Enter the Matrix is a very unique game. It ties into the recently released Matrix Reloaded movie and is a compendium to the whole Matrix series, much like the recently released The Animatrix on DVD. It seems the Wachowski Brothers have built their own universe and will go into different media to give the general populace the whole story. Thing is, out of the 3 Matrix related things I talked about above, only one is great. Enter the Matrix is not the great one, but it isn’t horrid either.
The fact is that Enter the Matrix is an interesting game. The most interesting thing about it is how it borrows from a game that borrowed from the original Matrix film. To confuse you even more, the whole Matrix trilogy borrows from tons of films, especially Japanese anime. The Wachowski Brothers even talk about how the movies are a virtual cornucopia of movies from the past. So, in a sense, Enter the Matrix is a game borrowing from another game that borrowed from the original movie that borrowed from films of the past. Confusing, isn’t it?
You may ask what game I am talking about. That would be Max Payne, the awesome game by Remedy. It first came out on PC to rave reviews and then was ported to the PS2 and Xbox. Max Payne borrowed the bullet-time hook from the original Matrix film. As I played Enter the Matrix, all I could think about was Max Payne and how eerily familiar they were. The thing is after playing Enter the Matrix I still think Max Payne is the better game, but we’ll get into that below.
This is a tough one. In places this game can look pretty good, even on the PS2. In other places (driving in particular) this game looks like crap. As I played it I wondered how it would look on the Xbox and I would gather it looks at least slightly better. The fonts used in the PS2 version, if they are the same on the other systems, are horrid.
The cool thing about this game is that they shot footage outside of the Matrix Reloaded movie just for this game. Jada Pinkett-Smith and Anthony Wong are in many live-action shots as Niobe and Ghost. The live-action stuff ties right into the engine-based cutscenes, although the quality is obviously less in the engine-based ones. This is probably the biggest plus that this game has going for it with over an hour of additional footage that weaves in and out of the Matrix Reloaded movie proper.
This is so low because the music is so forgettable I don’t even remember it. I’m a pretty big music person and I enjoy music in games, but for some reason I don’t remember it from this game. The sound is ok as well, but nothing special. The enemies basically have the same grunts as they have their asses handed to them.
This game has Dolby Pro Logic II support and it is used quite well in some missions. For the most part though the surrounds are not used a whole lot. The sound in the cutscenes (actual video shot outside of the Matrix Reloaded movie are pretty good, but the voices can be drowned out by the overall sound even when all the volume bars are at max.
Control in Enter the Matrix isn’t horrid, but it certainly could have used more conceptualization before implementation. Yes, you have a variety of moves at your disposal. The problem is they get very tiring seeing the same move over and over against the same enemy type over and over.
Overall the controls are pretty loose in my opinion. You can easily stop moving the analog stick and still fall off an edge to your death.
The gameplay of Enter the Matrix has its somewhat good, but mostly bad points. Let me start off with the good. The Focus dynamic directly rips off of Max Payne in its execution. You hold down the L1 button and you go into bullet-time mode. This is where you can do some cool moves (super jump, cartwheel, punch a guy to the wall, etc.). The problem with the Focus mode is that it is a crutch that makes the game easier than it should be. Max Payne had the right amount of bullet-time uses in it, Enter the Matrix seems to take it a bit far in my opinion. Focus is a good thing in this game though as it does help in certain circumstances. The problem is that you have almost unlimited use of it instead of being hindered by a certain number of times you can use it.
Another good thing in Enter the Matrix is the hacking mode. You can hack into your saved games and do all sorts of things. Give yourself unlimited ammo, invincibility, unlimited focus, etc. You can also unlock the multiplayer portion of the game as well, although I had no one to play with so I have no clue what it brings to the table. This is one of those brilliant ideas in an otherwise plain game.
Now for the bad parts. Let’s start with the camera. Any time you have to go in a forward or strafe motion the camera is great. Once you have to start turning the camera gets very ugly. The first thing Shiny forgot to do was get rid of the “push analog stick back and walk backwards” control. What it should be is immediately turn around and flip the camera around with it. Any time an enemy comes up from behind you will start cursing the camera as you turn around to fight them. This camera thing got me into a bunch of trouble and it probably could have been fixed if the game was given more development time than it did.
Another bad part is the sameness of the enemies. You will fight group after group of mostly the same enemies. There are a few enemies that are interesting, but when you see them again and again you start to get really annoyed. You literally go through a thousand security officers, SWAT team members, etc. in this game.
The level design for the most part is also a bad thing. In Ghost’s case he has relatively short missions, but many of the levels have a sameness to them. The problem is when Ghost gets to longer levels they become very tedious and too jarring of a change from what came before. The funny thing is that Ghost’s long levels are the nice looking ones that actually look like care was given to them. Niobe has longer missions than Ghost and it is apparent that she seemed to get the good end of the deal with levels when they go in different directions between the two characters.
Also, if you’re going to put driving missions into a game, please create a better engine for driving than you have in this game. Controls are way too loose and the car reacts almost comically. There were a few times I even got stuck with the car after a jump because the car lodged itself where I could not back up nor go forward.
The worst transgression in this game is how boring it is. As I sat and played I just wished I could watch the movies and forget about the game. I am interested in the live-action movie aspect of this game, but I have to go through this OK game to get them? What’s up with that?
If you choose to torture yourself, you do have 2 different characters to go through the game with. This game is not very short, but that is more a byproduct of the unending enemies and largeness of many of the stages. There is replay value here, but only if you really want to go through the game twice. Both characters do have separate missions, but they also have the same missions in some cases.
The only real values of this game is being able to pull off the same kind of moves you’ve seen in the movies and seeing the extended live-action scenes in this game. In order to understand the Matrix up to this point, you would have to go through the game at least once to see the live-action scenes. In addition you will have to see Matrix Reloaded and The Animatrix. I will give the marketers credit for making sure they get the most bang for your buck. In some ways it is a delicious little scam, don’t you think? It is a plus that the Brothers were able to do extra footage with the real actors outside of the main movies themselves though.