Well, you can all officially pronounce the Matrix franchise dead. It only had a lifespan of a few years with a total of three films, a few spin-off side stories, literature, comics, a massive cyber-punk following, and of course, two videogames. Admit it, we all had a Matrix code screensaver at one point during this Matrix-Frenzy in the past few years when the series had its better days. And just because its popularity certainly has waned as of a few years ago when the sequels hit our theaters, let us not underestimate the incredibly dedicated following the Trilogy still has to this day (myself included). People bring up the films (more notably the sequels) in joking these days, forgetting how the first one broke massive ground in the film industry making it the most profitable R rated film series of our time.
But after Enter the Matrix hit consoles in conjunction with The Matrix Reloaded back in 2003, gamers have been weary of a second coming. After all, it was Shiny games that may have been to blame for the shortcomings of this title as the creativity of ideas from both the studio and the filmmakers was there all along. A rushed street date may have also been to blame, but for a licensed title, we have to at least give it credit for trying to redefine how we look at games based on movies. Now this leads me to the latest (and probably last for a while) game based on the Matrix universe. This time, you will not be playing as two side-characters you care nothing about, you will be playing as the one and only, Thomas Anderson, A.K.A. Neo.
I was only one of a few rabid Matrix fans that salivated a little bit when new screenshots of this game were released in the months leading up to its release. The big draw of this game was the fact that you would be able to relive the events of the trilogy (and then some) through the eyes of Neo, the main protagonist. It follows the story of a hacker who knows that there is something wrong happening in this world; something is wrong. He gets approached by a notorious hacker named Morpheus and the rest you may all know. The main objective in making this game (besides having the writer/directors get another paycheck) was to re-tell their classic story in a way they never could before; to get into the crevasses of the story that was of Neo, even what happened to him off screen that was not included in the original trilogy. What we have is a richer story (though at times, a bit side-tracked) that gamers will love and fans of the trilogy will enjoy.
In true Matrix fashion, the main screen loads and in creating a new game, you are forced to prove what difficulty you will start this adventure. This takes place during a dream sequence in which Neo is fore-visioning the famous Lobby shoot out in the first film. The opponents come faster and more difficult until you can’t take it anymore. The better you perform the more difficulty levels you can unlock.
At first, Path of Neo seems a lot like a far detached child of the Matrix trilogy, with fairly linear gameplay (namely the Metacortex agent escape and training programs) to get you started, someone may get the wrong impression of this title early on. The real gems are buried along the way as you journey through Neo’s storyline and only seem to get richer as you progress further and further in the game. Re-cut film footage play as interstitials between levels to help move along the story, fans unacquainted to the story will be scratching their heads, but Matrix fanatics won’t have a problem with these quick-cuts of footage.
With a running time of roughly 8-10 hours (depending on how thorough you are), about half the game takes place during the events of the first film, so if you despised the sequels, you came rest easy. The second half are the sequels, though it should be known that the third movie, Revolutions is only really the last battle between Agent Smith and Neo.
One cannot deny the quite varied gameplay found throughout your adventure. New enemies and different experiences seem to be pouring through every crevice of this title. This excitement never waned, since this game delivers on the action with a punch (no pun intended). Yes young lad, Shiny did include the famous 100-Agent Smith fight as depicted in Reloaded. It’s marveling how the developers managed to produce this fight on screen with countless enemies with relatively no slow down. It’s such a handful of eye candy that must be seen and played to appreciate.
The presentation is in full Matrix fashion with free-flowing Matrix code at the press of a button, only to reveal hidden items and passages (very cool feature indeed). The orchestral score is more or less the same attitude and style as in the trilogy, though not all rights were bought for some songs on the original soundtracks. You still feel the rush when running away from an Agent or kicking some ace in the Lobby shoot-out.
A fairly decent problem in certain locations of the game I found was the tricky camera angels when running in corridors or turning corners. This does at times hinder your control since you might not have the best angle to take action against your opponents. Thankfully, the fighting mechanics are much improved upon from Enter the Matrix; it’s a real treat to take on multiple opponents with easy to use weapons. The combos imagined by the fight choreographers are simply incredible. Just see for yourself.
Time and time again, developers turn their back to how a licensed game should mimic the original subject material. It comes complete with faithful art inspiration oozing out of every environment, cut-scene, and Mega-punch. The graphics here are some of the best on the current generation of consoles; the sheer technical achievement of the Reloaded fight had me hooked. The frame-rate is for the most part smooth, though it slows down in places you’d least expect it; luckily, this does not happen too often.
Thankfully, Shiny maintains the proper use of the Matrix license in what seems to be the first truly worthy Matrix videogame incarnation. With full involvement by the Wachowski Brothers to produce new scenes, re-cut footage from the films and an all new ending to the trilogy to better suit a videogame (The directors actually pop up on the screen and tell you why they changed it!), any fan of the trilogy or games can appreciate a title like this. This is certainly one of the best uses of any movie license and certainly comes to mind to one of my favorite games of the year. All I can say is “Finally!.”