Review: Hunt aliens with The Conduit's first-person shooter

The Conduit (Wii $49.99, High Voltage/Sega) performed two impressive tasks. First, it gave the Wii a cool, fun science fiction first-person shooter. Second, it kicked my kids off the console for the first time since The Force Unleashed came out.

You play Michael Ford, a recent inductee into the Trust, a covert government agency trying to stop an alien conquest of Washington, D.C. The invasion has two prongs: contaminate the city's water supply with a mind-control agent and open interdimensional conduits to allow alien invaders to spread throughout D.C.

The Conduit is a straightforward, rails-style game—you won't be picking your way through massive environments while fighting alien scum—but in this case it's not a bad thing. The limited play area keeps things manageable for the Wii's processor, and while the visuals aren't quite on par with the Xbox 360 or PS3, they hold their own.

Those who've battled through a thousand other alien invasions won't find much new here in terms of villains and level design, but as is the case with the best of the Wii games, what makes The Conduit stand out is its controls. The default setup has the Wiimote acting as your gun and POV controller, while the numchuk's joystick is used to move you through the game and throw grenades. Both are also used to control the All-Seeing Eye, a small levitating orb that you use to detect out-of-phase objects in the game, including mines, alien locks and secret messages.

There's nothing preventing you from sitting on your couch to play the game, but it feels more natural to stand. The game offers plenty of customization for the controls, and I found I had to make some minor tweaks—and switch hands—before the setup worked for me. The end result is something that feels like a throwback to the old arcade shooter Area 51, from the run-and-gun alien invasion storyline to the end-of-game stats. Co-op would have completed the '90s flashback (and seems a natural, given the game's support for Wiispeak) but you'll need to content yourself with online multiplayer, which supports up to 12 players.

The multiplayer is surprisingly customizable, as a drag-and-drop menu lets you control where the heads-up elements appear on screen. Can't stand how the in-game radar blocks your view? Just move it somewhere else. Initial startup times can be painfully slow; it took my first game five minutes to assemble a lobby of 12 players. Once into a lobby, subsequent games launched much quicker. The Conduit's assortment of indoor maps can't hope to match Halo 3 (or most modern shooters) for graphics, but they played well, with little lag.

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