The Conduit

Content review for this game:
Pertaining to the ESRB rating.

Content sum up: There's little blood, and devoid bug-like Drones' heads rarely flying off with a direct shot—in an almost cartoony manner—there's no graphic effects; the language is negligible; and while overall combat can be chaotic and intense, violence leans toward an arcade-like tone, not a realistic one. Add this with the inhuman enemies and their disconnected reactions, and it isn't nearly gratuitous or overly violent. So, I recommend this game for ages 13+.

Blood: The blood spurts in light to moderate clouds filled with tiny droplets when you hit or shoot enemies—the blood does not linger. Aliens, their organic locks, Egg Sacks and the Conduits spurt orange goo when shot, and humans shed red blood. And if shot directly in the head, alien Drone's heads will often fly off (in a relatively non-graphic, cartoonish manner), while they stand in place and a moderate amount of orange goo spurts from their neck. Bodies do not linger, and instead, dissipate into fine dust when dispatched, or non-graphically disintegrate into bright flashes of orange or blue when certain weapons are used. There is no option to turn blood off.

Mild language: There are four uses of hell and God (the latter of which are overheard in a couple of unnoticeable background radio/tv broadcasts), and one use of d*mn.

Violence: After he saves the president from an assassination attempt, Secret Service agent Michael Ford is inducted into the Trust organization by commander John Adams. Ford is then told to find and recover the ASE (or, All Seeing Eye), a device which was recently stolen by a terrorist called Prometheus. To make matters worse, Prometheus and his alien Drudge forces (appearing from portals dubbed Conduits) have created a toxin to turn his fellow Trust agents against him. However, soon after recovering the ASE, Adams shows his true nature and sends the Drudge to take the device from Ford by force. Prometheus then contacts Ford and informs him that Adams is actually the one responsible for the toxin, Drudge invasion and assassination attempt, and he'll try again, but first, he wants the ASE device back. To stop him, Ford will have to team up with Prometheus and protect the ASE as he fights his way through seemingly endless Drudge forces and uncovers the mystery that are the Conduit...

After being given a brief tutorial by Prometheus—set in a ruined subway tunnel during your near future—you're brought to present time, and soon after the second level, you discover the truth about Adams, and join Prometheus to stop him. The base gameplay consists of using the varied arsenal to fight through waves of Adams' Trust agents and allied alien Drudge, as you crouch behind objects and strafe from their fire; replenish health and ammo; jump over low obstacles; take elevators; and turn the odd valve to disable obstacles or doors blocking your way, all the while running toward your next objective and clearing Drudge from room to room by destroying their many Egg Sacks (which endlessly spawn the weakly but relentless groups of Mites), and seal Conduits (which let the stronger enemies in) with gunfire or grenades. You'll also use the ASE's revealing, flashlight-like beam to solve rotation puzzles, opening secret stashes with more powerful weapons; hack computer interfaces; uncover multiple nodes hidden on walls to destroy the Drudge's organic locks blocking your advancement; and detonate the deadly, invisible Ghost Mine traps from a safe distance.

You'll be fighting the bug-like alien Drudge and their many types; Para (mosquito-like Drudge that peck up-close), Tear (Drudge that rush at you with clawed melee moves), Therm (Drudge that roll into you and explode point-blank), and Med-Mites (cowardly Drudge with Warp pistols that use their regenerative abilities to heal themselves and nearby allies); Drones (basic Drudge grunts with long-range Strike Rifles); Skimmers (winged Drudge equipped with rocket launching Shriekers); Scarabs (larger and more resilient than the Drones with powerful Hive Cannons); Storm Scarabs (even stronger, and equipped with invisibility camo; they attack with clawed melee moves); Invaders (mammoth, multi-legged Drudge that have an ability to launch missiles and/or spawn Para-Mites; they take dozens of hits to down); Puppet Humans (former allied agents, now mindless and controlled by the enemy's neurotoxin); and Trust Humans (Adam's fully armored agents equipped with a vast array of weapons).

