Enter the Matrix
You Think this is a magazine you're reading now? You think that's ink forming the words on this page? You think that chair/sofa/bog seat you're sitting on is real? What if I told you that everything you know, everything you believe, everything you think... is a lie, a fake? The people you care for, the job you hate and your inexplicable love of Home & Away? What if none of it was real? What if none of it mattered?
Would you look me in the (virtual) eye and plead with me to show you an alternative world, or would you shrug with unashamed resignation at your pitiful lot, turning your back on an option that could unravel mysteries you never knew existed? If you answered yes to the first question, then you need to meet a man who can show you this other way, a man who will take you away from your daily routine, who will show you an alternative you never knew you had. An escape from your everyday, cardboard world, into one of action and thrills. If it's this that you seek, then come with me now, and meet the man who can answer all your questions.
Welcome To Another World
Allow me to introduce you to David Perry, one of the true greats of the gaming industry, who has just spent the last two years of his life working with the Wachowski Brothers on one of the most eagerly anticipated games ever, third-person action/adventure Enter The Matrix.
Sitting in front of me with a concentrated look in his eyes, his face is a tapestry of emotions, lined by two years of sleep deprivation but lit up by a love of games that hasn't diminished over the last decade. He sees my eagerness to begin and pre-empts me with a question of his own, You want to know whether this game will be as ground-breaking as the movie, don't you?" I nod in shame at my own predictability, but Dave has clearly been wanting to spill the beans on his baby for a long time now, and he is already off and running: The way we re handling motion capture, the animation, the fighting system - there's so many instances here where we've developed our own tools and technologies specifically for this game, and this is why it's going to be ground-breaking on so many different levels. Without access to the people we've had access to, it would cost a competitor about 75 million pounds to make a game like this - with motion capture, a new fighting system, 3D gun fights, driving, flying, hacking, real acting, real music, real movie footage. On PC, it's currently taking up six CD-ROMS. I think people will feel that it's extremely fresh and they'll certainly get their money's worth."
An impressive start indeed. Catching my breath after this onslaught of information, I ask Dave to tell me more about the kind of gameplay we can expect come May 15, the day the game must and will be released (to coincide with the release of the next film, The Matrix Reloaded). "The game has all the Matrix action you can take - martial arts, guns, driving, insane stunts. You'll bend the rules" just like Neo and Trinity did in the first movie - running on walls, dodging bullets and making huge leaps and kicking ass when a situation demands it."
Of course, having innovative ideas and great source material to work with is one thing, but as we know only too well, developers have often been
creatively hamstrung when working with big-budget film licences, especially when it comes to the plot. I share my worries with Dave, who
quickly puts my mind at ease.
Take The Red Pill
This is where the revelation begins. The Wachowskis haven't just created a cool film and a game to go with it - they've created a complex and coherent universe that inhabits many media and has a life far beyond the experience of sitting in a darkened room watching a strip of images flicker on a wall. The Animatrix - a collection of short anime films set in the Matrix universe, each with a very different take on the concept - is one extension of the Matrix array. Shiny's game, far from your average thrown-together film spin-off, is another, crucial part of that array.
It's hard not to think that with the Wachowski's vision in place, Enter The Matrix is set to be the greatest film-licensed game of our time. The interweaving plot linking with that of the films will inject it with a level of immersion and significance rarely seen in a videogame, while the gameplay is set to offer more diversity than ten of its competitors.
But with a simultaneous PC, GameCube, Xbox and PS2 release in plan, isn't there a chance that PC owners will be saddled with another massively console-oriented title? Not so, says Dave, who explains that Shiny's ground-breaking cross-platform engine was designed from the ground up to use every machine to its full potential. Every minute spent making the game causes the results to appear on all four platforms. No matter what platform you're using, the game engine is squeezing every last bit of performance out of the hardware. The versions will all feel the same when you play, but there will be graphical differences due to the different types of hardware you're using. This technology means that if you buy the latest ATI or NVIDIA card, our engine already knows how to use it to its full. The only major control change is by using a mouse on the PC. I just wish all consoles had a mouse controller, too.
