Unlike PC gamers and the rest of the console gaming community, Wii purists have been starving for high-quality first-person shooters. They've suffered through Red Steel, a glut of tired WWII-themed shooters and a few other major disappointments in their quest for blissful headshot salvation. After years of roaming listlessly through the parched desert of FPS mediocrity, a game like The Conduit offers a certain measure of relief. Yes, if you're thirsty enough, even stale, gritty canteen water can taste like Evian.
High Voltage Games' ambitious effort to produce a top-notch shooter on the Wii is commendable. The developer's sexy Quantum 3 engine definitely squeezes some flashy visual effects and an impressively high level of performance out of the console. And while it doesn't pack quite the same razzle-dazzle as bleeding-edge shooters for the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, The Conduit does give Nintendo fans - at least the ones that are sick of playing Wii Sports and Mario Party - something to finally get excited about. That said, the game's most glorious moments are muddied by dull, uninspired design and intermittent glitchiness.
The conspiracy-laden plot revolves around mysterious alien attacks and a strange virus that wreaks havoc on the streets of Washington, D.C. With a lunatic scientist running amok, insect-like aliens terrorizing the ruined cityscape and a shadow government called the Trust trying to put a lid on the situation, much of the game's story feels ripped straight out of The X-Files. You play as a recent Trust inductee named Mr. Ford, who dives into the chaos to shoot things up while seeking to unravel the complex secrets surrounding the virus and E.T. invasion. Despite the appreciable sci-fi nods, the story is less exciting than it sounds, and the gameplay doesn't fare much better.
Running around subterranean tunnels and blasting your way through ruined government installations starts off on the right foot, thanks to a generally precise and fully customizable control scheme. This is one of several areas the High Voltage team really nailed. Targeting, moving and aiming are all very fluid and natural feeling. Any controls you don't find agreeable - like the decision to make shaking the Nunchuk with even the teensiest bit of motion the default maneuver for lobbing explosives - can easily be re-mapped to almost any button. However, good controls don't make up for the repetition and dullness that sets in early in the main campaign.