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 you use to go to any level you've completed, the Conduit Dialer, which is where you select what level to go to, (really, it's not much more than a level select screen, but it's a nice little detail) 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 a serious game about aliens and conspiracies, they did a complete 180 with the sequel and pretty much made it into an intentional B-Movie.The voice actors have had equally drastic changes, Prometheus sounds more like a robot than Kevin Sorbo (the original VA), John Adams is an angry old man who you can'ty really take seriously as a villain, 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 an ex military, strong silent type, and admittedly bland Secret Service agent to a sarcastic one liner spouting action hero. Seeing as how his family was just murdered, the change makes even less sense.
The gameplay is significantly different from the original, whereas The Conduit was a pure arena shooter, Conduit 2 is more of 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 there's no health bar. There's bloom and jump height is reduced, so bunny hopping is no longer a real problem, unless the person is using one of a few specific weapons. 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, which would allow you to get much more powerful variations of normal weapons. 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 as another thing to collect.
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 in the campaign with the ASE for free. Remember the Arsenal Replicator I mentioned earlier? It allows you to use your loadouts in the campaign (including perks), so you're no longer limited to what ever guns 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, whatever you want. It makes replaying the game quite a bit more fun, although some guns aren't very useful at all in the campaign as they were balanced primarily with multiplayer in mind, and you'll rarely need anything but a SCAR. It also seems like a missed opportunity, since there's no super powerful BFG9000 equivalent that can only be used in the campaign. There's also a large number of achievements, which get you money for the Store.The level design is vastly improved over The Conduit, while it's still linear there are quite a few open areas, with a much smaller number of corridors than The Conduit. I also noticed a lack of repeated environments, which plagued The Conduit. There are a couple alternate paths and a wealth of side paths that lead to things like weapons or perks you can scan, but are nine times out of ten a dead end. 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 also improved and varied, with a lush South American jungle, a Chinese temple, the snoey Siberian Tundra, and more making up the levels, as opposed to the endless gray brown corridors of The Conduit.
Most of the enemies from the original 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 that's the only real praise I can give it. Something new to the game are the boss battles, which fit the old school Conduit series well and help add some needed variety to the game. There are four boss battles. The first fight, a battle with the Leviathan, a giant sea monster, works more on paper than in practice. It's more the novelty of it than the fight actually being very good. Second, a Progenitor, one of the aliens that was worshiped by the ancient civilizations, and one of the most powerful ones at that. It's easily the best boss battle, the most challenging. Third is rail shooting segment, where you man the gun on the back of a drop ship to destroy your pursuers, and it's one of the most fun parts of the game. 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, which is a pretty big disappointment. You basically just sit in cover, pop out to destroy shield generators, pop out some more to shoot the boss, and then when he turns into his final form, you just run behind statues, wait for him to run into them, and shoot him as he sits there for a short period of time.
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 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 and made iron sight aiming more useful. The Classic Controller Pro control scheme is also fully customizable, but there's no aim assist and three unused buttons. You won't stand much of a chance against a good Wii Remote user in the modes where there isn't any lock on, and in the ones where there is you may as well give up now.
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 more detailed, 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 redesigned enemies looks better, but that's entirely subjective. On top of all that, the game runs at 60 FPS. While it's much more prone to framerate drops than The Conduit, especially in multiplayer, it rarely drops to unplayable levels, even in multiplayer. In the campaign they're usually just momentary.
The campaign is fun while it lasts, but unfortunately it doesn't last very long. It can be cleared in 5-7 hours easily if you just rush through the level, and even if you hunt everything down you probably won't have spent much more than nine hours playing the campaign. It's also obvious that it's rushed, considering the bad final boss battle and the fact that the last level is a multiplayer map with a lot of enemies thrown in. It doesn't feel like you've almost beaten the game when you reach the last level, it seems like you're 3/4th of the way through when you get hit with the credits, and the bats*** insane ending sets the stage for Conduit 3:Space Lincoln and the Emancipators of the Universe.
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 game 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. The Strike Rifle has higher damage and a lower rate of fire and clip size, making it more like a semi auto sniper rifle than an assault rifle. 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, and they all have some niche in multiplayer.
Speaking of multiplayer, Conduit 2 has 4 player split screen. 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. It's main problem is that it starts off slow, and takes too long to get challenging. There's also the issue of skimmers, an uncommon enemy, having no AI. They just float there. You can use your loadouts in this too, just like everything else.
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. This means that if you want to play a game of Capture the Flag, you might be stuck playing Team 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 (I'd recommend going to the Gamefaqs Conduit 2 board, it's the games only living community. I recently got a few people to try to help me revive HC Team Games.)
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. I'll take this opportunity to point out the lack of a party system, which I'm personally happy about but most aren't.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.
Unlike most shooters, Conduit 2 doesn't have you level up to unlock better guns. With the money you earn in every mode of the game, you can buy guns, perks, different character models for multiplayer and different parts for your multiplayer avatar. It's entirely possible to get almost everything unlocked 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.
As for the 'almost, 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 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. You can have a different avatar for every loadout.The balance is very good, while there are some minor problems and a couple decisions that are questionable at best (like making the Explosive Focus perk protect you against the shotgun and magnum, not just explosive weapons.), no gun is better than the others and they all have some niche to fill, with the exception of the severely underpowered Aegis Device. The SMAW (rocket launcher) is widely seen as OP, but I disagree. The rocket is easily avoided beyond short range, and the Explosive Focus perk keeps it from killing you in one hit, even with a direct hit. If anything, it's underpowered.
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 only problem with this is that the points are badly placed on the Sanctum Prime map, making the fighting gravitate towards the corridors instead of the large, multilevel room that makes up most of the map.The maps are for the most part well designed, with the only ones that are really bad is Agartha, which is teeming with snipers, and Serenity, which is the exact opposite. Crash Site, Streets Prime, and Whiteout are all great maps that are more balanced. Many maps have semi-hidden platforming short cuts, which are quite useful. Some can only be reached while you have the speed control point, which gives it even more value than it otherwise would have. It's generally seen as the most valuable, with attack being #2.
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 for me, but very rarely. Differs from person to person, I can't speak for everyone.
*This review was not edited to address the aiming mechanics
Another great review, man. I really need to check it out. I thought the first one was pretty cool.