The lights are on
Conduit 2 picks up exactly where The Conduit left off, with you stepping out of the Conduit onto an oil rig in the center of the Bermuda Triangle in pursuit of John Adams. It's about as direct a sequel as it can be. After escaping the Oil Rig by way of the Leviathan's stomach, you find yourself in Atlantis, and after going through the level and fighting a number of new Atlantean enemies you find a room that will serve as your hub for the remainder of the game. It has a new character that doesn't do anything but complain, a giant conduit which let's you go to any level you've completed, the Conduit Dialer, which is where you select what level you go to, and more importantly the Arsenal Replicator, which will be explained later.
Something you'll soon notice if you played the first game is that the voice actors have changed (scheduling issues), and with them the tone of the game. Whereas the first game was serious as a heart attack and about aliens and conspiracies, they did a complete 180 with the sequel and made it into a B-movie that's about as far from serious as you can get. Yes, the dialogue and story are bad, but it's not Metroid Other M bad where it's painful, it's more like Resident Evil bad where you can laugh about how terrible it is. During the final boss battle, after you have depleted 2/3's of his health bar he yells, "no more negotiations!" The voice actors have had equally drastic changes, Prometheus sounds more like a robot than Kevin Sorbo, John Adams is an angry old man, and the most drastic change of all, Mark Sheppard, the VA for Michael Ford, was replaced with Jon St. John. Yes, Duke Nukem. He goes from being a serious, strong silent type, and admittedly bland Secret Service agent to a more typical one liner spouting action hero. Seeing as how his family was just murdered, it makes even less sense.
The gameplay has also changed, whereas The Conduit was as pure an arena shooter as possible, Conduit 2 is a hybrid of modern and old school shooters. Sort of like Halo 4, but while that example is 90%-10% arena shooter to modern shooter, Conduit 2 is more 50-50, or 40-60. You can now sprint, health regenerates quickly and with that stupid red screen effect that is popular among modern shooters as opposed to a health bar. There is bloom and jump height is reduced, so bunny hopping is no longer a real problem. People will complain about it, but people complain about everything. They also added loadouts and iron sight aiming, but it still plays like an arena shooter. It's still high health, they still have a radar, and there isn't instant respawn. Hip fire is still accurate and the best way to get a kill, while iron sight aiming sacrifices lock on camera assist and movement speed for accuracy, which, in a game like this where everyones sprinting and jumping isn't useful for most encounters. Not to say iron sights are useless, in fact most people underestimate the ability of iron sight aiming.
Now the ASE functions similarly to a Metroid Prime scan visor, and has a 'ping' ability that shows yo the general area of any scannable objects. They got rid of the Ghost Mines, and scanning objects now takes approximately one second. I do miss the weapon cache puzzles, but over all the use of the ASE is greatly improved. There is still a lot of messages to be found with the ASE this time around that expand on the back story established in the original, and aside from one which is a reference to Super Mario Bros, they remain like the ones in The Conduit. That is, obscure references to mythology and conspiracy theories that are tied together to form a bigger picture. In addition, there are conspiracy objects to be scanned including many documents that can be read in the menu, and Progenitor Energy, which is just there.
All of these actually give you money to purchase things from the in game Store, like weapons and perks. I had about 60,000 credits upon starting the multiplayer, and I only had ~70% of what there was to find. But that's not all, you can also find perks and weapons with the ASE for free. Remember the Arsenal Replicator I mentioned earlier? It allows you to use your loadouts in the campaign, so you're no longer limited to what the developer wants you to have. You can take a SMAW with the Ammo Salvage perk, which allows you to get more ammunition upon killing an enemy, a Dark Star and send every other enemy into a black hole, or whatever you want. It makes replaying the levels to search for stuff more interesting, although some guns aren't very useful in the campaign as they were balanced primarily with multiplayer in mind.
I'll take this opportunity to talk about the ending.
Abraham Lincoln is a vampire hunter AND a Space Marine? That guy needs to run for president again.
