Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Conduit 2 Review

In movies or games, follow-ups to first installments are generally considered to be an improvement over the original, but what about when the first installment was rather mediocre?  This is the case of the Conduit 2.  The previous game was a run of the mill, first person shooter that had great controls and solid graphics, but the story and characters were dull and forgettable, and the gameplay, while not terrible, was pretty formulaic and suffered from a lack of variety.  With the sequel, it seems like the result of developer High Voltage Software taking a long, hard look at the problem the original had, and fixing nearly every single problem the story and gameplay of the first one suffered from.  The result is a sequel that is a huge improvement over its predecessor.

(Spoiler warning for the ending of the Conduit!)  Picking up where The Conduit left off, protagonist Ford and new ally Prometheus, whose conscious was transferred into the ASE, give chase after John Adams, who manages to escape via a portal.  They follow Adams into the portal he escaped through, and the two end up on a oil rig in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Said oil rig is owned by the Trust, who are awaiting Adams so they can send him off elsewhere through the portal.  In the midst of this, a giant sea serpent is attacking the rig, but Ford and Prometheus are unable to stop Adams before he can enter the portal and escape.  Ford and Prometheus then deal with the giant serpent, which swallows and regurgitates them in Atlantis.  Navigating their way through the place leads them to a chamber where Ford gets a suit of armor referred to as Destroyer armor, and then they head into another room where they find a woman named Andromeda, frozen in a stasis chamber.  Ford uses the ASE to wake up Andromeda, who at first is skeptical about Ford since he is wearing the Destroyer armor, but when Ford tells her about Adams, she agrees to help Ford find Adams, who is revealed to be part of a race of beings called Progenitors, which Andromeda and Prometheus are also members of.  Now Ford and Prometheus must travel around the world to try and stop Adams, before he can take over the world.

In many ways, Conduit 2's story is an improvement to the first game's story; though the story does falter in a few spots.  The best aspect of the story, by far, is that it reveals a lot more about the world the previous game hinted at, but never fully showed.  The idea of the Progenitors is rather interesting, as are the connections to real world events that happened, which involved the Progenitors in some way.  Said nods to events are revealed through collectibles found in each level, but more on that later.  Additionally, the main protagonists, Michael Ford and Prometheus, are much more likeable than they were in the first game, due to the better and more humorous writing.  Ford and Prometheus have a Kirk/Spock dynamic; Ford makes a lot of humorous one liners and quips, while Prometheus is rather uptight and direct in his dialogue.

Despite the improved story and leading characters, the story has its flaws.  Even though the story is more in depth in regards to revealing more information on the world of the Conduit games; this is a pretty basic story, and while Ford and Prometheus are better characters, John Adams is still a clich├ęd bad guy who spends most of the game absent until the last level.  Andromeda is also wasted as a character; there are a couple of moments in the story involving her which are somewhat interesting, but ultimately, she's someone who spends most of her time standing in front of a terminal typing away rather than actually giving Ford assistance.  Pacing is also an issue with the Conduit 2; story events come and go so quickly that before you know it, the finale will be here, even though you feel like there should have been more to the story.  Also, much like the last game, Conduit 2 ends on a cliffhanger, a cool cliffhanger yes, but an unnecessary one nonetheless.

Much like before, Conduit 2 offers great controls and a huge amount of options to choose from when customizing them.  The only new additions are support for the Wii Motion Plus, which makes aiming more accurate, plus support for the Classic Controller.  Although the greatest improvements this sequel offers come from the gameplay, which is more enjoyable, fun, and varied than the gameplay of The Conduit.   As I said in the previous review, the main issues with the gameplay were a lack of variety in the campaign, overly linear level design, and bad enemy AI.  All of these issues have been rectified, but the developers have also added in new additions and have made some minor adjustments to other parts of the gameplay.

Even though the campaign is mainly focused on shooting, each level in the game now has various moments to help break up the shooting.  In the Siberia level, for example, there are security cameras placed around a military installation Ford infiltrates in the game, and should Ford get spotted, robot dogs, a new enemy type in the game, are sent after him, so in order to avoid getting spotted, you need to shoot out the security cameras.  By far, though, the biggest addition that has been added to the campaign is the introduction of boss fights, which are all quite fun.  In the first game, the only real instances of variety came from the ASE, a cool concept, but the potential was wasted as it was mainly used to open doors and though there were hidden collectibles to find, that was about it.  While the device is still used to open doors, there are a lot more hidden objects for the ASE to find; such collectibles include objects that have connections to real world events, blueprints that unlock upgrades and weapons, which I'll get to, and crystal shards that give currency when scanned.

New to this game is the ability to create and equip your own character with their own loadout for usage in multiplayer.  Besides finding blueprints in the campaign, weapons and upgrades can be unlocked by purchasing them with currency obtained by finding collectibles in the campaign, or by playing multiplayer or the Horde mode-esque Invasion.  You can also create a custom loadout for Ford to use in the campaign via the Arsenal Replicator found in Atlantis, which acts as a hub in between levels.

Going back to what the sequel improves upon, the level design is much more varied.  Levels are less reliant on cramped corridors and more on open and spacious areas.  These levels are also more interesting to look at since Ford is traveling around the world, and he's not relegated to one location; although there is a level set in Washington, D.C., which is in a state of ruin due to the Drudge invasion.  Additionally, the enemy AI has been greatly improved; enemies rely more on cover and they will dodge thrown grenades.  This may not sound like much when compared to enemy AI in other shooters, but it's much better than when enemies wondered round in the open, absorbing bullets and explosions, in the first game.  New enemy types have also been introduced, which include the previously mentioned robot dogs, but there are also heavily armored Trust soldiers and stone warriors, which appear in the China level, that are slow, but can deal a heavy amount of damage should they come near Ford.

Gunplay is largely unchanged from The Conduit, but some minor adjustments have been made.  All of the weapons from the first game are in the sequel, but now they either have iron sights or an alternate firing mode.  For example, the TPC Launcher now has an alternate firing mode that allows the proximity grenades to be used as proximity mines, and the hive cannon, also from the first game, can fire a lure which the insectoid creatures shot from will follow.  A few new weapons have been introduced; these include a deployable turret, a sniper rifle that can shoot through walls, and a gun that can fire a miniature black hole once the alternate fire becomes active.

As a whole, the gameplay is a great improvement over the first game, but an issue that wasn't fixed from the first game was the short length of the campaign.  Due to the rushed nature of the story, beating the campaign can take about four to five hours, depending on how much of the collectible finding you do.

Visually, Conduit 2 looks as good as the first game, but the art style is a lot more interesting than the generic look of The Conduit.  The environments are more varied, ranging from a stormy oil rig to bombed ruins of D.C. and the ancient temples of China.  While I didn't run into any glitches during gameplay, a glitch happened during a cutscene that resulted in Ford falling through the level and getting stuck in limbo once the cutscene was over.  The voice acting has improved as well; none of the original voice actors from the first game returned, so instead, there are new voice actors voicing these characters.  This change is especially noticeable with Ford, who is now voiced by Jon St. John, better known as the voice of Duke Nukem, and his voice fits Ford's more humorous personality; though the music is still mostly forgettable.

Despite some story problems and a short length, Conduit 2 is still a huge improvement over the first game, and a solid game in its own right.  This is mainly due to better and more creative gameplay, a much more varied campaign, and a better art style for the visuals.  If you're curious about the Conduit series, its best recommended to skip the first game and play the sequel instead.

Final Score: 8/10

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