Improper Conduct

4 Jan

If my sarcasm failed in my last post, let it be known that 2008 was a horrible year for the Wii (critically, of course). Thankfully, there are a few glimmers of hope for 2009. Games like Mad World and Little King’s Story have me excited, and I’m even looking forward to Wii Sports Resort and Punch Out!! despite Nintendo abusing my trust last year.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention The Conduit, the first-person shooter that seems to have most Wii-owners drooling. That’s because I’m not expecting much from High Voltage Software despite its good intentions.

bold-conduit

The most common praises sung for The Conduit are regarding the game’s graphics. High Voltage is using a Wii-specific game engine called  Quantum3 to make The Conduit‘s graphics competitive against Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 titles. This is a noble effort on High Voltage’s part, but it’s going about this all wrong.

There is only one escape from the back-handed compliment “It looks good…for a Wii game.”; that’s giving your game a unique graphical style that relies more upon working with the game’s theme and feel rather than trying to impress your audience with your best imitation of reality. Look at Mad World.

bold-mad-world

With a graphical style like Mad World‘s, there’s no lowered expectation for the format. There’s just an appreciation for unique and effective visuals. On the other hand, The Conduit will always look good…for a Wii game, hardly an excuse for so much hype.

Graphics aside, The Conduit first and foremost must prove that it controls well as a first-person shooter on the Wii. Red Steel had greater flaws than the slight faults with its gunplay, but I seriously doubt the Wii will ever be able to support an FPS rivaling those found on the 360 and PS3. It just doesn’t seem possible with the approach developers seem convinced is the only way to go: Nunchuk in the left hand, Wiimote in the right.

bold-wii-nunchuck

It might not be obvious at first glance, but what makes FPS control schemes work on consoles is a right control-stick. While the left stick controls the character’s motion, the right stick controls their orientation. The Wii makes up for its lack of a right stick by using the aiming  reticule to control character orientation. This makes turning and aiming imprecise and frustrating. Things don’t have to be this way, though.

If you think about it, you don’t really need a left stick to move your character around. A d-pad would work just fine. That means, developers could just switch the player’s hands , putting the wiimote in their left and the nunchuck in their right. That way, the right hand has access to a stick and can control like first-person shooters on the other consoles.

Of course, the problem now becomes the lack of motion controls. While it’s true a Wii game doesn’t need motion controls to be good, what’s the point of developing an FPS exclusively for the Wii when it could have been done better on other consoles?

There is no point. There’s no reason to develop a first-person shooter on the Wii. It will never surpass other first-person shooters on the 360 and PS3. The Wii’s motion controls were just not made for the kind of responsive controls that FPSs need.

The Conduit may sell fairly well, but I doubt it will receive much more than slightly above average ratings. More importantly, though, I don’t see High Voltage ushering in an age of enlightenment where developers finally “get” the Wii. I commend the team on its efforts, but they’re being far too idealistic with The Conduit and missing out on the cold, hard facts.

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