If you found the messages on the walls, you'll know that ship is Nibiru, a living super computer that ha been spying on Earth with the ASE. Nibiru is the name of the planet that is believed by some what will cause the end of the world on the 21st of December, look it up. Of course, most people were probably distracted by Abraham Lincoln and George Washington stepping out of that Conduit, setting the stage for Conduit 3: Space Lincoln and the Emancipators of the Universe.
The level design is vastly improved over The Conduit, while it's still mostly linear there are quite a few open areas and not too many corridors. I also noticed a lack of repeated environments, which plagued The Conduit. There are a couple alternate paths and side paths that lead to things like weapons or perks you can scan. The infinitely respawning enemies are almost completely gone, on the Washington DC level there are some egg sacs that spawn tear mites (weak little enemies that attack with their claws) during a walk through an unlit area underground, but they can be killed with a melee attack easily. The egg sacs themselves can be destroyed with a few SCAR rounds. The art direction is excellent, with a lush South American jungle, a Chinese temple, the Siberian Tundra, and more making up the levels.
Most of the enemies return, but strangely enough Therm Mites and Para Mites are MIA, along with a few other enemies. They do have new units in the form of the heavily armed and armored Trust Advancer and the J Warrior- er, Jade, Warrior, which slowly moves around and attacks the ground causing a shock wave, and a few Atlantean enemies. The AI will now actually take cover and I haven't noticed any friendly fire among them yet, but they aren't going to win any awards.
Something new to the game are the boss battles, which fit the somewhat old school Conduit series well and help add variety to the game. There are four boss battles and they're all hit or miss. a fight against a giant sea monster, second a Progenitor, one of the aliens that was worshiped by the ancient Greeks, and one of the most powerful ones at that. Third is a very fun rail shooting segment. Honestly, I don't know why they didn't add another one or two, making a rail shooting level can't take too much resources. Fourth is the final boss of the game, and the only one that I'd designate a 'miss'. Well, three to one isn't bad.
The controls are even better this time around, with aiming being more precise already and Wii Motion Plus only helping further. The majority of the customization options are back, but a few stupid ones like how high you're able to look up have been cut. The run button fits well into the control scheme, but iron sight aiming takes a back seat to hip firing because of the fast paced nature of the game. They're also lacking separate customization options for iron sight aiming, which would've been a nice addition. I haven't used the Classic Controller Pro, but I've heard only bad things about it.
The Quantum 3 Engine has received significant upgrades over the two years, and Conduit 2 looks significantly better than the first game. The levels, as I mentioned earlier, are much better looking, hi res, and colorful than The Conduit, and no longer have such a contrast between them and the weapons, character models, etc. I personally feel the design of the enemies looks much better, but that is subjective. On top of all that, the game runs at 60 FPS. While it's more prone to framerate drops than The Conduit, especially in multiplayer, it still stays above 30 FPS almost all of the time, and the occasional lag free 60 FPS 6 vs 6 game on a small map makes up for when it doesn't. Why do I say above 30 FPS? Because I have no idea what anywhere between 30 and 60 would be, but I do know below 30 is where it actually inhibits the game. I only know 60 FPS feels slightly smoother.
Most of the weapons from The Conduit have returned in drastically rebalanced forms, with the USP receiving a much needed nerf and all the guns gaining an alt fire. The human weapons, the guns that actually have iron sights, gain iron sight aiming, while the other guns gain a secondary fire mode, similar to many old school shooters. It's an interesting balance between old school and modern reflected in the games design as a whole. The TPC launcher from the first game can now lay Proximity Mines, making it much more useful, the Deatomizer Mk4 loses the scope and gains a fully auto secondary fire, and the Carbonizer Mk16, which now takes a couple seconds to fire, has an alternate mode allowing it to fire instantly but slowing your movement speed to a crawl. Better yet are the new arrivals, like the Phase Rifle, a sniper capable of shooting through walls.
Or the AR-C Eclipse, a gun capable of acting as a cloaking device. As it fires it get's hotter, causing it to do more damage but get closer to over heating, and as it cloaks you it gets colder, reducing damage but increasing the amount of time you can fire, as well as threatening to freeze the barrel, leaving you vulnerable for several seconds.
