It’s been a good few years now since Nintendo opened up the floodgates with the Wii and besides money-vacuuming party games, the genre that was perhaps expected to feature most prominently (and blossom) in this new fangled chapter in videogaming was that of the first person shooter. After all, it’s not exactly hard to see how the Wii’s controller could become an ideal substitute for actually holding a firearm, which is what has made the genre’s lack of quality output since then incongruous to say the least. And it’s that realisation – coupled with its potential to have made pointing at the screen as viable as right clicking or lining up analogue sticks – that makes The Conduit’s relative failure to be an exception to the rule all the more disconcerting.
Which seems a shame, because the ability to modify and fully customise the controls to such a meticulous degree in real time before the main story, gives off all the vibes of a shooter that’s going to play as smooth as butter. An unfortunate conclusion, it seems no amount of careful, ‘just a little more to the left’ adjustments to find that proverbial sweet spot will stop The Conduit feeling like running waist-deep in syrup. Aiming at anyone and anything not directly in line with your field of vision is a chore as players are forced to drag the camera with the controller pointed out wide in everything but resembling a turn of the head. The auto lock-on helps somewhat but at the same time, completely defeats the point of motion aiming.
These hackneyed controls are weighed down and buried alive by just how generic everything is. There is barely a shred of originality in any area of The Conduit’s shameful five hour campaign; levels are made up of rooms connected by narrow corridors to more rooms that all look the same. Enemies that have seemingly fallen out of every sci-fi B movie since the 1980s come pouring out of nowhere to adopt the same, scripted positions as their last fallen comrade – popping into view like clay pigeons for the player to pick off as and when they choose, with an array of toothless weaponry that pack more punch in their appearance than they do in their bite. And the story, which is supposed to be the driving force behind all the madness, is throwaway conspiracy plot garbage that has been done many a time before with much more panache.
In fact, High Voltage’s only visible attempt to add variety comes from breaking up the shooting with a handheld device called the ASE (All Seeing Eye); used to scan the environment for hidden symbols around an area which open up locked doors. In truth, it’s simply glorified padding for the next batch of identikit enemies ready to lather, rinse, and repeat the process all over again. Any semblance of challenge or thought required in these sections is swiftly removed thanks to the ASE doubling up as a metal detector of sorts – sounding off when the player is hot and keeping quiet when the player is cold, which begs the question: what is the point?
Perhaps The Conduit’s only shining light at the end of a cramp, gloomy tunnel comes from its online component and even then, that strength is arguably derived from it being one of the only titles on the Nintendo Wii to actually have a functioning online mode let alone one that aims to excel. There are standard deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag modes among others and when you finally get into a game, matches are frantic, perform well more often than not and because everyone is battling with the same control system, it becomes less of a handicap and more of a quirk.
Which ultimately, is The Conduit’s biggest problem: it seems set with doing the bare minimum (a lot of the time, not even that) and expects it to be acceptable just because it’s splashing around in a small pond starved of enough shooters to hold the flag without it. It’s a first person shooter that wouldn’t even get a second pity look on any other console and quite frankly, shouldn’t do so on the Wii because owners deserve a lot better. But as it stands, just weeks after its release in the middle of the yearly summer drought, The Conduit is already a complete and total irrelevance.