Enter the Matrix Review
Movie-licensed video games are always a sore point for gamers, as so many of them have been absolute abominations in the past. On top of this, gamers have known not to trust any movie-based game that is scheduled to be released on a specific date, as this commonly means we get a half-finished, rushed game. And now, Enter the Matrix is here. Based on what could possibly be one of the best possible movie licenses ever, we have to ask ourselves whether we can get through all the Matrix hype and find out if this is actually a good game or not? Sadly, the answer is "not really".
For what starts off as a simplistic beat-em-up, Enter the Matrix does wind up using pretty much the whole Xbox controller. There are the basic punch, kick, jump, and action buttons, as well as a weapon/fire button, a "focus" button for using Matrix-like powers combined with your other moves, and a target lock button. There are others as well - this is by no means a simplistic system, but you will find that the repertoire of cool moves gets pretty dull by the end of the game.
There is also a sniper interface for firing guns in a first-person mode, which is required in a few spots during the game. It's decent at best, although one might expect a more flashy system for this, considering the presentation of the movies. In this case, the game doesn't deliver at all, and the HUD is pretty basic as well.
The models for Niobe and Ghost, the two characters you play as during the game, look pretty good. Animations are generally good, and there are quite a few, but there are the usual same "choppy" animations as your character transitions from one move to another. It's almost a standard thing in video games, especially in the big beat-em-ups, but somehow I expected more from a Matrix game. The fighting itself is overall kind of disjointed and choppy, and the moves, while very cool the first few times, get old.
The levels you play in continue on the atmosphere of the first Matrix movie - they are a bit drab, gothic, and beat up. Some of the levels are just a total bore to look at, including the sewers, a post office, and a nuclear power plant. This game uses so many repeated textures, the game has to point you in the right direction or you'll get lost.
The Matrix-style special effects aren't particularly great, either. Turning on Focus puts you in slow motion and powers up (or totally changes) several of your moves - more on that later. Visually, it puts a bit of a motion blur on everything, and bullet paths are then visible. They don't look so great, though, as they are big and wavy; I expected a bit more of what they looked like in the movie than what we have here. Maybe it's because a TV's resolution needed something very noticeable, but either way, I think it looks kind of ugly.
Explosion effects are nothing to shout about, and the green spinning Matrix-like characters that spill out of dead bodies look a bit silly. Done right, it could have looked great, but it just doesn't work in my opinion.
One of the later stages has you flying the Logos, your ship, around in the caverns while Sentinels chase you. This is simply the ugliest level I've seen in a while, and the sad part is that this is the game's final stage as well. There is no big finale fighting Agents, no awesome special effects, nothing. There's one cheap-looking explosion, and that's it.
Another highly-touted aspect of this game is the full-motion cutscenes that are mixed in with the game's in-game-engine cutscenes and other gameplay. The thing is, most of the real movie cutscenes feel cheap, as a majority of them take place during conversations. Most of the action during the cutscenes is actually inside the game engine, which of course can't look half as good as some real Matrix footage. There are a few exceptions to this, and while they look pretty good, these filmed action scenes don't last nearly long enough.
It's a Matrix game, right? Fighting people should be your bread and butter. And many times it is, although you'll find yourself running around completing goals or just trying to avoid Agents pretty often as well. Being able to control yourself in mid-air while diving is always fun, and you can set up some pretty cool combinations of moves, although even these won't entertain players for that long, either.
The levels in Enter the Matrix all revolve around the story in the upcoming movie, The Matrix Reloaded. As has been touted in the press for this game, several of the levels will intertwine with the movie's plot, "filling in" the story for those who have seen the movie. The thing is, it's not a very involved plot they are filling in - all the stuff they accomplish can be summed up in a paragraph or less.
Shiny also seems to push the player's patience a bit too far by reusing the same graphics for multiple levels in a row. The sewer section in this game goes on for far too long, and there is a sequence near the end where you're running from agents for several levels, without many chances for a breather. It all adds up to frantic gameplay that I didn't feel like ever going through again, and the small bit of fighting I got to do against the Agents was just not enough.
Using the Focus button affects many things you do, and allows you to pull off several of the moves from the movies: wall running, the Trinity wall-flip, jumping superhuman distances, spinning dives, and more powerful fighting moves. The system is pretty good overall, although there really aren't that many moves to do.
This is still a beat-em-up, though, and while there are some cool throws and disarm maneuvers, you will still do a lot of button mashing. The end result is that your fights won't look half as cool as the ones in the actual movies.
There is a specific scene in the game that you can win or lose, and for some reason, losing in this scene will skip a big chunk of gameplay and still allow you to beat the game with the crappy final ship-flying stage. The sad part is that the gameplay that is potentially skipped is actually some pretty good stuff; those who know no better are going to miss out. The ending is also the same no matter what you do, which makes no sense at all.
When you start the game, you get to choose between three difficulties, and then pick between between Niobe and Ghost - each one goes through the game a little differently. Most of the time this means you will traverse a different path through the same level, and the cutscenes will turn out just a little different. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, the game is only a little different between the two characters.
Then there's the issue of the vampires. For some reason, they threw these things into the game, as well as wooden stakes and a crossbow (with wooden bolts) for killing them with. Why? I have no idea, and I somehow doubt that any of the movies will have much to say about this. It just seems a bit silly to me, is all.
During a few stages in Enter the Matrix, you will be driving around some sort of muscle car - if you are Niobe, then you are driving, and if you're playing as Ghost, Niobe will drive while you shoot at cops. The thing is, whichever role you are not playing is not handled well by the AI; Ghost never seems to hit anything when you're driving as Niobe, and Niobe drives pretty badly when you are controlling Ghost.
The game includes a "hacking" mini-game where you can use old DOS commands to unlock a few secrets here and there. It's a lot less like DOS than those who might have been looking forward to this mini-game might think. On top of that, the few secrets I found weren't really that great anyway.
Enter the Matrix definitely is better than your average movie-licensed game, but it's not by much. The fighting is the most interesting part, and that doesn't stay exciting for that long. The rest of the scenarios are an exercise in tedium, and all of the game's cool presentation can't save the overall dull gameplay.
Very little of the soundtrack music from any Matrix movie actually made it into the game; there is a lot of the score, which has its ups and downs. They threw in a couple of songs that worked beautifully , one of which is an instrumental version of Fluke's Atom Bomb. That was very cool, but otherwise most of the music was just not very inspirational.
The sound effects are disappointing at best; they sound pretty cool whenever the Focus button is pressed, but in the normal game time, ouch. There are simply too many tinny sounds to really take any of the game's audio seriously.
The voice acting, as you might expect, is pretty damn good - all of the characters are voiced by their movie counterparts, but there is very little Morpheus, Neo, or Trinity here. The only acting from them seems to be pulled from The Matrix Reloaded.
Enter the Matrix is a fairly disappointing ride through several video game stereotypes, some decent fighting, and a few painfully boring levels. There are a few great moments, though, and while this is by no means a bad game, the replay value just isn't here. The presentation is excellent overall, but this does not make up for what seems to be yet another rushed movie-license game. Rent it first.