I Want To Be Neo
For a while, our conversation meanders around an already touched-on subject -the plot - while the room grows darker and rain assaults the windowpanes like giant strands of wire. As if sensing that the setting somewhat mirrors a scene from the film, Dave pulls out the most apt quote of the evening. No one can be told what Enter The Matrix is... I smile knowingly. "Let's just say that the game's plot is closely intertwined with The Matrix Reloaded, which picks up right where The Matrix left off. Zion is under a great threat, and everyone -Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, Niobe and Ghost - must all race against time to save Zion and ultimately mankind itself. There's some info for all you film lovers then, but shockingly, Enter The Matrix will not allow you to play the role of any character from The Matrix.
Yep, you read right. You can't be Neo. Or Morpheus. Or Trinity. But surely, if it's is to capture the true spirit of the films, Enter The Matrix must allow you to be the heroes already immortalised in our minds? Playing a new character with no background or history other than that explored within the game will surely come as a gargantuan disappointment to fans the world over. Dave disagrees. And not without good reason. All the major characters from the first film are present in the game, but you'll play as either Niobe or Ghost, two new characters who appear in The Matrix Reloaded. Niobe is a hard-as-nails asskicker (or bottom-kicker as you would call it in Blighty). Clearly Dave has spent little time in the UK of late. She's the best driver in the game. Ghost is the weapons guru - think of him as a Zen-Buddhist-Apache-Assassin." So you get to play characters from the second film eh? Who will very soon be as beloved by us as any from the original film? I stand corrected.
As time pushes on and the rain subsides to a redundant dribble, I usher Dave down the road of narrative presentation. Cut-scenes and plot details can be a fickle friend to action games, often turning the emphasis away from the conflict to the point of boredom. It's a relief to see that Dave holds many of the same plot-based ideals as I do. I don't mind being interrupted by cut-scenes if it's cool and interesting stuff I'm about to see. I thought some of the Metal Gear Solid 2 cut-scenes were mind-numbingly boring to watch; they droned on and on. The problem it suffered from was that some of them were cool, some were even important, and far, far, far too many were complete ass, err, I mean bottom'. Stop that. "But you could never tell when you needed to pay attention and when it would be better to just get up and go and get a beer from the fridge. With Enter the Matrix, there is an hour of original motion picture footage shot just for the game, using the real actors, the real sets and directed by the Wachowskis themselves. If you are a Matrix fan, you just can't miss it." And with that I am convinced. Utterly and totally. The Wachowskis have broken dramatically with the tradition of filmmakers - not only by working closely with the developers to ensure the game meets the same superb quality of the films, but by actually making the game an essential complement to those films. The one hour of FMV footage will be worth the entrance fee alone.
He Is The One
As the conversation rolls to a halt with the customary exchange of pleasantries, Dave Perry can surely not miss the excitement on my face, betrayed by an idiotic smile usually reserved exclusively for the mentally unsound. He's shown me that there is another world out there, one of adventure, intrigue, subterfuge and danger, one waiting to be discovered come May 15, which will take me - and you - away from our daily grind, fading our predictable and stagnant existence to a shadowy memory, till it disappears and becomes little more than a dream.
Prepare yourself then for a brave new world, prepare yourself to Enter The Matrix.
Can I Kick It?
Yes You Can. In Slow-Motion, Upside Down, Suspended In Mid-Air
No Matrix game would be complete without the recreation of the superb fight scenes of the film. Of course, this complex system, where you can bend the rules' is no easy feat to implement into a game. But when you have Master Yuen Wo Ping (the martial arts legend behind the film's gravity defying choreography) working with you, then you're certainly in with a bloody good chance of pulling it off. However, no information has been forthcoming from Shiny regarding the use of Bullet Time' slo-mo effects in the game, although I suspect that comments about bending the rules' could be a veiled way of talking about the subject. Just like the film, we wanted the player to be able to run up a wall, nail two guys with a flying kick, somersault across the floor and pick up a pistol in the same motion, shoot two more guys, then judo throw another guy over the edge of rooftop. And we've got all of that in the game and more than 3,000 other moves, enthuses Dave. Max Payne, eat you heart out.
I was going to make a joke here about prancing, somersaulting pansies, but decided against it as Master Yuen might get wind of it and kill me with his thumb. So probably best I just let this one go, eh?