Alternatively, one of my favorites, the Dark Star. It fires very weak 'tag' shots that slowly drain an enemies health, which in the process keeps them from being able to regenerate health. It won't kill them unless they were very low on health, but if someone who's tagged dies, regardless of how they die, you gain a Dark Star Charge. It can charge up to level three, and at any level you can fire a black hole, the higher the level the longer it stays up, the stronger the gravitational pull, and the bigger it is. That's only a few of them.
Over all, the campaign has decent level design, poor AI, a very creative batch of weapons, great art direction, a mixed bag of boss battles, a lot of replayability with all the things you can find, especially with the fact they give you money and weapons in multiplayer, and is at least not a super serious war shooter in the writing department. It's greatest flaw is there isn't enough of it. The credits will have started rolling after 6-7 hours, the last level was a multiplayer map with a lot of enemies thrown onto it, and with the last boss battle being the disappointment it was it's clear the game was rushed. when you reach the last level, you feel like you're about 70% of the way through the game. It seems like there should have been one, maybe two more full levels before the end. On top of that, you can beat the game and find everything, and still finish in under 10 hours.
But I'm forgetting something, aren't I? The multiplayer of course! I'll start off by mentioning the game has 4 player split screen, which is unfortunately a rarity these days. You can use your multiplayer loadouts in it and it contains the full variety of online options, but the graphics are much worse. There is also a local only horde mode called Invasion, in which you can earn money for multiplayer much faster than actually playing multiplayer if you're good. It's fine on your own but best with a friend or three. You have a pool of lives, and when an enemy dies they actually drop a coin that you can run over and get for 25 points, and when a team mate dies they drop a lot of coins. I played this a lot back when I first had the game, mainly for money, but haven't played it much since I unlocked everything. Btw, you can use your loadouts in this too. That is especially helpful because you can make one person a medic, one a sniper, the other two heavily armed Carbonizer Tanks (Carbonizer Mk16 with both armor upgrades, can take a beating and deal a lot of damage, but move very slowly) or whatever you want.
The multiplayer is still partially active, and contains four basic modes you can select. Big Team Grab Bag, 12 player team games, Free For All Grab Bag, 8 player deathmatches, Hardcore Team Games, 8 player team games with no lock on or radar, and Hardcore Free For All, 6 player deathmatch with no lock on or radar. The way it works is you join one of those modes then a random combination of a map and a mode that fits the moniker of being a team game/deathmatch. You can always find a game in Big Team Grab Bag, and Free For All is somewhat active, but HC is dead as a rock. If you want to play a game without lock on you'll have to arrange it with your friends and rivals.
Rivals? That's right, you don't need Friend Codes. After you've played a game with someone, you can send them a rival request, if they accept you can talk to them via Headbanger Headset, join a game they're playing from the rival list, as well as being able to join any private games they host and have them join yours. If you want to add someone you didn't play a game against, you'll need Friend Codes, but it's simple enough to say for that person to go play one of the hardcore modes at a certain time so you can play a game together and add each other without Friend Codes. The benefits of being friends vs rivals are entirely the same, so you aren't missing out on anything.
Private games give you a lot of options as host, like the ability to make weapons spawn on the ground and force one loadout on everyone, arena shooter style, as well as health, gravity, running speed and more, which gives you a lot of options for custom game modes. Like max running speed+movement upgrades (perks)+shotgun. I once made a game with very low health, no radar, and human weapons and called it Conduit of Duty.
I realize I've spent a lot of time talking about the Store, what exactly is it? You see, Conduit 2 doesn't have a level up, unlock a better gun system. With the money you earn in every mode of the game, you can buy guns, perks, different characters, and different parts for your multiplayer avatar. It's entirely possible to get almost everything without playing a single game of MP, which is a nice change of pace from starting out a multiplayer game horribly outmatched. You're also given the SCAR and USP when you start the game, which are two of the best guns, the former arguably being the best gun in the game, but I think of using an assault rifle and pistol as my main weapons in this game like going to a buffet and eating dry bread.
But the key word there was 'almost' everything. There are a number of perks which can only be obtained by accomplishing a certain task X amount of times. You unlock stealth by getting 25 back stabs, Phase Rifle Tuning with 50 Phase Rifle headshots, etc. Without PR Tuning, if you target someone through a wall they'll be alerted to it. Once you've gotten it, you've already proven you're a competent sniper. These perks, I believe there are 5 of them, give you something to keep you playing once you've bought everything, assuming you haven't gotten them yet.
