The first offical video game based on The Matrix license was developed by Shiny, published by Atari (formerly Infogrames), and was released on May 15, 2003 (for all three consoles and the PC), the same day as the second movie in the series, The Matrix Reloaded.

The movies got more than a little of their inspiration from video games, so it's only fitting that the brothers Wachowski would want to make a video game in turn based on their movies. The hype behind this game was phenomenal: first the fact that this is the fucking Matrix we're talking about here (the most major action movie in many a year), and second the fact that apparently the sibling directoral pair was helping personally with development of the game, and not just shilling it out to the highest bidder.

Of course, like I said, this was all just hype. Exactly how true it is, or whether it matters, remains to be seen. What does matter is this: is the game any good? Is it the completely new, wonderful thing that was promised, a new tie to bind movies and video games together, an unprecendented leap forward in entertainment?

Well, no. It's a video game. We've played these before, remember; bits of action interlaced with cutscenes. They're good cutscenes, granted: they filmed them right alongside the movies, with the same actors and sets and special effects. They don't suck, unlike many other games' cutscenes I could mention. The game itself? It's fun, sure. You could easily blow hours playing it, but it's not entirely groundbreaking. Remember Oni? That was a game where you ran around either beating people up, or taking their guns and shooting them. And remember Max Payne? That game had a bullet-time mode as one of its primary gameplay gimmicks, a mode lifted straight from the first Matrix movie (so it's not suprising they'd want to use it in the actual Matrix videogame; this gets you into a tangled mess of whether this game stole the feature from Max Payne; either way, we've seen it before). This plays like a combination of the two, more than anything else, with the occasional rail shooter or racing game thrown in for good measure.

Of course, the beating-up of people is better done than in Oni: they've got people who actually know about various forms of martial arts designing the fighting system. And the bullet-time is better done than in Max Payne: turning it on allows you to access all your most powerful and fantastic moves, like running and jumping off the walls and dodging bullets. So saying this game is a combination of two older games isn't at all degrading it because it does each respective game better than the original.

It's important to note that this game seems to do better on the console (there is already a patch available for the PC version, two days after release; whether this means there's something wrong with only the PC version or with all four versions, I do not know; remember that there was a very strict release date associated with this game, which is never a good thing, and combined with a quadruple platform release...). I have only so far played the Playstation 2 version. The PS2, being the oldest of the current generation of consoles, offered a game which seemed like a little detail had been removed, but still looked quite good. The one quirk I noticed, which was truly annoying, was that some of the in-game cutscenes had a strange "echo" effect when people talked. This only happened in some of the cutscenes some of the time, but made it very hard to understand what people were saying when it did occour. I can only guess whether this oddity found its way into the three other versions. The controls were simple once you got used to them: three separate buttons for fire, punch, and kick is basically how it breaks down, with others for jump, "focus" (bullet-time), and so forth. In many games where you can both shoot at bad buys and beat them up with fists, you must manually switch between these two modes somehow. In this game, you just hit the button and things happen. Shooting is easy: face in the general direction of a bad guy and hit the button; you'll hit them. Fighting is easy, seeming more like a stripped down two-button fighter than anything else.

The game is a decent action game, with martial-arts stylings. It starts out fairly easy, but gets reasonably difficult later on. I'd recommend picking it up, but don't expect the most revolutionary (or even well-polished) game. Maybe wait for a price drop if you're iffy about dropping the $50. Fun but not earth-shattering.

Publisher: Atari

Developer: Shiny Entertainment

Available for PC, PS2, Gamecube and Xbox.

What is it?

Enter the Matrix (EtM) is a new action game set in the Matrix universe, following a parallel storyline to The Matrix Reloaded. The PC game is single player only, with multiplayer being covered by the recently announced massively multiplayer The Matrix Online , while the console versions of the game come with some form of multiplayer.

Features

Enter the Matrix is billed as the comprehensive Matrix game, featuring a combat system that incorporates kung-fu and shooting seamlessly. It allows you to play as two different characters from the film, Ghost and Niobe. As well as fighting, the game has elements where you drive or ride shotgun in either a car or the Logos hovercraft in the real world.

Gameplay

Disclaimer: I have only played the PC version, so what I say is only relevent to the PC version.

  • Fighting

    The fighting part of EtM is the best part, and is initially quite fun. The moves list is the longest I've seen in any game so far: your character can jump, climb, roll as well as many of the signature moves from the original Matrix (only the actual bullet-dodging is absent), the characters look great close up, and the level design and enemies are good and true to the Matrix. The kung-fu and shooting integrate together so that it is quite possible to cartwheel across a hallway firing dual Uzis, run along the walls, flying kick a guard, disarm him and use his own weapon on him. Advanced moves use focus, which works like bullet-time in Max Payne, which also slows time down so that bullets aquire the familiar Matrix contrails. However, as the game gets on a number of major flaws become apparent. The most important of these is the lack of a standard keyboard and mouse aiming system, instead going for a woefully inaccurate console type lock-on system that rapidly becomes a pain. While there is a first person view where you can manually aim, you cannot move forwards or backwards in it. The second is the camera, which can't quite change between kung-fu mode and shooter mode and often leaves your character entirely off-screen. Finally there are severe clipping problems, particularly during the kung-fu.

  • Driving/flying

    The driving and hovercraft sections of the game are, quite frankly, bad: graphics are poor, missions are boring and too often you die because you AI partner cannot drive/shoot properly.

Graphics

The character models in EtM are very impressive, particularly close-up face shots, where the high polygon count is immediately visible, but while the characters look good, the game is let down by the bland look of its levels, which look nowhere near as good as its characters.

Sound

While I'm no sound quality expert, I think EtM does a pretty good job of recreating the sounds from the Matrix, with many of the signature sounds from the film, as well as some good new stuff. The sound follows the action pretty well, changing to reflect the nature of the scene.

Storyline

As mentioned earlier, EtM follows the exploits of two characters, Ghost and Niobe, who play supporting roles in the movie. The game essentially follows the storyline of the two characters, from picking up the package left by the Osiris in The Final Flight of the Osiris, though to the end of the movie, and actually includes a trailer for the final film in the end of game FMV. Much of this storyline is done using footage filmed alongside the movie, making almost an hour of additional Matrix footage.

Extras

Probably the best thing about EtM is its extras. As mentioned earlier, EtM has a hacking minigame based around a DOS command line, which allows you to access any of the FMVs from the game, as well as weapons drops, bios, pictures, maps, cheats, and training levels in the construct. In addition, clues are dropped at the "completion" of the hacking game that more can be found by exchanging codes between this and a number of fake sites named after front companies from the film, in a similar way to the A.I. internet puzzle.

Final Word

Enter the Matrix could have been a very good game, but it has obviously been rushed. Buy it for the storyline, not for the gamplay.

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