And with that headline, I exhausted and easily matched every bit of creativity that Sega and High Voltage Software put into Conduit 2, a half-rendered, poorly scripted, mysteriously voice-acted, first-person shooter for the Nintendo Wii.
I'm not allowed enough space to truly get down to the essence of lackadaisical trash this game is, but dear, sweet Lord, I'm going to try.
Let me begin by saying that I never played The Conduit. It may be a diamond in the rough, a trail-blazing FPS that shaped the future of the Wii and created a rabid underground fanbase the likes of which would even make Joss Whedon blush. It may have touched you in all the right places. If so, I wish you well. I have to warn you, though: You're not going to like what I have to say about the sequel.
Conduit 2 brings back Michael Ford, effectively jumping directly into the titular conduit from the end of the first game, in order to track down John Adams, the balding, khaki and sweater-vest wearing villain that is determined to take the power of a bunch of supreme aliens, so he can more effectively blow stuff up. You're chasing him around in a knock-off Master Chief suit of armor, but he's running around in loafers. As far as I can tell, he doesn't even carry a gun until the very end.
So there you are, getting advice from a glowing metal ball, and a scantily-clad woman that hates you because you saved her. It's really quite a team-up. So you activate a bunch of conduits in order to track down these aliens, because, as Adams kills them, you can take their powers. Cool, right? Thanks to his generosity, you never really have to be in a rush to get to the next place. It doesn't matter. You'll get what you need.
... I'm about to spoil the end of the game for you, so if you're planning to play it (shame on you), skip the next two graphs.
Finally, after less than six hours of gameplay time, you find yourself in a showdown with Adams himself, who, not to be outdone by your supersuit, turns into an armored alien himself, and you fight him. He chases you around in a circle, and you shoot him a bunch. Then, when you win, your magic metal ball goes crazy, another conduit opens, and Abraham Lincoln comes out and tells you he's there to help. Then the credits roll.
Sorry for the spoiler, friends, but I can't not talk about it. I would swear it's Abraham Lincoln in a space marine suit. Even Ford says something like, "What the ... you're ..." and then he gets cut off. I'm pretty sure that if he were allowed to finish his sentence, he would have said, "What the ... you're ... 16th President of the United States Abraham Lincoln!" But then, the game is over, setting it up nicely for Conduit 3: Space Lincoln & The Emancipators of the Universe.
The graphics are a mess. Faces are badly pixelated, even in cutscenes. The only smooth, 2011 graphics are in the final cutscene. It's the only one fully-rendered. I'm absolutely not joking. The dialogue doesn't match with the lip movements of the characters. The spaceships look like they were lifted directly out of Halo: Combat Evolved, not to mention the "Siberia" map, which looks like B-roll from one of Bungie's snow-covered maps.
Speaking of the voice-acting, I can't say enough bad about it. Three of the main characters sound exactly the same. So much so that I had to pay attention to the credits to make sure they weren't. A few of the actors seem to think the game is an inside joke, and the rest don't. I'm not sure they all even had the same script. And to top it all off? I'm fairly sure the supreme female alien is voiced by a dude. I can't make this stuff up.
The creativity of the level design is ... well, it's non-existent. I know players complain about FPS games having the same maps over and over, or every room looking the same, but only Conduit 2 does it and has the guts to comment on it three-quarters of the way through. Ford asks, "Hey, wasn't I just in here?" and your little metal ball gives a big explanation about companies saving money on construction by making rooms very similar, "like they sometimes do in modern video games." Ha-ha! It's okay as long as it makes fun of itself, right?
All of that repetition and it's a six-hour game! Hell, it's probably only a five-hour game if you don't count dying over and over and over to hordes of little creatures that run at you and are all but impossible to aim at with the Wiimote. I even switched to the Classic Controller for about ten minutes, until I found out that was even worse.
That reminds me: The Wiimote controls are akin to trying to hold a drink steady while the train you're riding in crashes. The Classic Controller was steadier, and made the buttons easier to reach, but made the reticule move so slowly, it was way too tough to target anything before I was eaten by monsters.
I didn't spend much time in multiplayer, if only because the sheer thought of ingesting more of this game made me want to sob uncontrollably. I sat around a bit, watching other people run and jump around me, shooting off in random directions, and occasionally I got killed by a grenade. The draw here, I suppose, is that the money you get from playing the game allows you to upgrade your armor and weapons, making you ... exactly the same as everyone else who has played the game. It's not like you are going to get more money than me. It's the same game. Maybe if you come across someone who likes doing multiple playthroughs of a real stinker of a game, they could totally school you. But I never met that guy, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to.
It's appalling, really. I haven't played an FPS on any system that I haven't at least enjoyed on some level, but Sega found the niche I was missing, and I have to thank them for that. There's only one 4-minute bit in the entire thing that was fun to play, and that was tailgunning in the spaceship. So at least the whole review wasn't negative, amirite? It would even give Sega a pull-quote: "T. Michael Murdock at Joystiq.com calls Conduit 2 '... fun to play ...'."
It's not, though. It's really, really not. If you're looking for a solid FPS on a Nintendo console, go pick up Activision's GoldenEye. Heck, break out your N64 instead and replay Perfect Dark. Even that story makes more sense, and, to be honest ... the graphics are a little better.
This review is based on final Wii code of Conduit 2 provided by Sega.
T. Michael Murdock is a professional writer, actor and WoW enthusiast. His novel, The Dragon Ruby is available world-wide. Buy a copy.