The Conduit was the very first game I demoed at E3, and it remained the highlight right to the end of the day. I can’t tell you which I liked more…the actual game, or the passion from the guys at High Voltage. I can’t stress enough that these guys are true Wii fans and gamers…just like you and I. They don’t get why third parties don’t deliver AAA content to the Wii. They know that platform can do so much more than what is currently available. They love the casual/expanded audience, but they want core reasons to play the Wii too. There is no doubt that these guys know what they are doing, and want to bring you the best FPS experience on the Wii. After getting eyes/hands-on with the game today, High Voltage is more than delivering on the promises they’ve made.
Let’s talk graphics, shall we? There is no competition when it comes to visual presentation in The Conduit. Right now, I would say that Galaxy is the benchmark for great Wii graphics. The Conduit is a very different type of game, and the style means that the visuals are much different. Having said that, this title has to be the best looking game I’ve seen on the platform…period. The screenshots look great, the trailers are fantastic, but actually seeing it with your own two eyes makes things even better. I was no longer looking at things through rose-tinted glasses. I was looking at the game, right in-front of me…a first person account. The Conduit really makes you realize just how absolutely lazy developers are with their Wii games. I was annoyed with third parties before, but The Conduit looks so good that it’ll make you sick over third party support thus far.
One element that bleeds into the game from graphics to gameplay and everything else is detail. High Voltage is treating everything with extreme care, and it shows. No matter how minor the detail, they are pouring a ton of work into it. That’s because they understand that little things can make for a big impact. Take this little bit, for instance. The sight on your sniper scope reflects the game world around you, in real-time. Walk up to a car, and you’ll see the car. Face your back to a building, and check it out in the scope reflection. You can even point the gun at the ground, and in the scope reflection, you’ll see the cloud patterns moving…once again, in real-time. This is the passion that is going into every facet of the game.
One of the highlights of my playtime was checking out the various weapons. I watched a playthrough first, and then jumped in for my own try. The weapons that were in the playtest ranged from typical FPS fodder to some ridiculous alien tech…and I mean that in a good way. There is one gun that shoots a homing shot that’s guided by your pointer. It’s almost too much fun to shoot a shot down the street, and then have it curve in and hit an enemy out of nowhere. While that gun is great, my favorite was yet another alien weapon. This one had an attack that I haven’t seen in any other game. It shoots some sort of ammo that literally wraps around whatever it hits, and continues on that path. The team demoed the weapon by shooting it at a lamp post, and the shot wrapped around the post and spun in circles. Neat, but why would you want that? Well, say you have an enemy that is around a corner. You could aim at that corner, shoot, and have the shot attach and whip around the corner to take out the enemy. Tell me that that isn’t awesome.
As far as game controls go, things are still being worked on…but it doesn’t even matter. While the team is still nailing down some preset control schemes, the player will be able to map anything they want to any button. You want the joypad to bash, that’s just fine. You want to fire with the 2 button, go for it. Fully customizable controls, and you make the scheme that works for you. On top of that, you also get to mess with the controller sensitivity and bounding box until your heart’s content. Make the bounding box as big as your TV screen, or as tiny as your crosshair. For those that loved the controls in Metroid Prime 3 or Medal of Honor: Heroes II, The Conduit takes the best parts from both and one-ups them. It’s exactly the type of thing we wanted to see.
I played with one of the preset schemes, and I had no trouble at all jumping right in. Jumping, turning, bashing, shooting…all second nature as soon as I picked up the controllers. Everything was extremely responsive, and felt more than comfortable. There’s even a lock-on that you can activate if you are looking for more of a Metroid Prime-like experience. Of course, it’s up to you if you want to use that. One of the cool benefits you get from locking on is the ability to see how far away the enemy is, as well as his health. A little display pops up to let you know just what the distance is between you and the enemy, and a bar represents the health.
Of course, the game is far from being optimized, but The Conduit already puts so many retail Wii games to shame. There are titles that have already shipped that don’t run a fraction as well as The Conduit does. There was one instance where the game dipped just a hair below 30 FPS, and the team automatically apologized. They didn’t try to hide it, they went back and showed the frame dip again. Of course, they said that they aren’t done getting the game to that 30FPS level, but the final game will without a doubt ship at 30 FPS all the way through. They even said that if they can get a higher framerate out of it, then that’s what they will do. Once again, this little bit of my playtest showed me just how dedicated the team is.
We got into a little talk about multiplayer as well. The High Voltage gang already has 16 player multiplayer up-and running. Right now, they are dedicating a ton of their time to making the multiplayer what it needs to be. Creating modes, levels, and all that good stuff. The same amount of detail is going into the multiplayer as is the single player. We can expect every single gun from the single-player campaign, so get ready to blast the hell out of your opponents from around corners. High Voltage knows what they’ve promised for multiplayer, and they also know what we expect. They have zero plans to let us down.
With The Conduit, High Voltage is proving that the Wii can do some amazing things. You wouldn’t think it from the third party landscape out there. Really, High Voltage is the dream team we were hoping for. A truly dedicated group of programmers that know what the core is crying out for. They are Wii fans, and they know the Wii can play home to some truly amazing titles. Their hard work is something that is rare with third parties…which is a huge shame. Every developer should take such pride in their products. High Voltage is working their ass off to deliver the experience they know that we want…and they want it too.
I’ll end with a little bit of conversation that came up in our elevator ride down to the hotel lobby. We got into talking about publishers, and while High Voltage wouldn’t give me a name, they had a truly horrible story to tell. One publisher they approached outright told them that they didn’t understand why High Voltage was making the game. They thought the project was great, but had no idea who they were trying to sell to. After saying that, the publishers said that they wanted to turn the game into a $20 project, and crap it out for a holiday release. Yes, the publisher really said “crap it out”. Seriously, how disheartening is that?
Whether you like FPS titles or not, you should pay attention to High Voltage. The Conduit is set to upstage almost all third parties on Wii. When the game hits, and if the sales are there, it will start the countdown clock for third party garbage. High Voltage is a team for you, the core gamer. They want to bring you that kick-ass experience that you’ve been waiting for. Take interest in the game or not…just appreciate and acknowlege what High Voltage is trying to do. They aren’t just making an FPS game, they are trying to change the state of Wii support for the core gamer.