Just Follow The White Rabbit And You'll Be Fine
One of the most interesting and unique aspects of Enter The Matrix is set to be its hacking options. In typically post-modern form, the game will try to convince you that you're not playing a game at all, but actually sitting at your computer, hacking into the Matrix to uncover its secrets. Confused? Well maybe Dave can make more sense of it for you. Hacking is like a game-within-a-game, where you can hack into your character and the game console. As it emulates you sitting at a computer, that section feels somewhat like a text adventure (from the good old gaming days). You'll find secrets and unlock all sorts of goodies. You can download new skills into your character, and feel like you are really hacking. For example, in the first movie, Trinity writes KNOCK KNOCK on Neo's monitor. We do the same, but you can interact with her, and with her help, keep digging deeper into the system. Clearer now?
Download Enter the Matrix
If you're a die-hard fan of the flicks, Enter the Matrix provides exactly what creators Andy and Larry Wachowski had promised. Playing through this action title gives you a richer understanding of how and why certain events happen in The Matrix Reloaded. Loyalists will also enjoy the fact that the paths of each playable character, Niobe and Ghost (who have supporting roles in the film), reveal different nuggets of Matrix info, providing further incentive to complete with both heroes. It also helps that enough of their missions vary so you don't feel like you're playing the same exact game twice. And let me not forget ETM's biggest draw, the exclusive movie cut-scenes (totaling more than an hour), which will be reason enough for some to fork over 50 bucks. Yet too many shortcomings will stop those who haven't been unplugged (I mean nonfans) from entering this Matrix. The driving and hovercraft portions fail miserably at capturing the same roller-coaster-type thrills of their movie counterparts--piloting the Logos hovercraft is like a bad bumper-boat ride. Plus, it's a shame that a number of the cut-scenes using the in-game engine lack the cool special effects made famous in the films. (You'll know what I mean when you see agents dodging bullets.) More often than not, you'll miss out on catching a good look at your Neo-like acrobatics because of the jumpy camera, and while the motion-captured combat animations are superb, others (like running or climbing a ladder) appear downright odd. Take the fanboy outta me, and I can't say I'd follow the white rabbit all the way to the game store to buy Enter the Matrix. It's a fine rental for Matrix addicts (it takes about 12 hours to finish the game with both characters), but it isn't quite good enough to warrant a purchase.
Enter the Matrix is a polished turd. Pick it up and you'll likely be mesmerized by its sparkly veneer--the exclusive movie clips, glossy character models, stylish bullet-time special effects, and destructible environments definitely impress--but play it for an hour and its sticky fecal filling oozes all over your hands. Major problems plague every facet of the game. The normal run-and-gun stages are wildly inconsistent--some are far too long, others last literally five seconds, and all suffer from poorly designed layouts and objectives. Driving missions sport busted physics and horrid visuals. The real-time cinemas are unbelievably ugly. Both the hand-to-hand and gunplay combat are tiresome and repetitive--every slow-mo kung-fu fight is indistinguishable from the hundreds before it. The misguided final stages boil down to an anticlimactic, clunky minigame. Even the much-vaunted story never really heats up, spending too much time exploring the boring periphery of Reloaded's plot. Oh, and expect the game to routinely crash. The PS2 ETMs ostensibly the most stable; however, terrible game-ending bugs infect the retail copies of all three versions. Frankly, I'm pretty sure that this game isn't really done, yet it was irresponsibly released anyway to an unsuspecting public in an attempt to cash in on the movie's release. Bryan seems content simply having a game based on The Matrix, regardless of its quality...but I'm not. Red pill, blue pill...at this point, I'd swallow the whole damn bottle of pills to forget my miserable Enter the Matrix experience. Sure, that would mean that I wouldn't remember the new movie scenes (like the oh-so-steamy Niobe/Persephone liplock), but that would be a minor sacrifice in order to erase the pervasive pain of ETM's ramshackle graphics and gameplay.
In more than 20 years of playing games, I have never seen a console game as obviously unfinished and rushed to market as Enter the Matrix. Bugs and glitches pile up like so many Agent Smiths: Characters get stuck in walls or float in the air; music and sound effects pop in at the wrong times or are missing altogether; and on many Xboxes (including mine), the game locks up every single time after a certain boss fight. This game is a complete mess, and that's the only thing complete about it. But let's say all the bugs magically disappeared--how would Enter the Matrix rate? Average at best. Fans may appreciate a couple of the film excerpts (and by a couple, I mean two), which cleverly weave in and out of Reloaded, but the story adds precious little to the overall Matrix mythos, and the in-game cut-scenes look laughably bad. Which goes for the rest of the game's graphics as well--most levels are embarrassingly dull, devoid of any life or detail.
