E3 '09: The Conduit Preview

Screenshot from The Conduit, courtesy Sega

While at E3, we talked to Mark Sheppard about his role in the upcoming Wii exclusive First Person Shooter (FPS), The Conduit.  However, being a big gamer who is desperate for more reasons to play the Wii (especially online), I had to get my hands on the game myself. Luckily, the folks at High Voltage, the developer of the game, were quite accommodating. I got to play the game while chatting with Lead Game Designer Rob Nicholls about the ins and outs of this ambitious project.

The Conduit first hits any new player with how great it looks. These are without a doubt the best graphics seen on the Wii to date. It really is interesting to see how much they were able to do with the Wii’s ability, and how far the limits can be pushed. Holding the Wiimote and the Nunchuck, the feel of the game is very easy to get used to, allowing the player to jump right into a firefight without having to hesitate much. Nicholls told me, “the one thing I really wanted to get right was the shooting,” focusing on balance, weapon power, aiming, controls, enemy strength. “It sounds easy: Make the shooting fun! But there’s a lot that goes into that,” said Nicholls. Well, from what we saw at the show, they’ve succeeded.

The ASE reveals much that you can't see without it

Aiming is done by pointing the Wiimote, which is held naturally like a gun. Movement is handled via the analog stick on the nunchuck. Aside from aiming, there is only limited and natural use of motion controls; nothing ever felt like it was slammed in there just to have it. The controls were amazingly tight. I was able to point my reticule at all four corners of the screen, and everywhere in between. Headshots are as easy to pull off as you can keep your arm steady. Really, this is a shooter’s shooter; much more dexterity is needed, but when you get the hang of it, you’ll be taking shots you’d never pull off with just two analog sticks.

Of course, the biggest draw to this is likely the online multiplayer. They had it up and running at E3, and I never saw a station free the whole time. Matchmaking is done in a more traditional sense than most Wii games; no friend codes are needed. There are 25 ranks, according to Nicholls, and you’ll be matched up “first with people of the same rank, then with people within a few, then finally to the general pool.” It should sound familiar to any gamers familiar with online play on Xbox LIVE or PSN, and is a refreshing change of pace for the Wii. Once connected, players can vote on what map to use, amongst other options. We played simple deathmatch, every man for himself, but several modes will be available, both traditional to FPS and relatively new. The maps were pretty huge; 12 player matches will still find places to hide for ambushes without much

Advanced Lighting effects like these have not yet been seen on the Wii

problem. The high speed action didn’t make the controls feel any less impressive; in fact, it made it seem all the better, as it was quite satisfying to actually be aiming at the person you were trash talking. Trash talking will be possible, too, as the Wii Speak room mic that shipped with Animal Crossing gets to be used with a very different game this time around.

The single player campaign promises to use the same controls and add in some other aspects. The “All Seeing Eye (ASE)” is used to find hidden enemies, pathways, objects, and help the player in puzzle solving sections. The player can use both human weapons and “the Drudge’s” alien technology, some of which looked very cool, offering much more powerful weapons than anything the humans came up with.

Overall, this game has been hyped for quite some time now. It could very well be the savior of “hardcore” gaming on the Wii. It’s fun, intuitive and accurate controls are joined by great, easy to get into multiplayer and a single player mission that hopes to stretch the sci-fi shooter story and gameplay in new directions. The Conduit was my pick for Best Wii Exclusive at E3 2009, and with good reason. This is a fun game that I can’t wait to play more of.

The Conduit, from High Voltage and Sega, ships exclusively for the Wii on June 23rd, 2009

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