With all the hullabaloo about The Conduit's graphics, you'd be forgiven if you missed the game skulking about in the shadows. That would be a shame, because it's really not bad at all. It looks nice, it plays well and feels decidedly grown up. Unfortunately it also feels about ten years old.
The rosy whiff of Rare's Perfect Dark is detectable through much of The Conduit, though that's no bad thing. The action is seamless and immediate, the story is fast-paced and full of conspiracy and there are plenty of unintentionally comedic aliens popping up, just like in the vintage N64 shooter. At least you get to shoot these ones though.
Up To The Hilt
Just like another classic shooter, Metroid Prime, the very beginning of the game sees you fully tooled up and able to call upon all manner of ways to dispatch otherworldly enemies. Then, there's a whip across time to a near-future Washington D.C. and regulation men in black to tear through. You're right at the start of a shadowy mission to discover why the planet is gripped by a bizarre virus, and just about to be beset by spindly-legged aliens who come at you through conduits which appear all over the city. You can see what they did there.
Derivative as the plot is, it's a lot of fun, and even makes you nostalgic for old episodes of The X-Files. There are two pressing issues you, as agent Michael Ford, bear in mind as you trawl through the US capital. Obviously there are the unwelcome alien guests (known as the Drudge), but there's also your organisation's role in the chaos enveloping the globe. So plenty of scope for confusion yet it's perfectly digestible thanks to snappy cut-scenes and on-the-go updates.
If the plot threading through the game is familiar, the running and gunning is even more so. There's a mixture of domestic and alien technology to play with; the latter obviously being stacks more fun than the former, with the likes of the Strike Rifle (a weird cross between a medieval lance and a rotting fish that fires a vaporising energy bolt) and the Shrieker (a laser-guided missile launcher) trumping the piddling old submachine gun and limited SCAR assault rifle.
The problem is you can detect the formula almost immediately. Run though a corridor, crouch behind a box and chuck a grenade, flush out side rooms, storm bigger room, restore health, repeat all over again. There's nothing wrong with that, it just might mean you lose the incentive to get through the whole ten or so hours of the game's single player campaign.
Making An ASE Of Yourself
One mechanism in place to try and make things interesting is the ASE (All Seeing Eye), a little ball which detects objects hidden to the naked eye like invisible mines and door switches. Combination puzzles are also revealed with the ASE, and these often grant you access to hidden chambers containing ammo, health and experimental weaponry. Not all of them are essential to progress but you'd be missing out on some cool stuff should you pass them by.
Shooting takes centre stage here and for the most part it's uncomplicated and rewarding, except for one or two duff pea shooters. Firing is done by pointing the Wii Remote and squeezing B, with a lock-on performed by hitting Z. It still requires you to aim within a target box though, so you still need a a steady aim.
Melee attacks come from a fierce jab of the Remote, satisfyingly. A tossing motion with the Nunchuk hurls hand grenades, but the problem here is that doing that upsets your aim. On numerous occasions we knocked our aim askew causing grenades to clumsily rebound off the ceiling or wall.