Enter The MatrixI love playing video games. I got hooked on the Atari 2600 and I’ve been playing them ever since, however when I heard that there was going to be a video game released based on The Matrix, I wasn’t too thrilled. Typically, whenever there is a video game based on a movie, it sucks. I really like the Matrix Saga and although I’ve liked everything that the Wachowski brother’s have touched, the suck factor was pretty high on a video game. Did I want to take the risk and buy the video game?

You might be surprised that I did resist and didn’t run out and buy it the day it was released. I was tempted mind you, but the fact that most of the reviews were bad, I held off. I simply didn’t want to spoil my Matrix experience. After I watched The Matrix Revolutions, I was shopping at Target and I saw that they had it on sale for half price at $19.99. There’s only so much a man can take, so I bought it. 🙂

Choose Your Poison
Enter The Matrix was released for several consoles (Playstation2 and Gamecube) as well as for the PC. From what I understand the PC version is basically a port from the console. Ports always suck, because PC games is a good bit different from console gaming and vice versa. However, only the PC version of the game includes DVD quality video. From the reviews that I’ve read the console versions of the game rate higher than the PC version. In fact, X-Play recommended “PC owners should stay far away at all costs“. I’m a PC gamer and I bought it more for the video clips than anything else, so I of course opted for the PC version of the game.

So Why Buy It?
All the reviews I’ve read say that the game sucks, so why buy it? One reason and one reason only – there’s over and hour of DVD quality video in the game. This video isn’t just snippets from the three films either. When the Wachowski’s shot footage for the video game as they were shooting The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. So the video shot for the game is totally unique from the movie, for the most part, and the stories are entwined in what you see in the movies.

Do you have to play the video game in order to see the movies. No, just like The Animatrix, you don’t have to have played the game in order to enjoy the movie. Yet, there are some very interesting story lines and back stories that you miss if you haven’t played it. This content enriches your movie experience. I equate it to watching your favorite television show. Take “Friends” for example. You can sit down and watch any episode of Friends and know what’s going on and have a good time watching it. Yet a lot of the enjoyment of the show is the fact that you know about Ross and Rachel’s past, or the fact that Monica used to be fat. When you know these back stories, things that happen in current episodes are more enjoyable. “We were on a break!” doesn’t mean anything to you if you haven’t seen the previous episodes.

How The Stories Are Entwined
We last left the Matrix Saga with The Animatrix. The Osiris left a package in a drop box and it’s your job to go get it. To do this, you choose from two characters in which to play – Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), or Ghost (Anthony Wong). In the movie Ghost is a minor character at best, so you may not even recognize his name. To play the game fully, it’s best to choose one character, play to the end of the game and then choose the other character and play again. Each character has special levels that are unique to them, so it’s not like you’re playing the same game twice.

The first segment involves going to the post office to collect the package. The second segment involves going to the airport to call all the other captains for the meeting that appears at the start of The Matrix Reloaded. I was very surprised to learn how the captains use the Matrix to leave messages for each other and there is some very funny dialog. While at the airport, you are called upon to save a fellow crew, which greatly expands the level. The third segment involves the meeting of the captains and the subsequent escape after the agents show up. In The Matrix Reloaded, we see Neo fight the agents, but we don’t see what happens with the rest of the characters. It’s a bit more expanded in the video game. After this third segment, I would recommend that you stop here and watch The Matrix Reloaded. Or at a minimum, watch The Matrix Reloaded, then play the game and then watch The Matrix Revolutions

This Doesn’t Sound Like A Video Game
Dialog, DVD video clips, story arcs. This doesn’t sound like a video game does it? To be honest, it really isn’t. The Wachowski brothers used this medium to continue telling their story and that’s really where the game shines. To illustrate just how much this video game is more like a movie experience than a gaming experience, the video game is listed in the Internet Movie Database.

Throughout the game you’re presented with the following elements:

1. Cinematics – through the use of DVD quality video, you see the story unfold with all the main characters from the Matrix Trilogy. They take a few short cuts with the special effects in places, but otherwise it’s the same quality of footage as the movies.

2. Animatics – to help transition you from the movie to the game, often times a cinematic with change into an animatic. This simply means that the story unfolds in an animated version using the game engine to render the characters. These cut scenes are just as engaging as the video because they use the actual actor’s voices.

3. Game Play – you do actually get to play the game as well. As either Niobe, or Ghost, you navigate your way through the game unfolding the story as you play.

Speaking Of Game Play
It was no surprise to learn that the game play sucks. As a game, Enter The Matrix is dead on arrival. No matter how powerful your computer is, the game play is going to bog down to a crawl whenever there are a lot of enemies on the screen. The limited ability to save your games is going to cause you to scream more than once. Last but not least, the game play is simply not that engaging. It’s very linear and thus you’re really only going from point A to point B, press a button, or open a door and the level is over. I’ll be honest, as a game, it’s a turd.

But that’s not the point. The reason for this game is not for you to play it over and over like Quake III, or Medal Of Honor Allied Assault. The purpose for this game is to tell a story. I don’t know that a video game is the best medium for telling a story, but I have to give the Wachowski brothers credit for the attempt. To show you that the Brothers simply want you to get to the end, if you get to a point where you can rest, your health will automatically increase. Not just a little at a time, but in 20 seconds you can go from 2% to 100% if you simply stand still (and no one is shooting at you).

The Saving Grace
Other than the 1 hour of DVD quality video (have I said that enough yet?), the only saving grace is the audio in the game. Dane Davis, the sound designer for the Matrix Trilogies used the exact sounds from the movies. So when you’re in bullet time and hearing the guns go off, it’s just like you’re there. It’s weird when the sound effects are the most notable aspects of a game, but they are that good.

The music is also excellent. Don Davis, the composer for the Matrix Trilogies, composed music for the game as well. In addition, there are tracks from Juno Reactor, Chris Vrenna, Fluke, Rob D and others, that add a certain bit of adrenaline to the game play. Great songs to kick butt to. 🙂

I Was Living It
Even though the game play is almost criminal, I have to say that some of the sections were quite fun. The kung fu was pretty good and I must confess that I got a real charge the first time I did a cartwheel in bullet time while shooting an M-16. Or the first time I ran sideways on a wall, did a flip and then kicked a SWAT guys ass. 😛 Granted, this thrill is only last for about 15 minutes, but it was fun none-the-less.

If you’re a die-hard Matrix fan, then I’d recommend buying the game if you can find it on sale. However, you don’t have to be a gamer to play this game. Simple button mashing will get you through the game and through all of the stories – which is the point of the whole game anyway. Even if you’re not a die-hard fan, the story arcs are good and worth slugging through the game to watch them.

My Rating
As a video game: 2 out of 5 stars (2 out of 5 stars)
As an immersive movie experience: 4 out of 5 stars (4 out of 5 stars)
My IMDB Review [link]

   » Part One – The Matrix
   » Part Two – The Animatrix
   » Part Three – Enter The Matrix (Part One)
   » Part Four – The Matrix Reloaded
   » Part Five – Enter The Matrix (Part Two)
   » Part Six – The Matrix Revolutions
   » Part Seven – Lagniappe