Game Reviews

The Conduit HD

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First published: | Updated:

| The Conduit HD
The Conduit HD
| The Conduit HD

Given that it was originally pitched as a "shooter built from the ground up for the Nintendo Wii”, The Conduit on Nexus 7 feels like an emulation gone slightly mad.

While the 2009 original fell short of its lofty ambitions of being Nintendo's console's answer to Halo thanks to a generic campaign, bland enemies with the blandest possible name (the Drudge), and a preponderance of grey corridor shoot-outs, developer High Voltage Software at least managed to make shooting with a glorified telly remote feel satisfyingly intuitive.

Now, with the motion controls replaced by touchscreen jabbing, and the praised multiplayer now MIA, can a few buffed up textures and Tegra exclusivity really yank the franchise back from the forgotten FPS graveyard?

Pay to win

Played with a physical controller, The Conduit HD looks and plays a lot like a budget blaster from the late PS2 era - so, by mobile gaming FPS standards at least, it’s actually rather impressive for the few hours it lasts.

On a touchscreen things are understandably a bit fiddlier, and the default auto-firing whenever your crosshairs land on a target feels a lot like playing a shooter without the shooting. Fortunately, the controls can be completely customised to suit your mitts and you’ll only really fumble on the enemy-crammed final levels.

But fear not, as you can sidestep any difficulty spikes with an in-app purchase that bestows you with an array of toggleable God-like powers, like infinite ammo and health. While we abhor cheating tactics on principle, it’s awfully tempting to pay for a helping hand once the Drudge-ery of the story begins taking its toll.

You see, the tale of a rogue secret service agent uncovering an alien invasion conspiracy quickly proves little more than a tiny hook designed to yank you from one similar shootout to another.

Admittedly, the voice cast - including Hercules himself, Kevin Sorbo - do an admirable job of delivering hammy B-movie dialogue through Ford’s earpiece, and the real-world Washington DC locations at least look approximately right, but the narrative always takes a backseat to the by-the-numbers blasting.

Enemies, of which there are only a handful of different, Covenant-derivative types, all either run or occasionally fly straight at you, or - in the case of super soldiers - hang around in small office cubicles waiting for you to wander in looking for health packs.

The AI is minimal at best, so the game tends to hurl waves of baddies at you, using destructible spawn points to explain where the blighters are all coming from. In the ensuing chaos, it’s also possible to overlook just how many times they get stuck on scenery or mysteriously run on the spot.

Fortunately, the handful of weapons at your disposal - from standard revolvers and shotguns to alien rifles and machine gun-esque spitters - are capable of dealing some hefty damage, and combat is pretty satisfying if you’ve played more N.O.V.A than actual Halo.

Suit up

Ford’s protective suit, provided by the shadowy Trust organisation, also provides a sliver of Crysis-like glamour with its steadily increasing powers, yet the main alien tech (a glowing ball called the ASE, or All Seeing Eye) is actually more of a more hindrance than a help.

Most battles take place in locked rooms or corridors, and you often need to pull out the ASE while under heavy fire to hack hidden nodes. It's distracting and annoying and seems to exist solely to sap the pace out of the firefights or make you traipse back over the tiny maps waiting for it to beep clues.

The ASE is symptomatic of the game’s biggest flaws: a lack both of ambition and imagination.

Yes, you can switch your brain off and just enjoy zapping aliens in the head on your Android, but The Conduit HD’s rough edges, drab story, and rote FPS gameplay stand out even more without the gimmick of a Wii controller to hand.

The Conduit HD

The Tegra HD sheen adds some graphical polish to this Wii-port that’s fun to blast through, especially with a controller, but still a lacklustre Halo-wannabe at heart
Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
A newspaper reporter turned games journo, Paul's first ever console was an original white Game Boy (still in working order, albeit with a yellowing tinge and 30 second battery life). Now he writes about Android with a style positively dripping in Honeycomb, stuffed with Gingerbread and coated with Froyo