reviews\ Jun 16, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Enter The Matrix - PS2 - Review

Ever since The Matrix hit back in 1999, gamers the world over have been frothing for a chance to play a video game based on the film’s mythos.  Now their chance arrives in Enter the Matrix.  Enter the Matrix is the first (but not last) based on Andy and Larry Watchowskis’ film series.  The game features a brand new story, written by the Wachowskis themselves, which runs parallel to the events that happened in this summer’s film, The Matrix Reloaded.  The game’s story elements are very well done, and feature all the trappings of a Hollywood film.  If only I could say that for the rest of the game.  The combat system, while fun at first, grows very tiring and repetitive as the game goes, and the level design is way too linear to present a solid challenge.  Plus, the game has a general lack of polish and is really buggy, indicating that although the game was two years in development, it was still rushed at the last minute.  Enter the Matrix is often fun, but is ultimately just another disappointing licensed title.


The storyline for Enter the Matrix runs alongside that of The Matrix Reloaded.  It follows Niobe, the captain of the Logos, and Ghost, her first mate, both of whom had brief roles in The Matrix Reloaded.  The action picks up right after the events that occurred in the Final Flight of the Osiris (from the Animatrix).  Thaddeus, the captain of the Osiris, dropped a very important package in the Matrix before he died that Niobe and Ghost must pick up.  The package contains some very important information pertaining to an army of machines coming to destroy the only free human city, Zion.  This triggers a chain reaction that pushes along the story of the game, as well as some events in the movie.


If you’re a huge Matrix fan (which I am), then the storyline is the reason to play this game.  It reveals very important and intriguing plot elements that weren’t present in the movie.  For example, in The Matrix Reloaded, Niobe and Ghost have to destroy a nuclear reactor to black out the city.  While this was merely touched on in the movie and you don’t actually see it happen, in the game you actually get to play the scene and destroy the nuclear reactor.  Plus, the game features all of the A-list actors from the film, with Jada Pinkett-Smith reprising her Niobe role, and cameos from Lawrence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Carrie Anne-Moss, and Keanu Reeves.


The rest of the game isn’t so bright and shiny, however.  The gameplay is centered on a mix of gunplay, hand-to-hand combat, and the occasional vehicle stage.  You choose at the very beginning of the game whether you would like to play as Niobe or Ghost, each with his or her own unique plot developments.  You have a plethora of weapons at your disposal, ranging from grenades to M16s and sniper rifles.  The most important element thrown into the mix is Focus, which allows you to slow down time and perform amazing abilities, much like those performed in the movies.  While it is fun to use Focus and deliver punishing combos to hordes of enemies, eventually the hordes get a little tiresome.  In all actuality, you’ll spend most of the game running from point A to point B and fending off the bad guys along the way.  The game is so linear in fact that even in the individual levels, you are forced to run along a set path or else the game will kill you off in some way or another.  Therefore, the repetitive and linear gameplay is disappointing and certainly isn’t what you’d expect from a game based of the Matrix.


The auto-targeting function allows you to strafe and engage individual enemies as they approach you, which can be good if you only have one enemy to take down.  However, it’s not so good when you have several bad guys coming at you at once or if you are simply trying to run away from an agent. 


The vehicle levels are quite paltry, and seem to be just thrown in to the game for sake of having them.  At certain moments, you either drive around in car or pilot the Logos and escape police, agents, the Twins (who, I’m sorry to say, only make a way too brief cameo in one of the driving stages), and machines. The vehicles don’t handle realistically, and clipping issues (read lack of polish) often get your vehicle stuck to lampposts, wreckage, what have you.  This leads to a lot of retries and unnecessary frustration.


The game’s graphics are a hit and miss, with a bit more emphasis on the miss. The character models look great, as do the motion captured Focus stunts they perform.  However, they otherwise move robotically and unnaturally, and even a little jarring sometimes.  Plus, it’s a little frightening to see Niobe climb a fence with straight fingers and her palms open.   The environments are pretty drab and murky, which clashes with the nicely rendered character models.  The game, oddly enough, is devoid of any special effects, and the framerates shift pretty dramatically in areas with a lot of action.  There are also some clipping issues with characters getting stuck in walls that can prove detrimental to the gameplay.


The music, voice, and sound effects are nice and fitting to the source material, but they are extremely buggy.  The music is lifted from the film and changes with the mood of the game, though it seems play the same two snippets every 15 seconds, which eventually grates the nerves.  The game does make good use of some licensed tunes, like songs from Evanescence and Juno Reactor that will appear every so often.  The sound and voice effects are taken from the movie as well, and all of the original actors from the films have recorded new dialogue for the game.  However, they are really buggy.  In one cut-scene, a weird echo effect was present that made it near impossible to hear the objective for the next mission, and in another, the sound of a gun firing kept repeating and became an annoyance.


If Shiny and Atari had decided to push the game back and set it for release with the Matrix Reloaded DVD or with the Matrix Revolutions theatrical release and addressed the game’s many problems, then Enter the Matrix could’ve been a substantially better game for it.  However, what we end up with is a rushed, unpolished disappointment.  If you’re a big Matrix fan, rent the game and play it for the story.  Otherwise, let it alone.


Reviewer’s Scoring Details


Gameplay: 6.8
Enter the Matrix has a few nice elements gameplay-wise, and puts the Bullet-Time-esque Focus ability to good use.  However, the game ends up being too repetitive, too linear, and too stagnant to be fun for too long.


Graphics: 7.0                                                                                                                           

Great looking character models are marred by jarring animations, murky environments and shifty framerates.  Plus, the game has some nasty clipping issues that interfere with the gameplay.


Sound: 7.5
The game features movie music, licensed tunes, and the whole film cast performing new dialogue.  However, the whole sound presentation is bogged down by a ton of bugs that should’ve been taken care of before the game shipped.


Difficulty: Medium


Concept: 8.5
The game provides some very cool insight to the movies and at the same time offers up a completely new storyline that no Matrix fan should miss.  However, the game itself has so many problems that many won’t want to play it through.


Multiplayer: 7.0                                                                                                                             

Enter the Matrix features a secret two-player fighting mode which allows two-players to duke it out as characters from the films and the game.  However, this mode is extremely limited, as you can’t choose which character you want to be or use any Focus powers whatsoever.  It’s still pretty neat that it’s there, however.

Overall: 6.8
Enter the Matrix features unparalleled involvement between the film makers and the game based on their material, thus bridging a gap between film and video games, a very important step in bringing the two media together.  However, in the end, it just turns out to be another rushed and ultimately disappointing licensed game.  If you are a fan of the movies and would like to get a little more background and story, then rent the game.  

Above Average

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