Multiplayer avatars have a lot of options. First, you have your basic character model. The Trust Soldier, Drudge Drone, Destroyer, Female Destroyer, Jade Warrior, Cyborg, and Progenitor. They all have about six body parts, and you can give each of them their own primary and secondary color, choosing from 16 colors each. Most of the aforementioned character models have several different parts for each that you can use. As in, different armor, different helmet, so on. It's all decorative and they have the exact same abilities, but it's fun to make your own unique avatar. Of course, those people who use the SCAR and USP will find no fun in it.
The balance is very good, while things like the SMAW and Reverse Damage are a nuisance, and ballistics weapons with both damage upgrades for that type are pushing towards OP, but Reverse Damage - a perk that causes Radiation Grenades to heal their owners and team mates - is useless against any OHK weapon and can only be used three times a life at the most because grenades are finite. To counter the SMAW, Put on the Explosive Focus upgrade and it can't kill you in one hit, even if it hits you directly. At that point, all the noobtube users are just free kills. You can counter damage upgrades with armor upgrades. Some people swear the Phase Rifle is overpowered, on account of it being able to one hit kill to any part of the body through walls with no warning if you get all three of the Phase Rifle upgrades. I disagree, on account of stealth making it so they can't kill you through walls, double armor upgrades keeping them from being able to one hit kill you to anywhere but a headshot, and the helmet upgrade stops even that. On top of that, it has a very slow rate of fire, little ammo, and requires good accuracy. There is a problem with a couple guns being dependent on certain perks to be all that good.
The loadout system consists of a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, a grenade, your primary suit upgrade, and three secondary upgrades. They, and the weapons, are varied enough were you can easily make a specialized class or one suited for everything. Want to make a Medic? Take metal legs(infinite sprint), field medicine (doubled revive speed), an Aegis Device (a shield that catches bullets and shoots them back with twice the damage, worst gun in the game), Reverse Damage, and light armor. You can now stand over your fallen comrades in the line of fire and heal them quickly. While it's not that useful in a Team Deathmatch, Shared Stock, in which you take away a point from the enemy team when you revive a team mate, it can be useful. If you want to play stealthily, take an AR-C Eclipse, stealth (keeps you off radar while walking, show up when jumping or sprinting), improved melee (increased melee range), and any two other upgrades.
The team games all have Control Points, capturing them gives your team a slight boost in whatever area that specific point affects. Speed, damage and health regeneration speed are all boosted by one or the other, and it helps direct the action to specific parts of the map and adds a small layer of strategy that can help your team if pursued they can be ignored if you wish.
The maps are for the most part well designed, although Agartha and Pentagon Prime cater too much to snipers, and Serenity completely alienates snipers. Crash Site, Streets Prime, and Whiteout are all great maps, and the others I haven't mentioned are good, but unremarkable, and either not good or not bad enough to warrant being mentioned.
Conduit 2, unlike The Conduit, uses a host system, so now you can connect to games quickly. Fortunately, it has, drum roll please... Host migration. During the course of Host Migration, lag will typically get a bit worse, but it's over quickly. In games with severe lag it will often be the straw that breaks the camels back, causing everyone to disconnect, but that isn't very common. In lag free games, you don't even notice it. Some people have problems with their Wii freezing often, but I have no such problem. It does freeze, but occasionally. Differs from person to person. I'd like to point out as I finish this review Conduit 2 has a patching system, so encountering glitchers is rare and hackers very rare. It doesn't get patches any more, but they did a good job with the ones they had.
That was a pretty impressive, more informative than the reviews that I've read from review sites. I appreciate that little shout out, by the way. I guess my problem would be the huge turn of the narrative. I don't mind that its like a B movie and if it has bad voice acting, but since the first one was so serious I'm not sure if I'd really like the turn like that. I thought the first Conduit had some boss battle type thing?
Wow Hawke, awesome review man. I've never played any of the Conduit games, but you make me want to get them.