Games for Lunch: The Conduit
Developer: High Voltage Software
Release Date: June 23, 2009
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site
0:00 I liked the short hands-off demo I got of this game at GDC, and it's been sitting unopened on my shelf for far too long now. Let's do it to it! To the Condu-it, to be precise. HA!
0:01 The title screen features some generic spy-thriller music and a gentle blue background. Right off, I'm shocked that the screen doesn't fill up my widescreen display. This is the kind of game that could definitely benefit from using the entire display. What's up with that?
0:02 The game uses "Mr.Ford" as my default name, and I stick with it, even though they forgot the space after the period. Yes, I am a punctuation nerd.
0:03 Selectable difficulties are Low, Guarded, Elevated, High and Severe? Is this a game or the Homeland Security Advisory System? I'll play at Elevated, because that's our current terrorism alert level, according to DHS. I'm all about the realism!
0:04 The options menu lets me move around the location of my health, ammo, etc. on the heads-up display. It's a nice touch, but in the end I trust the designers to have them placed correctly...
0:05 The selectable controller layouts are named Ford, Washington, Adams and Jefferson. What is this, "National Treasure"?
0:07 "It all begins with a simple question: One that was never meant to be answered." Most ask the question without expecting a response, but for those that demand an answer, it's the start of true understanding. Conspiracies are threads to truth, to learn about the powers that actually shake our world. "Random events conspire to form the greater picture," until you can see the puzzle for what it actually it is. Some succumb to madness or paranoia. "Others end up like me. My name is Michael Ford. I'm probably the only one left who knows the truth. I know because I was there." Nice, if a bit melodramatic.
0:08 I'm laying amidst some rubble, with explosions in the distance. I pick up a technological-looking sphere. A voice in my ear tells me to recalibrate my suit by looking around, which I do easily by pointing the Wii Remote. An insectoid alien enemy scampers out of a drainpipe and I shoot it quickly. Using the minus button to reload is awkward, but otherwise the basic controls feel incredibly natural.
0:11 Through a hallway, to a small square room where I take out a few egg sacks sitting on the wall. I get caught by surprise as more bugs attack from the sides. I have some trouble pivoting to take them out because the controller loses track of the sensor bar rather easily. Sigh.
0:12 Now I'm scanning the walls with the tech-sphere, looking for locks to a door. Gameplay-wise, this seems pretty stupid, but the visual flashlight effect from the sphere is brilliant. The light illuminates a message: "Colares was more successful than Roswell." I'm pretty sure they don't mean "Roswell" the TV show?
0:14 I walk down into a tunnel and see an incredibly realistic D.C. Metro car. As a longtime D.C. resident, the attention to detail is nice.
0:15 As the game instructs me, I take out my SCAR weapon and use the scope to take out some bugs at the far end of a tunnel. I like how enemies that aren't directly in focus down the scope show up a little blurry. These are the best graphics I've seen on the Wii in a while ... at least since Super Mario Galaxy. It's not HD, sure, but it's definitely good-looking. I wish other developers put this much effort into making Wii games look like this.
0:17 I come to another room that looks exactly like the first, except this one has red, fiery "conduits" on the walls. Oh, also big, humanoid insect enemies with guns! I throw a grenade at them with a very satisfying Nunchuk flick. The enemies aren't super-smart so far, but they will duck behind corners to avoid my fire.
0:19 Out into another subway tunnel as the game tries to teach me to crouch for cover. I'm so focused on the guy with the gun at the end of the hall that I'm slow to react when some small ankle biters crawl up behind me. "Mission Failed," says the game as I see from the perspective of my downed soldier.
0:21 I'm ready for the ankle biters this time, using the quick spin to get the jump on them. I find myself losing control in the heat of battle, moving the Remote too far to the side and losing the sensor bar constantly. Blarg.
0:22 A familiar Red Line sign says I'm at Union Station. I got off here for work every day! Just adds to the experience, personally.
0:23 There's a huge conduit at the end of the foyer atop the escalators. "Don't waste your ammo," says the voice in my ear. I take out some more enemies with a quick-firing alien weapon I picked up; then the voice "calibrates my suit" to go through the Conduit. How conveeeeenient! "What is happening to me," I say. "Hold on tight," replies the voice. That didn't answer my question!
