I have a friend who, for the first few months at least, thought The Colbert Report was completely sincere, mostly because Colbert was indistinguishable from the very pundits he was mocking. That’s the problem with satire; the instant the performer acknowledges it as such, it loses all its power. That’s the dilemma I have with Conduit 2, a game that turns from ridiculously clichés to grave intensity at the drop of a hat. The mechanics are afflicted with a similar conflict; they are, at one moment, a satisfying exploration of what can be done with motion controls, and at the next moment, a spinning, frustrating mess.
In case, you’re late to the party, Conduit 2 is the sequel to Conduit 1, which was previously known as Conduit. This time around, our hero Mr. Ford continues his pursuit of John “Yes, my name is really John Adams” Adams, chasing him through a succession of locations, from Washington DC to China to South America, with stops in Atlantis in between. Along the way, he’ll have to fight against invisible soldiers, animated jade statues, and the creeping sense that he’ll have to wait until the inevitable Conduit 3 to see how it all ends.
The second act of a trilogy is usually the darkest (see: The Empire Strikes Back, The Two Towers and The Spy Who Shagged Me), but Conduit 2 seems to be bucking the trend. In between its moments of genuine gravitas about dying aliens and global conspiracies and monsters who can eat entire oil rigs, there’s also a female helper who wears armor over every part of her body except her cleavage, as well as an interdimensional conspiracy run by an ex-President who looks about as intimidating as an Office Depot shift supervisor. Oh, and the hero is voiced by the guy who did the voice for Duke Nukem. I honestly wasn’t ever sure if the game was meant to be funny or not, which makes it either the best satire ever or just an unfocused muddle of ideas.
The science fiction story is exactly what you’d expect, which is also disappointing. The story seems to be going through the motions, just barely getting you from one level to the next. Sure, Prometheus and Andromeda have some mildly interesting interactions with you from time to time, but even after just finishing the game, I’d have a hard time describing either of them in any but the most superficial terms. (“She’s wearing silver armor, but you can still totally see the tops of her boobs!”) Even the great villain John Adams would be forgettable if not for his name.
Despite the often wretched AI, and the checkpoint system which sometimes saved my game seconds before I was overwhelmed by enemies or mere seconds after I got stuck in the environment, I actually grew to enjoy the gameplay. After getting the settings just right, the WiiMotion controls are even better than they were in the first game. I admit, the first game’s controls didn’t quite win me over, despite the praise heaped on them, but after spending time with Conduit 2, I’m convinced that the WiiMotion setup is actually an effective and enjoyable way to play shooters. I barely missed the classic controller at all, at least until multiplayer.
But that doesn’t mean everything is great. Aiming while sniping will lead to tremendous disorientation when you exit sniper mode, because your movements relative to the sensor bar aren’t scaled. So you could spot an enemy, zoom in to get a good shot, and then when you zoom out, suddenly find yourself staring at the ground or the sky. I realize people who haven’t played this yet may think I am just an idiot for not compensating for this, but it’s remarkably disorienting. Likewise, the melee jab and grenade toss require more precision than you’re likely to be able to manage in the heat of battle, and I often found myself spinning around in circles during the intense fights. Again, let me state for the record: I am not an idiot.
Conduit 2 has an impressive array of inventive alien weapons, but it runs into the same problem as the original Halo, in that the most useful one just also happens to be the most ordinary. Amid all the rocket launchers, sniper lasers and guns which literally shoot right through the walls, you’ll spend most of your time using your trusty SCAR. It’s more than sufficient for the enemies you encounter. Those who run straight at your face will be stopped by the high volume of fire, and those who are scripted to hide behind cover can be taken out with the scope and high accuracy.
You can breeze through Conduit 2 over the course of a weekend, maybe a little longer if you seek out all the hidden extras. Multiplayer adds legs to the game, but even here the frequent lag and ubiquitous bunny hopping made it less enjoyable than it ought to have been. There are a wealth of modes and customization options, but the user interface sometimes obscures what the game is capable of online.
Bottom Line: Conduit 2 suffers in comparison to what’s available on the other consoles or the PC, but the addition of motion controls that (mostly) work make it worth a rental, as long as you can get past the goofy story.
Recommendation: If you’re looking for a fun shooter exclusive to the Wii, Conduit 2 is your action.[rating=3]
This review is based on the Wii version of the game.