Malcolm Owen On June 13, 2003 at 8:03 am

The Sound of Inevitability. It had to happen, just a matter of time really. The Matrix has made the eventual step from Movie to Game. This would be seen in many people’s eyes as a natural progression, but in the soul of everything good in the world see different. Many games are created as film spin-offs, a stepping-stone in world domination by the great movie-marketing machine of the big film companies, eager to make their shareholders happy. Most of these "games" (which are not truly original games, if only to be a cash-in for a quick buck) are limp with no real purpose in an industry fuelled by other, more powerful, more recognisable specimens of good gaming, with only the marketing engines revving at full tilt to sell it with hype alone. Those remaining few who truly know the horror that is the generic film tie-in can only start to hope that a great film such as The Matrix should avoid being such tosh and nonsense, and to rise up as a true game in it’s own right.

Enter the Matrix is written and directed by the Wachowski brothers, and has been created to run alongside the film "Matrix Reloaded". It does this by placing you in situations that happen at the same time as various situations in the film, but possibly a room alongside where the film’s action is, or possibly getting to an area earlier or later than the film does. This makes the film almost essential viewing, if only to see anything that may help your in-game quest.
The brothers also wrote the game from a different viewpoint of the film, as in you play either Niobe or Ghost from a different vessel instead of the unmistakeable Morpheus or Neo. This is so that it does not detract from the main film’s storyline, in an attempt to make something new for you to experience, and also if you were to play Neo, it would be cool to stop bullets with your thoughts and fly around like Superman, but it would be akin to playing through Quake with God mode running all the way through. There would be no challenge, and therefore no actual game at all. This, from a designer’s point of view, is a good idea. Very good.

Obviously, because of the extremely close ties to the films via the production company and the directors, Shiny Entertainment had every opportunity to get raw data for the game from the film sets, cast and crew to work with, making all the environments and models within the game looking pretty damn good. FMV intersecting the main game sections were quite literally filmed on the sets, giving an air of authenticity that can’t be beaten, short of paying for every single player of the game to go to the sets and act it out for themselves. Shiny had to work hard on these parts as they had a huge fan base to please, and the last thing that they want is an army of Matrix fans knocking down the doors to the studio demanding Dave Perry’s head on a stick for desecrating their religion-like love for the film.
The big draw for the game is the whole "Bullet Time" effect from the films, which they call "Focus", which works surprisingly a lot like that from Bullet-Time game Max Payne, including the bit where a meter that you use the focus from refilling slowly over time. As expected, you can do long jumping, see bullets to dodge, do special fighting maneuvers and so on. It works well and is implemented nicely, except for some strange bugs within the system, but these happen rarely and can be seen as negotiable in many areas.

If you are a fan of the whole Matrix thing and don’t want your dreams shattered by a bad review of Matrix merchandise, then please stop reading now. The rest of the world, please follow me down the rabbit hole.

Enter the Matrix tries so hard to be good, but in a combination of hype, over-expectation and time constraints, fails miserably. The entire game could have gone through a fair bit of extra testing to apply the final bit of polish before giving it to us all, but sadly no-one prevented the problems coming to light.
You know I said about how graphically superb it looks? In most cases it does, except in places that really worry me, like near the start when Niobe dives through a window onto a truck and then gets picked up by Ghost. In this case, I am more worried about the strange extra bone structure that has suddenly appeared underneath her armpits as she dived. Other examples are the "Possession" by the agents of another body, which were done in such a bad way it’s unbelievable.

Going through the game requires the use of the kung-fu we have seen on celluloid, and the gunplay of the lobby destruction from the original film. Although as an idea for a game it’s ok, it isn’t implemented right. The combat should have been as smooth as possible, going from one enemy to the next without so much as a pause, but it hasn’t turned out like that. Instead when you go to take on an enemy, you are then locked into fighting the guy until you move away from them. Although it is possible to take on multiple beings at the same time, it’s an over-convoluted way of getting the job done. It doesn’t help when the camera swoops down to a pseudo Street Fighter angle every time you make contact with an enemy. The scenery blocks your view at times, making the small battle become a case of button mashing in the hope of staying alive. Oni did a better job at this kind of thing than Enter the Matrix does, bearing in mind Oni was originally released years ago
The driving should have been left out. It’s just so bad it’s unbelievable. The physics within seem to have been created by someone with little knowledge in the subject area, making the most unrealistic driving simulation ever. I swear, at one point whilst driving early on, I saw other road vehicles flip over without even coming into contact with anything else on the road. But wait, it gets worse. If you choose Niobe you drive whilst Ghost shoots, with possibly the worst handling of a vehicle in any sort of vehicle driving sim ever. If you choose Ghost, you shoot whilst Niobe, apparently the "Best" driver, crashes into everything in sight whilst you shoot, which is not much better. Same applies when in the hovercraft, but it doesn’t improve. The "throw a 6 to start" randomness of pathetic control and the incriminatingly distasteful ideas involved in these parts should have been removed, but they were left in for variety. A shame indeed.

It seems to me that the intelligent people, known before for MDK which everyone found to be good, completely mucked up on this one. They made it look good almost all the way through, but they forgot the most important part of the experience of playing a game, to make it enjoyable. Everyone knows it will sell in stupidly high numbers because it’s something to do with The Matrix, and the great movie-marketing machine will tell people who think otherwise that they are wrong and that they should buy it in high quantities anyway. Now excuse me a moment whilst I sharpen my pole, I have a stick with someone’s name on it.


They tried and failed, miserably, a lot.


Nice looks, very detailed, a few mistakes


Quite authentic sounding, Very “Matrix” like


Save your money and get budget games instead.

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