A welcome strive for excellence on Wii.
The Conduit is a first-person shooter with a difference: the developers are truly pushing the Wii to its limits, providing graphical effects never before achieved on the little white box. Though previous showings of the game were already highly-acclaimed, the developers have added several new graphical effects since the last time the game was shown publicly. In particular, the game features bloom lighting, bump mapping, water physics, stencils, specular lighting, and more.
The developers at High Voltage Software developed their own game engine, which features more advanced graphical effects than any other developer has tried on the Wii. Interestingly, the engine was originally developed with the PSP and PS2 in mind, but found a successful home on the Wii. The action I saw was fast and fluid, though environments were small and enclosed, unlike games such as the Call of Duty series, which don't look as nice, but are more free-range. Though none of the individual effects was impressive in this age of technology, what was impressive was that they were all active simultaneously and the game was extremely fluid and responsive without a sign of slowdown. As an example of something you don't normally see done graphically, I could walk up to walls without having the textures become fuzzy.
I played through what was supposed to be the third stage, a government bunker or base. It was a standard corridor-based level, which included several utility rooms, a control room, as well as secret passages. The level begins with human (military) enemies, but alien creatures soon show up and the stage ends with an alien boss battle. While the particular details of the story haven't been revealed, the game involves some sort of alien invasion. The Conduit takes place in several locations based on U.S. landmarks such as the White House and the Jefferson Memorial. The Conduit aims to tell its story through various objects and media in the environment rather than blatant narration. As an example, television news feeds stream on screens within the game's environment.
The Conduit is aimed at hardcore FPS gamers, and as such includes lots of fine-grained customization involving options such as shot box size and turn speed that I haven't seen available on a console FPS. I was able to tailor the control to my liking instead of having to adapt to whatever the programmers thought would be best. The game includes some partial lock-on features, which aren't quite as direct as that found in the Metroid Prime series.
A critical item within the game, called the All-Seeing Eye, can interface with electronic devices to hack computer access to locations. It can also be used to detect enemies that would otherwise be invisible and control objects with a mysterious power. Besides standard firearms (hand gun, automatic rifle, sniper rifle), an alien organic energy weapon was shown, which actually integrates with the player's body, giving superhuman vision. A one-shot kill golden gun (a la Goldeneye) also showed up.
While The Conduit achieves effects not seen on the Wii before, it's certainly not up to par with what the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 can do. Aside from the obvious resolution difference, The Conduit showed a couple of weaknesses. The first was comparatively bare and low-polygon environments. The latter was a lack of anti-aliasing, ironically made more evident by the advanced blur effects produced by the game. While all of the impressive effects are present in the game, jaggies occur along every edge, and are particularly noticeable on high definition televisions. The Conduit is not yet done, however, and High Voltage Software is still considering input from critics.
The Conduit is on track to be one of the most impressive games on Wii. The technical achievements are unsurpassed, and the game's customization options should be a boon to FPS fans. The story is intriguing, and all that remains to be seen is whether the whole packaged can be completed and polished up. Despite all this, the game still doesn't have an official publisher. Will High Voltage Software find one soon?