0:24 "Mission Completed." I earned one achievement, killed 28 enemies (with only two headshots), had 43.5-percent accuracy. Good to know!
0:25 "5 days earlier." Oh, here we go ... goodbye, super-soldier; hello, Average Joe, I expect. "Hello Mr. Ford. It's time to go to work," says John Adams. He's part of a shadowy group called "The Trust." He was impressed by my performance in "the Aero-Evac incident," and asked the president (THE PRESIDENT!) to use me in this mission. Seems a guy named Prometheus stole a valuable prototype and is heading toward Reagan National Airport. "If all goes well, you won't even have to draw your weapon," Adams says. "And if things don't go well?" I ask. "Then you will take any necessary steps to ensure that they do." Huh? But if things already DIDN'T go well, how can I make it so they DID go well? Do I have a time machine?
0:28 I have a normal pistol in my hands as I walk into the airport. "Remember, everything you see and hear will be relayed to you via the visor we provided you." Again, convenient.
0:29 Adams, in my ear, says the guys firing on me are his own men. "Somehow, Prometheus must have turned our own men against us." They use cover surprisingly well, ducking behind advertisements as I fire.
0:30 The "baggage unattended" message over the PA system just makes me realize how weird it is that the whole of the airport is deserted except for those few black-suited agents I just took out.
0:32 I take out more agents down a curving hallway, then face a lot more in a wide-open flight gate area. Some are in suits, others in full camo gear with night-vision helmets. I make the mistake of running into the open, where I get taken out quickly by fire from all sides. D'oh!
0:35 I stay behind the advertising this time, ducking out to fire and ducking back to reload. I emerge only to take out one final, well-hidden soldier up on the catwalk. I'm really liking the controls, especially the way I can't move and aim easily even when zoomed in with the scope.
0:41 Just finished a relatively intense firefight with a bunch of camouflaged Army guys. I took it slow, keeping behind cover and using my scope to take them out from afar. They're pretty smart, moving and taking cover when under fire, but their heads still stick out just enough to take out. So far, it's been a good balance between being thrilling and being frustratingly tough.
0:42 "KEEP GOING! Prometheus is headed for the subway terminal under the airport," Adams growls. Jeez ... would it kill you to say "please"?
0:44 As I walk down another curving hallway, I pick up snippets from a talk radio host, going on about Dante and Plato and how they knew stuff we've forgotten about the lost city of Atlantis. I want to keep listening, but I don't want to just keep standing in this precise spot. BioShock did it better.
0:45 Another identical-looking gate area, but this one has dead suited guys coming back from the dead, animated by some orange dust. So now it's a zombie game?
0:47 "You should catch up to them soon," says Adams. That's good, because if I see this same exact curving hallway again, I might scream. Is the real Reagan Airport this repetitive? How did I never notice?
0:48 An army guy just used a stack of big, red explosive canisters as cover. Idiot.
0:51 Down an escalator to the familiar Metro entrance way. They captured these locales really well. "You have to get on that train," says Adams.
0:52 I swapped my SCAR weapon for the "Deatomizer Mark 4." It makes a nice ray-gun sound effect as I shoot balls of blue energy that seem to have no real impact to them. The enemies barely react to my shots until they fall over dead. Weird.
0:56 I've been running down the narrow center of the Metro cars, taking out the enemies in each car like it's a shooting gallery. Seriously, there's not much room to move and dodge in these tiny cars. Still surprisingly satisfying, if easy. I blame the excellent controls.
0:57 At the end of the last car, a soldier lies prostrate with blue canisters surrounding him. He tries shooting one, but he's out of bullets. "He can't have it back. I won't let him have it!" he screams as he punches a canister, causing the world to go all kablooey.
0:58 "Good work, Mr. Ford. Unfortunately Prometheus wasn't on the train..." I find the ASE sphere, which was the stolen prototype. I'm told to keep it safe. What else would I do? "Mission Complete."
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? The story, enemies and environment all scream super-generic FPS, but the controls, the environments and the well balanced difficulty mix to make it hard for me to put down.
This column is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
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