To combat these enemies, you'll be using human weapons; the USP45 pistol; MP5kA4 sub-machine gun; SCAR sniper-scoped assault rifle; SPAS 12 shotgun; SMAW rocket launcher; and frag grenades. Trust weapons; Deatomizer Mk4 (a scoped energy rifle; if charged, it shoots out three bursts, which act as a bolo, disintegrating its targets on contact); Carbonizer Mk16 (ejects a continuous energy-beam, disintegrating targets); TPC Launcher (launches grenades made of pure energy and sends out shock waves of plasma at detonation); and flash grenades. Drudge weapons; Strike Rifle (single-shot Drudge version of SCAR, with charged shot that disintegrates enemies); Hive Cannon (ejects clusters of bugs that swarm, then explode); Warp Pistol (projects energy balls that ricochet about the area); Shrieker (Drudge version of SMAW; but missiles can be manually directed in mid-air); and Radiation Grenades (attach to enemies and let out a constant wave of damaging radiation). And Prototype weapons; HVS45 pistol (a one- shot kill sniper-pistol); the Deatomizer Mk9 (its normal shots are Mk4 charged shots); and Strike Rifle (which shoots a rapid stream of energy bullets).

The combat system is chaotic and often stressful—but not overly violent—and consists of using your varied arsenal (which kick up sparks and trails of dust as you shoot at the area, leaving bullets embedded in walls, or scorched by energy weapons) to down the hundreds of enemies in your way; Frag Grenades and propane tanks to destroy all nearby; Flash Grenades to blind them; Radiation Grenades to attach to and continually damage them; the butt of your weapon to bash them in close-quarters; and the more powerful weapons' charged shots to disintegrate enemies where they stand. When hit, enemies will howl, grunt and scream in shrill or deep tones (depending on their type), and the environments you fight in—once common, public places—are now abandoned, ruined and often aflame, giving a hostile, on-edge feel. But since the majority of your enemies are inhuman aliens, the Trust are completely concealed in armor and Puppet Humans are mindless, reanimated corpses, it gives the overall combat (and, in turn, enemy reactions) a more disconnected, arcade-y feel.

Enemies attack in great number; Drudge Mites spawn endlessly from their Egg Sacks, as Tear-Mites rush you, howling in high-pitched tones and attack in droves with their claws; Therm-Mites roll into balls, unfurl and then explode when they reach you; and Med-Mites retreat at your sight, making your job harder by healing themselves—along with their allies—all the while the stronger Drones and later hulking, resilient Scarabs pile out of the Conduits in endless waves, and air-born Skimmers (armed with rocket launchers) surround and attack you from every angle—and the only way to stop their onslaught is to fight through and destroy their source; Conduits. The later lumbering, invisible Storm Scarabs (that attack with devastating melee moves in close-quarters) can only be effectively killed by first disabling their camo with the ASE; and the Trust agents will take cover behind objects as they accurately toss Frag Grenades your way, snipe you from afar, throw blinding Flash Grenades, and bash at you with the butt of their weapons close-up; and even when later, stronger Trust agents are downed, they will shortly self-destruct—doing considerable damage if you're near.

Drudge also set traps throughout, from the Pulse Boxes on walls—which let out waves of damaging radiation—to Ghost Mines (invisible explosives; you step in one, that's it) that block your way in cramped corridors; you'll have to disarm them with your ASE from a distance, while fighting incoming waves of the enemy at the same time; and if you take too much damage, the sound and colors will start to fade from the screen as you hear his ever-increasing heartbeat—the odds are always stacked against you. As for age group, there's little blood, and devoid the bug-like Drones' heads infrequently flying off with a direct shot—in a relatively cartoony manner—there's no real graphic effects to be had; the language is negligible; and while overall combat can be chaotic and intense, violence leans toward an arcade-like tone, not a realistic one. Add this with inhuman enemies and their disconnected reactions, and it isn't nearly gratuitous or overly violent—it's quite appropriate for younger teens.

Content review posted: 07/21/09

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