Shooters aren't typically known to have the most grand of storylines, and The Conduit falls nicely into that category. We start off in a slightly less linear way, as the gruff sounding Agent Ford. He's regained consciousness after an attack by ruthless alien race, the Drudge. After trudging through a huge portal we flash back 5 days earlier to where the action all begun, and how the newly recruited protagonist battled his way through hordes of slimy creatures and brainwashed humans to try and stop an invasion of Earth. It's a fairly standard tale of an invasion and rogue government agents, with some neat plot twists and turns throughout the nine or so different solo missions. You won't be running around looking for answers for hours, but it does the job of blending typical Hollywood action conventions into a day or two's worth of single player material.
Enemies. You shoot them and the same model reappears, over and over, and over. One of the unfortunate flaws in these missions is the lack of variety in these enemies and the weapons you pick up. There is a decent selection of things to fire and throw, from your standard pistol and machine guns to the more unusual extraterrestrial and tentacle-infested firearms. Whilst they all look pretty and handle well, there doesn't seem to be a major difference in power between them - they fire at a different rate, come in varying sizes, but there aren't really any that you'll search out for in multiplayer, or truly benefit in single. In most other shooting games you'll instantly hot swap a better gun, but here you may as well save time and stick to what's being carried.
The alien creatures and towering boss sequences do make up that difference between helmeted guards and bog-standard chaps in suits, but once you're pacing and blasting through the fifth or sixth level, possibly even earlier, it all seems to be a bit of the same. It's not all about looks, but personality! Humans either shift from side to side, or oddly enough run towards and sometimes around your back, whilst the Drudge drones either jump around randomly or jog casually towards you. They'll pop up from behind chairs, in the same uniform, use the same weaponry and fall like puppets. Work through the room and into another, the same patterns result in a fairly repetitive and increasingly dull experience. What's really needed are differences between what you're firing at - heights, faces, clothing, running speed and so on, it's just ever-so-slightly early 90s in design and there's just too many of the same.
The All Seeing Eye, dubbed ASE - a small floating orb that's basically a modern secret-finding touch - is a nice addition to the main shooting mechanic. You'll be asked to seek out clues, occasional secret paths and the like. It's useful, quite often a little predictable and whilst it's a welcome device to include, the ASE does seem a little tacked on perhaps, useful but could have been more significant perhaps.
Visually The Conduit is a mixed bag, the majority of the game is presented well - weapons are all detailed exceptionally well, certainly one of the standout points in The Conduit's graphical efforts. From the simple but stylish pistols to the quirky All Seeing Eye, there's been a lot of care into squeezing that extra bit of juice into putting these items on screen. Enemies are also rendered nicely, despite the limited variety, through intricate clothing/skin, the subtle lighting and added layer of gloss. The same applies to most of the environments, it does look well put together overall, a solid sense of realism but cracks start to appear in consistency.
A fair bit of the texture work does tend to dip throughout the levels, where one room would be stunningly designed and the next border on pre GameCube standard. There really should have been more thought in arranging objects: boxes, chairs, filing cabinets, they'll be plopped in similar positions that you could almost swear it's the same room 5 doors back. Looking past the design and more at just how it looks, it does impress in a lot of places, but there does need to be more thought and care in getting some substance and originality in.
Shooters occasionally have had exceptional sound production values, but generally it's not as important as the visuals or gameplay, but here it's apparent that production values do need to be pushed harder for what's being shown to be more convincing. Compositionally the soundtrack is strong and at times invokes some healthy toe-tapping, but the output quality does sound washed out and not prominent enough. The same goes for sound effects. Whilst your guns look nice and fire well, it's ruined by some weak sounding firing samples. Not quite snappy enough.
At this point the game just barely skims past other efforts, but fortunately there are some saving graces that help overlook some of The Conduit's flaws: control and online multiplayer. Moving and firing with the remote has been an issue for most Wii shooters, with the exception of Retro Studio's first person adventure, Metroid Prime 3, and fortunately High Voltage has got the setup just right. There's no need for over the top Wii remote tomfoolery and pointless waggle, just precise aiming, flexible turning and the option to customise the experience, and that's exactly what we've got with the game's control system. By default there's already a smooth enough setup - it's tight enough to give room to pick out head shots and smooth enough to turn about and stop oncoming foes. The turning box, on-screen displays and button layouts can be extensively tweaked to near-perfection, and it's this aspect that comes especially handy for online play.
With single player turning out a fairly average affair, one of the extra features - online - is a saving grace. Human players will almost always prove a more exciting affair over single player computers, that's a given, but here it offers a much more enjoyable and rewarding experience to put the control schemes to good use.
There are several modes, maps and options to play around with; these are all fairly common options, but that's certainly not a bad thing. Choose a map, different weapon set and length through voting (a la Mario Kart), and go head to head with a bunch of strangers or fellow Conduit enthusiasts using Nintendo's friend codes system. We tried it out with three different internet providers and surprisingly it's held out well, finding opponents in around five or so minutes and barely dropping even in the slightly longer 20 minute matches. Other than straight up death match, the team variants are nifty to play with, especially using Wii Speak, and do add a different objective as opposed to blasting anything that moves. Lag? There hasn't seemed to be any so far, except for the expected 'warp effect' in most online titles, but for the most part it's a rewarding and meaty online experience that really does outweigh the main game.