About an hour into Conduit 2 it becomes increasingly clear that this Wii shooter series is suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. While the 2009 original had a more serious alien invasion vibe along with a straight-laced protagonist, that same hero is now slinging PG-rated, Duke Nukem-aping one-liners within a goofy storyline that borders on nonsensical garbage. When it finally sinks in that Jon St. John – the voice behind Duke himself – has replaced Michael Ford's voice actor from the original game, those groan-inducing zingers quickly transform from seeming unnecessary to feeling totally desperate.
We can shrug off the silly new slant to some extent, but rare peaks aside, Conduit 2's campaign missions tend to meander and rely on tired mechanics – like making you run back and forth across a level to activate switches, or locking doors and events until you slay a room's occupants. Only the boss battles (like one against a monstrous, mechanized sea serpent) really stand out, but even then, they're not enough to make this adventure more than an adequate, but mostly unremarkable affair set across some thankfully distinct settings. At least the wacky, way-out-of-left-field ending satisfies. Seriously, if you're not going to drop eight hours into the campaign, be sure to YouTube the ending clip – it's already out there.
Above: That wimpy machinegun won't help you one bit here
So what's worthwhile here? No surprise: it's multiplayer. Whether you like it on a single screen with three buddies (in the co-op Invasion mode or one of the many versus modes) or online in heated battles, Conduit 2 ranks up there with GoldenEye 007 and Call of Duty: Black Ops on the Wii. And with support for 12 players in select modes and more than a dozen total game types, it's arguably the thickest online shooter on the console. Aside from the standard genre offerings, Conduit 2 also delivers interesting diversions like Balloon Battle and ASE (All-Seeing Eye) Basketball, which unlike the campaign actually show a bit of humor amidst the expected violence. Limited as the interface is by the Wii's wimpy online approach, you can rank up in battle and lightly customize your player while making friends and tracking rivals.
Conduit 2 luckily maintains the wide-ranging control customization options from the original and adds MotionPlus and Classic Controller support, so you'll no doubt find something that fits your style. However, some odd quirks remain, such as having crouching and sprinting mapped to the same button, along with a toggled aiming down sights feature instead of being able to just hold down the button as needed. The game often looks really nice, with detailed environments and enemy characters, but sadly, occasional hitches make it feel like High Voltage Software might be pushing the Wii a little too hard here. Sometimes you'll turn a corner and briefly see emptiness, or look down into a chasm to view pieces of the level flicker and disappear as you move the pointer. Seeing a character continue to smack her lips long after a sentence has ended just speaks to a lack of refinement, however.
Above: Death by fire, aliens, or terrible quips? All are available…
Since the release of the original Conduit, we've seen that the Wii can quite capably run some pretty solid shooters (notably Red Steel 2), and simply doing the job isn't enough anymore. Sadly, aside from a sharp online Wii experience, Conduit 2 rarely impresses, relying too much on generic drudgery and sad attempts to capture the magic of more popular titles; worse yet, the storyline and characters seem aimless and forgettable. Conduit 2 may still hold appeal for shooter fans relying on the Wii to get their online fix, but that kind of qualifier just doesn't hold as much weight as it did a couple years back.
Apr 25, 2011