Retro Replay: Enter the Matrix

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I understand we are getting a Morpheus prequel, which admittedly left me with an itch to revisit the two good Matrix films—the first and the anime. I’m not a huge fan of Reloaded or Revolutions, but I admit I was excited back when they were first announced, so of course the idea of a video game that would tie in with these films intrigued me as well. So, in May of 2003, the same month as Matrix Reloaded was released, fans also got Enter the Matrix.

From Shiny Entertainment Inc. (Earthworm Jim, MDK, Wild 9) came a truly ambitious project, with a large budget and help from the directors, this story would fill in gaps from the two aforementioned films as well as Final Flight of the Osiris from the Animatrix, and promised a wonderful interactive experience. The plot isn’t a retelling of the movies, but actually takes up parts they didn’t have time to put in and helps to bridge them, though some fans were upset that the game was so integral to seeing the whole picture. Over an hour’s worth of live action footage was shot on set by the professionals, offering something that few other games can. This of course made for some great cutscenes, and one of the best parts of the game is its fantastic soundtrack.

Woah

The demo video at the beginning shows all of this off and will get most hyped to play it. Adding to that, the loading screen brings me back, since I had the Matrix code screensaver back a couple of years before the game came out, and now players will see it a lot, as this game loads often. At the start of the game, a choice must be made to play as either Ghost or Niobe from the ship known as the Logos. These two characters play the same and are only different in their animations, but some segments see the two is their own roles. Niobe is always the driver, Ghost always the gunman, but some missions see them performing different tasks to push the plot along. If anyone is actually looking to fight more agents, choose Niobe, but I went with Ghost this time around. Personally, I liked seeing this perspective of the story from another ship, but many fans were upset that they couldn’t play Neo, so they made sure to put his name in the sequel title so people knew they could.

I wish the levels here were better. The presentation, as it relates to looking like the movies, is fine, but the scenery is so drab and bland with grays, greens, and some really dark environments that feel lifeless as well as simulated—and okay, I guess that is appropriate, but it gets boring quick. They can be long, with similar looking corridors, and it is quite easy to get lost after combat throws the player off. The worst levels are the driving parts though, god awful, near rail-like gameplay with horrible controls. Driving is difficult, but having an AI partner do it might be worse, as they tend to run into everything and get hung up, but the shooting may be worse because of how monotonous and unsatisfying it is. I have no clue why they thought multiple parts like this were a good idea.

Agent Smith Aim Enabled 

Controls all around though take some getting used to, and many may never be comfortable playing, as the camera is especially awkward. The hand-to-hand is good for the time and a little inventive if I’m honest, with its dramatic flair, but it could be much better, especially since when it’s off a bit, the character looks ridiculous. Guns are also awkward to aim and feel almost untrustworthy, with little fluidity. The cover system is spotty at best and makes it incredibly hard to shoot from. The only thing that brings this all together is the bullet time, referred to as focus in the game. This gives the duo their edge over all of the programs they have to face, from cops and agents to vampires and werewolves. It makes moves easier and allows for a greater chance to dodge while slowing everything down. This does not mean every encounter will be a cakewalk though, as I had to redo several boss fights multiple times. If it gets too tough though there is a hacking mini game that is used to access cheats. It feels unique enough and fits in with the motif of the films.

The first time I played through this title was on XBox, but now I own a copy for the PS2, which has a better framerate by sacrificing some image quality, while still causing some slowdown. The game also came out for the Gamecube, where it was two discs and harder to control, and on PC, being even buggier, but eventually patched. I talked about how awesome the soundtrack was for this game, how it worked well, but there were several audio glitches as I played, the most common being that the audio kept doubling up, making this annoying echo. The game also simply froze on me a couple of times, costing me about forty minutes of gameplay at one point. No wonder they let you save a lot.

So many people trash this game and then immediately try to defend it in the same breath. I think the feel of it is just good because even when I was frustrated, I’d take a break and then try to play again. I have never beaten the last couple of levels, but I hear my reward for doing it is one cutscene and a trailer for the third movie, so I doubt I’m missing much. It really isn’t a good game overall, but as a tribute or accessory to the Matrix franchise, it works. It even has some of the odd philosophy, like when Ghost checks his guns every time they enter the simulation and Niobe questions why he would think the program wouldn’t load his guns. It might be my favorite scene in the whole game honestly. I doubt I will touch this one again for a while though, maybe when that new Morpheus movie comes out, but at the moment, Max Payne did most of these mechanics better, so I’ll go play that.

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One who writes for different places, waking up late in the day to struggle with commas, broken controllers, and nightmares of Silent Hill and Yo! Noid.

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