Sunday, June 7, 2009

How good is ´The Conduit´?

76 percent?

How good is the futuristic Wii shooter ´The Conduit´? With many hopes pinned on a handful of more mature Wii games paving the way for a steadier flow of such titles, gamers, journalists and industry insiders are closely watching the critical and commercial reception of said games. Among them, ´The Conduit´ appears to be one of the big hopefuls with most observers, as well as the most controversial with some. While noone denies that it offers astounding visuals, its gameplay and originality are sometimes drawn into question.

A third and critical review has now surfaced that offers that very assessment. The score by the UK's Official Nintendo Magazine, though not catastrophic, is a sobering 76 percent. An article by GoNintendo which linked scans of the review got subsequently deleted and only exists in its Yahoo cache version. The review remarks:

It's really not bad at all. It looks nice, it feels nice and feels decidely grown up. Unfortunately it also feels about ten years old. The rosy whiff of Rare's ´Perfect Dark´ is detectable through much of ´The Conduit´, though that's no bad thing. The action is seemless and immediate, the story is fast-paced and full of conspiracy. (...)

The problem is you can detect the formula almost immediately. Run through a corridor, crouch behind a box and chuck a grenade, flush out side rooms, storm bigger rooms, restore health, repeat all over again. There's nothing wrong with that, it just might mean you lose the incentive to get through the whole ten or so hours of the game's single player campaign. (...)

The reason ´The Conduit´ falls short of must have status is down to the repetition on offer in terms of influences and design decisions. Levels often become a chore, especially the ones set in dull grey military facilities, while the drudge aliens are aptly named. For all its lack of inspiration, ´The Conduit´ is still an enjoyable shooter. Just don't expect miracles.

I find it slightly irritating that the review's tone is largely positive and does not appear, in my mind, to match the review score. The only criticism seems to be lack of originality and the article notes more than once that that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Article deleted

So why has the GoNintendo article been deleted? While the magazine itself insists that the game has officially not yet been rated, there are two alternatives. The most likely is that the rating stands, the publisher simply wants to prevent early publication. For the very same reason, GoNintendo recently had to pull an article based on information by the same magazine publisher.

The second, less likely explanation is that early publication of the rating has led to a formal complaint by the publisher and the rating has been recalled by the magazine. Often, reviews are based on review code, which may differ substantially from the final retail version. And sometimes, there is flawed communication between studio, publisher and reviewer about which aspects will still be changed. This is unlikely, but has happened before.

Other review scores

Let us assume the rating stands and compare it to the others. Nintendo Power gave ´The Conduit´ only a little more, at 80 percent. Here is a summary of their alleged explanation:

The Conduit – “worthwhile endeavor” but wouldn’t “make as big an impact on a competing console”

-large amount of customization
-good weapon selection
-Intriguing locals (Library of Congress, Pentagon, etc.)
-“platform defining online play”
-Bounty Hunter mode
-best pure first person shooter on the Wii

-story is rote
-enemy AI fails to impress
-little innovation to speak of (outside if the controls)
-level of detail in the environment can be inconsistent at times
-no destructible environments
-The “All Seeing Eye” is a cool idea but underutilized
-the abrupt, Halo-esque ending (hints at a sequel?)

In fact, here is a scan of the entire article, courtesy of

Finally, a German Wii magazine gave the game 87 percent. All in all, those are not catastrophic review scores, like I said before. But the fear is that if an official Nintendo magazine gives the game a 76, scores by important online portals like Gamespot or IGN could be lower.

Rave previews

What is also irritating is that the game received some rave previews. The Official Nintendo Magazine praised the game only in April. And the preview was written by the very same author. His review, as noted above, seems to find mostly praise for the game and differs little from the preview. It is mainly the review score that does not seem to fit the picture.

So how good is ´The Conduit´? We simply cannot tell right now. It is reassuring to note that the graphics really appear to live up to the hype. But a little originality would not be a bad thing, either. It will be interesting to keep track of the game's Metacritic score, averaging all important reviews, as more scores come in.

Also, let us bear in mind that critical reception is not as important as commercial success. And even poor sales figures of ´The Conduit´ would not convince publishers that the Wii is no vehicle for mature games. But the title is an important piece in the puzzle and its commercial success will go some way towards more such games in the near future.

EDIT The rating stands. Metacritic has now included the 76 percent rating on the game's profile.

EDIT In their review, IGN gave the game a staggering 86 percent. The article made me wonder whether the good people over at IGN read this blog. Read it for yourself.

I've no doubt that overzealous system-hating fanboys will assert that there is nothing particularly special about The Conduit, but I don't believe that. In my experience, the title features the tightest, most comfortable control scheme of any console-based first-person shooter to date and that's true because of an innovative, highly customizable configuration that's already changing the way developers approach FPSs on Wii. (...)

Meanwhile, the technology powering the experience is leaps and bounds ahead of most third- party offerings for Nintendo's system. Combined, you've got a game that controls flawlessly and looks great. If you're okay with a few presentational cliches -- a story involving aliens that seems played out -- and a shooting experience that rarely strays from straightforward running and gunning, you're probably going to love the end product. If, on the other hand, you own another system, nothing The Conduit offers, fantastic controls aside, will seem extraordinary. Supposing you are a single console owner, though, High Voltage's shooter not only delivers a fun single-player quest, but an engaging online mode that will keep you fragging complete with WiiSpeak support for months to come.

With poor ratings by Gamespot and especially 1Up (58 percent), the Metacritic average now stands at 75 percent. It is rare to see a game display such a broad range of ratings by the main reviewers.

Source: GoNintendo (Yahoo cache)
Thanks to: GoNintendo, grandjedi6, Nintendo-Online (German)

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