This week, Zero Punctuation reviews The Conduit.
No. Nonononononono. I can't do this, it's been too soon since Wii Sports Resort. I'm just gonna say a load of things like how you could hollow out the Wii and fill it with beetles and very few people would notice, and frankly it's getting boring even for me. I need something manly and hardcore, lots of small metal objects flying through the squishier of a monster's body parts. "But!" cried the Munchkins, "The Conduit is a hardcore FPS that's really good for a Wii game! It's got lots of positive reviews and its balls are gently bumping my chin even as I speak!"
The five words that jump out at me there are, "good for a Wii game". I'm reminded of when Sarah Palin was said to have "exceeded expectations" in the vice-presidential debates. That's only because the bar was set so fucking low it'd snag on a limbo dancer's clit piercing.
Well since we all know it's coming, let's just get it over with first: yes, The Conduit's gameplay is marred by the limitations of the Wii controller. There's the usual immersion-breaking spastic jerks for melee attacks and grenade lobbing, but veteran Wii owners' wrists are probably now all hardened into pure cartilage, so that won't matter so much. But the aiming. Oh, the aiming! Pointing at the screen to shoot is the standard Wii FPS model, but the only way to turn is to aim to the side, and since the Wiimote only works when it's pointed directly at the screen, you stop turning if you aim too far. Which is very unhelpful when a slime beast has lodged onto your air. There's a quick-turn button, but if the enemy's 90 degrees to your side then turning 180 degrees just puts you right back where you started, doesn't it?
And if you're not gonna let us look all the way up, pitting us against flying targets or ceiling-mounted enemy spawners is just cruel. Like holding a Mars bar out of the reach of a wheelchair-bound Alaskan retard. All of this could have been saved by the Wii Motion Plus of course, but it was not to be, because the relationship between Nintendo and third-party developers is equivocal to the relationship between James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal in the movie Secretary. (LOOK IT UP.)
I read in the gaming journals that The Conduit uses special technology that makes it look as good as games on the PS3 and Xbox. Then I waited a few minutes for the punchline, but apparently they were serious. To put it charitably, the game is fucking ugly! This isn't even because of the Wii - I've seen better-looking Wii games and even Gamecube games. This is more on the level of a PS2 that someone's trodden on. I can't remember the last time I saw a game depict a skyline by painting one on a wall and erecting it a few feet away from the window - that's shit I'd expect from a Tex Murphy game and Christ this is turning into a good review for obscure references isn't it? The levels are uninspired grindboxes; I swear one mission ran me through the same office and stairwell five times; and most of the weapons are overdesigned Fisher-Price toys that unsatisfyingly "pew-pew-pew" their way through legions of slavering cliches.
But graphics aren't as important as a good story well-told, right? The Conduit's story is unique, in that it's barely fucking there and, at the same time, virtually impenetrable. Aliens invade Washington and "YOU are the ONLY ONE who can STOP THEM" sums it up. And they're obviously here for the sight-seeing tour since most of the levels take place in well-known government buildings... but hold on, go back a bit. Why am I "the ONLY ONE who can STOP THEM"? They seem to be quite receptive to normal bullets in the squishy parts. Where are the armed forces? Come to think of it, where are the civilians? Modern-day Washington D.C. gets swapped out for the post-apocalypse over the course of about a day. None of this is explained. There's some interplanetary conspiracy between aliens and some secret government departments that are apparently running things, but that's honestly all I can be certain of. In place of cinematics we have pre-mission telephone conversations between the main character and his puppeteers before being dumped right into another infested tourist hotspot to kill a few dozen mutants arranged in single file. The scrolly text screens from Doom were better storytelling than this!
But who needs a story when the gameplay is what matters, right? The sole element The Conduit can claim as a unique gameplay mechanic is a glorified flashlight that reveals invisible locking mechanisms, essentially doing nothing but adding an extra phase to the "press button, open door" routine. Don't worry if you're not keen on scavenger hunts, though, because the presence of a nearby invisible thing is helpfully indicated by the soundtrack going "BDEEP BDEEP BDEEP BDEEP BDEEP" while you're still trying to clear the room of those fucking insidious scuttlefuck spawners - BDEEP BDEEP BDEEP BDEEP BDEEP! The moment you think you've cleared the room and put your weapon away to shut the fucking thing up, lo and behold! There was another monster spawner on the ceiling you couldn't see because you can't look up! You also can't move faster than a brisk stroll and you scream and lose health if you stand within six feet of a fire, leading me to conclude that your character was recruited from a home for the elderly.
It's fitting that its signature device is a sphere because The Conduit has appeared to cut so many corners that it metaphorically resembles one. Levels are stunted and repetitive, boss monsters are shamelessly copy-pasted to swell the enemy ranks, the music consists of nothing but obnoxious five-second loops, and of course it ends on a cliffhanger without the slightest promise of a sequel, which I'm putting at the top of a list of Game Design Deadly Sins. The most delicious irony is that I suspect a lot of these crusts were trimmed in order to accommodate the improved graphics technology I didn't even fucking notice. And to what end? So that a Wii game can be judged by the same standards as PS3 and Xbox games? Trust me, that's the very last thing the Wii needs. Low standards are the only thing that allow its few hardcore titles a free ride, but if that's what it wants, by the standards of current-day gaming The Conduit is a pile of sodden cereal boxes held together with string, and I would sooner recommend nailing your tongue to a subway train.
How about not playing Wii games for a few weeks: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Yes, I am now comparing the Wii to a psychotic wolf-shooting Alaskan retard spawn point
Think Halo meets National Treasure meets a bucket of sick