Exclusive / Hands-on with The Conduit, new screens

If The Conduit released tomorrow, nine months ahead of time, it would probably still have graphics on par or greater than the prettiest Wii game we have seen as of yet. It’s true; we saw it running with our own eyes on a high-def screen at the Figueroa Hotel just a few blocks away from the LA Convention Center during the last day of E3. The guys at High Voltage were nice enough to invite us over and set up some hands-on time with the game along with handing over some exclusive screenshots. And while graphics don’t make a game, in the strange world of publishers consistently releasing half-assed games on the Wii, in this case they might.

If the game was released at this moment — they say that the single-player campaign just needs a polish up run through which we’re hoping will take care of a few of the bland backgrounds we saw — many of the graphics would challenge early 360 games and with nine more months of development ahead of it I don’t see why The Conduit won’t look even prettier. As High Voltage’s chief creative officer Eric Nofsinger put it: “It won’t be Gears 2, but it’s going to real good.”

As previously mentioned, graphics do not make a game great. What does make a game great is creative game design and interesting play mechanics, and from the early level that we saw, The Conduit should be providing these things. The player takes on the role of the mysterious Mister Ford who has been hired by the mysterious government agency The Trust to help fight against an invasion by creatures of unknown origin. Needless to say, the plot is quite mysterious with a few twists and turns coming at us. We, however, really didn’t get to see much of it play out as the level played had more to do with exterminating enemies than unfolding the storyline, which was fine by us; that’s what we came there for anyway.

So how was it? Well, we wouldn’t call it a revolution in the genre of the FPS, since it quite obviously is inspired by games like Halo and Half-Life, but from what we played and saw, we would lean strongly towards it being a new standard for how an FPS should be done on the Wii. Normally we’d take you through the controls here, but there is really no point. Everything, and we mean everything, can be adjusted, switched, rotated, divided, hammered, twisted, reworked and fooled around with. You can pretty much map any action to any button. When we played, we shot with the B trigger, jumped with A, threw grenades by shaking the Nunchuk, melee by thrusting the Wii remote and performed a plethora of other activities with different buttons, but it didn’t matter because we could have switched it all around easily. In fact I personally would have liked jump to be mapped to the C or Z button.

Still, being able to remap buttons is pretty standard, though not usually to this depth, but being able to adjust the look sensitivity and bounding box all while in-game is not. Not only can a player adjust multiple variants on the look sensitivity but they can do it all while playing the game so you don’t have to switch back and forth between menu and gameplay. The bounding box is the same way and is not only adjustable in ever increasing square sizes but allows the player to increase length and width separately, meaning gamers can pretty much achieve any style of FPS gameplay they like, hopefully clearing up many of the complaints with early Wii Fuss.

As I jumped into the level, which took place in a destroyed part of downtown Washington DC overrun by aliens, and swapped through my weapons (pistol and rifle to start, with an alien plasma blaster readily available after I shot the first bad guy dead) Matt Corso, the creative director at High Voltage pointed out how the lens scope on my rifle reflected the city street behind me, as I moved the reflection changed. This attention to detail can be seen all over the place. Cars reflect light, clouds move in the sky, grenades look pretty when they explode (or stick to bad guys). If this were a game on the 360 or PS3 I would call it standard fare, but sadly the norm on the Wii is not at this level so pointing out these things is important.