From start to finish, Enter the Matrix makes excellent accompaniment to the popular film, The Matrix Reloaded. Set in a world gone awry, a Matrix where Neo has become the One, and the free humans of Zion must fight against extinction, your role will be to play the crew of the Logos, characters that while receiving only minor play in the film, become major players in the game. Touting a high adrenaline action adventure, this game lets you kick major ass, as either Niobe or Ghost, both of which have extensive knowledge of martial arts and firearms, and are capable of amazing superhuman feats thanks to their focused minds.
Visually, Enter the Matrix isn't quite a showstopper, but it is incredibly detailed, using realistic textures in the same vein as Max Payne. Written and directed by the Wachowski brothers, the film clips in this game are the first thing that makes it worth purchasing. The second is the ass-kicking. With a surprisingly deep combat system, featuring a variety of punches, kicks, throws, and disarm maneuvers, it rises above the normal crap we get out of a PC fighting title. Fear not, firearm enthusiasts, as it's also packed with weaponry, most of which you'll be getting by tearing them out of enemy hands. Between the times you're deciding what to do, and are actually fighting, you can use 'focus' to slow down into bullet time, letting you perform amazing stunts, like superhuman martial arts moves, or incredibly long jumps.
As a disadvantage, the game suffers from a problem of repetitive gameplay, essentially taking you on a 'follow the dots' path from one location to another, interspersed with some wicked cool fights, hand to hand and gunned. While you fight a boss now and again (including an agent), the basic enemies never get much tougher, and once mastered, the strategy and skill required to beat the game on easy lets you beat it on hard without breaking a sweat. Fortunately, even with a great deal of overlapping gameplay, there are two characters that have different paths to take through the game, so there is something to go on here. Sadly, while I was expecting at least ten hours of gameplay or more, I was able to easily beat the game and open up most of its secrets in less than four. Perhaps they'll get it right if a sequel comes out for The Matrix Revolutions?
In summation, I'd like to say that I've never seen a game based on a popular film that was so good. Fighting, focus, guns, explosions, agents, oh my! Worth the spare cash, although it comes close to ranking a 'Fans Only.'
With the exception of maybe 'the Hulk' we have been inundated with a marketing blitz rarely seen this summer concerning the movie 'The Matrix.'? With a rumored budget of 22 million dollars, Enter the Matrix is that rare video game that borrows from a movie license and doesn't completely stink. From its initial inception, the game was made literally by the Wachowski brothers, who guard their creation with such pride that it would almost be impossible to make a game that ties in with the movie so nicely, and it not be cool.
Enter the Matrix is an action adventure game that is interwoven with the second 'Matrix'? movie, including footage of the movie and characters that appear in it. As a matter of fact, you play as characters Niobe and Ghost, two characters who have decent sized parts in the movie.
Graphically, Enter the Matrix is pretty tight. I liked the use of lines that characters possess, and the frame rate is top notch. Architecture is well done and the game's horizon can be established even at great lengths. While the martial arts moves seem a bit stiff, the game's breakneck pace and excellent 'bullet time'?, looks incredible. From an audio standpoint I really was giving my home theatre system a workout. The gunfire and explosions sound great and the base music that plays as you do menial tasks actually sounds like the movie, giving you a well thought out audio experience.
Of course what makes the game fun is the constantly changing gameplay. One mission might involve running and gunning through a building looking for an important item while another involves a car chase with you hanging out the passenger side of the car, machine-gunning an evil agent. The game does a good job of throwing curve balls at you'just when you get comfortable playing the game one way, you are then thrown into a situation that requires you to master a completely different set of controls. Sadly, it is those controls that make the game more difficult than it needs to be. I was not happy with the way the game's controls were set up, and on more than one occasion found myself cursing at the TV screen as I once again pressed a wrong button that got me killed. The whole control issue was definitely a downer for me and I suspect using an S-type controller might make things easier, but I currently don't have one.
A game tailor made for action junkies and fans of 'The Matrix,'? a couple of control changes and a slightly easier learning curve might have pushed this one into the 'Must buy'? category, but it is a solid title. Check it out if you are in need of an action fix, rent it if you are mildly curious. Personally, I have been having one heck of a good time playing this title.