition of the game. The codes grant players a couple of skins that can be used in lieu of the stock ones. They also unlock a few special buffs one can use in the campaign if one finds the campaign too difficult.

The unlockable content also includes a lot of concept art. Much of it is nice, but the average player isn’t going to pay much mind to it. This is almost always the case with concept art. The most dedicated fans may go through several replays to see all of it, but most players won’t bother. The game is certainly worth revisiting from time to time. But like most single player campaigns, concept sketches won’t be the reason for replaying it.

The special edition does also have two other differences. The first is that the package art is much, much nicer. It has a slicker style in the vein of a DVD or Blu-Ray movie cover. The other difference is that the collector’s edition included an art book. Much like the one Nintendo bundled in its Metroid Prime Trilogy collection. The art book is actually pretty nice. It isn’t just artwork featured here. It also has some behind-the-scenes commentary for good measure.  The other interesting fact is that the promotional codes aren’t only compatible with the collector’s edition. They work with every version of the game.


The Conduit is one of those games that is by no means terrible, but fails to hit its lofty goals. It may not have the best single player campaign, or the best storyline. But it is a fun campaign to play through. The story does have its share of cheese, but it’s delicious cheese. Cheese that compliments the rest of the meat in the proverbial sandwich rather than distract you from it. It has some interesting characters. It has some wonderful voice acting. If only the multiplayer were a bit more refined, and the ASE mechanic were allowed to blossom. The Conduit could have been a bigger deal. But there is also something to be said for being a cult classic.

It’s also notable in that it’s one of those  games where the developers, not the publisher, paid out-of-pocket for most of its production. Even notable still in that such a small, humble team caught the attention of much larger, developers, and publishers. After The Conduit came out, Wii owners saw proper ports of Call Of Duty games like 4, Black Ops, and Modern Warfare 3. They also saw Goldeneye, a Wii shooter that was actually converted to its competing console brethren. It also got UbiSoft to try again with a second Red Steel.

Even if The Conduit failed to set the world on fire it did succeed in what it intended to do. Proving that FPS titles could indeed work, and play well on Nintendo’s white box. It also proved that High Voltage Software is capable of making a blockbuster action game if given the time, and resources. The Conduit would be a solid first effort, spawning a sequel before seeing a port to Android mobile devices.

Final Score: 7 out of 10