My review of Conduit 2 went live yesterday at the mothership. You should go and read it, but in short, I didn’t like the game. Not at all.
I quite enjoyed the first one. Sure it was somewhat generic, but the controls were good, I liked the story and the enemies kept me on my toes. With the sequel, High Voltage took most of the things I liked about the game and threw them completely out of the window. The cool conspiracy story was replaced with what, I still don’t know, as you hopped around the globe trying to harvest the souls of dead aliens for your little globe, eye thingy. Meanwhile DC was destroyed and aliens were about, along with other faceless bad guys, why they don’t tell you, assuming you played the first game and remember every little detail. The game also had the tendency to swarm you with a lot of really annoying melee enemies, seemingly to get around having to program enemy AI.
Worse still, they took the serious tones of the first game and replaced it with an attempt at humor that fell completely flat with me. Humor is a tough thing in games and some of the reviews I’ve read praised HVS for going the B-movie route, as those reviewers really enjoyed the jokes. When I read those reviews, I wished I had played the game those people had played because what I played was filled with dumb one liners and plodding attempts at self-referential video game jokes. I don’t have a problem with B-movies, House of the Dead: Overkill was filled with B-movie aesthetics and that game was so brilliantly hilarious I still can’t believe it got made.
So yeah, I didn’t like Conduit 2’s single player story but the multiplayer was still solid, as were the controls, hence the C rating. Grading these games are hard at times because you have to take into consideration why people may be buying the game. I have no interest in multiplayer in the game, so for me the single player is more important, but if MP is done well, I can’t ignore it. If the game were only a single player game, the grade would probably be lower.
This was a game I really didn’t want to dislike and I was very disappointed with how it turned out. I like the people at High Voltage. They’re all incredibly nice and I have had nothing but good dealings with them. We recently had the game’s designer and producer on Jumping the Shark and other than them sounding like they needed a nap, they were stoked about the game and were great to talk to. Part of me, a very small part, feels bad about having them on the show and then rating the game badly, not just for them, but for our listeners. My hope is that no one listened to the show and then didn’t read any reviews before buying the game, thinking us having the HVS people on the show was an endorsement for a game none of us had been able to play yet. I don’t think we have that much pull. Besides, actors and actresses appear on talk shows all of the time, shilling movies that end up being crap and no one assumes that the host of the show is endorsing the movie. At least I hope not.
Still, though, there is some unease involved in having people on your show to talk about a game you don’t have first hand knowledge of. In those cases, we let the guests talk about the game, and then try to delve into the development and design process rather than have us gush about something we haven’t played. The flip side to that is had we waited to play and grade Conduit 2, would the people from HVS want to come on the show to talk about their game? Probably not. So it’s hard. We don’t have the same access to early builds like a bigger site would, but when a company like HVS asks us if they can come on our show, we want to have them on. I don’t know how HVS feels about the review, or if they feel like their coming on the show would result in a good score. I certainly have no reason to believe they did and we certainly gave no indication that we’d be anything than 100% honest about the game, so I feel like all of our bases are covered.
At the end of the day, they made a game that wasn’t as good as it could have been and I graded it accordingly. That’s what I get paid for and who does or doesn’t come on the show has no bearing on that. Admittedly I would have felt better about giving them a good grade, but the game didn’t warrant it, and doing the easy thing would do my readers and listeners a disservice. Ultimately, my credibility as a reviewer, along with the credibility of the site and the podcast, is more important than taking the easy way out.