Review: Enter The Matrix (PS2)

Enter the Matrix
Genre: Action
Platform: PS2
ESRB Rating: Teen
Developer: Shiny
Publisher: Atari (Infogrames) and Warner Bros.
Release Date: 5/15/03
Official Home Page: EntertheMatrixGame.com

Typically, when a game is released that is based on a movie, it falls into one of two categories: bad or really bad. Most movie related games are just downright awful. In the past, with a few exceptions, even games based on the Star Wars franchise have been awful. In the past, the moviemakers have very little to do with the game, so it ends up being something that doesn’t seem to fit with the movie simply because the creative teams are so different. Add to that the fact that many movies just don’t make good games to begin with.

Enter Andy and Larry Wachowski. With the original Matrix, they wanted to portray the world of The Matrix in several different media outlets. In addition to the movie, they had a groundbreaking website and also provided free webcomics set in The Matrix. Now that the second of the Matrix trilogy, The Matrix Reloaded, has been released, the Wachowski Brothers are inserting themselves into even more markets with two new revolutionary ideas. The first is The Animatrix, which is 9 animated short films telling stories both outside and inside The Matrix. Some tell the background of how the machines and humans started the war (which tied in nicely to the aforementioned comics) and others just show the lives of ordinary people within The Matrix as they get caught up in the goings on of our favorite band of rebels. The second, and quite possibly the best idea was Enter the Matrix, the game that this review is about. Since it is actually written by the brothers Wachowski, it has a level of connection to the original source that has never been seen before. Although it does not star Neo, Morpheus, or Trinity, it does parallel the events in The Matrix Reloaded and could even be seen as a prologue to that movie. To get the full effect of the Matrix movies, you have to play this game to see what ties to what and to fully understand the events that occur.

So, the question now is, have Larry and Andy Wachowski pulled off a good movie game? Have they been able to do something that has daunted many other movie and game studios for years now? I’ll answer that question later, so until then, let’s take a look at the game itself.

Story
As I said before, the game does not follow the events in the movie per se, but they do act as a prequel of sorts, parallel the movie, and tie it together with the Animatrix and the next Matrix movie, The Matrix Revolutions.

You play as one of two people: Niobe or Ghost, the captain and first officer respectively of the hovercraft Logos. As the game begins, it makes a direct link from The Final Flight of the Osiris (one of the shorts in The Animatrix) to The Matrix Reloaded. In Final Flight, you see the hovercraft Osiris happen upon the army of Sentinels digging to Zion. Thinking only of their compatriots in the human city, they realize that they must sacrifice themselves to get warning to the people of Zion. So Captain Thaddeus and the crew fends off Sentinels from attacking the ship, while Thaddeus’ first mate and love interest Jue jacks into The Matrix to deliver a package to a post box.

In Enter the Matrix, the first mission revolves around Niobe/Ghost going to the post office to pick up said package. But it doesn’t ever seem to go as planned, and of course you have to fight security officers to get to the package. After that mission, there are more tie-ins to the movie when you see Niobe and Ghost setting up the meeting between the ship captains that is shown in the first part of The Matrix Reloaded. Following that is the meeting itself. So, while you aren’t playing as one of the big three (Neo, Morpheus and Trinity), you are playing as people that are not only seen in the movies, but are also integral parts of the movies, and it shows.

The connection between the game and movie was obviously very well planned, considering the Wachowski Brothers wrote the movies, the game and the shorts from The Animatrix. With how the story ties into the grand scheme of the Matrix films, it’s required to get the full effect of the movies. If I could rate the story, I’d give it a 10.

Gameplay
Playing the game is simple and complex at the same time. Each and every button (with the exception of L3 and R3) has a purpose. The left analog moves the character, the face buttons punch, kick, jump and do actions (opening doors, holstering weapons, answering phones). The trigger buttons strafe, draw a weapon and fire, and focus (explained later). Select and the digital directional pad change weapons and Start brings up the menu. There are even button combinations, like how pressing punch and kick together allows you to throw your opponent. With all these buttons, it’s hard to figure out what to do in a given situation, but in many cases, it just turns into a button mash-fest.

When you’re far from an opponent, you can draw your weapon and fire with R1. There are a lot of different weapons, most of which you get from enemies. Included are pistols, shot guns, machine guns, submachine guns, and sniper rifles. There are even grenades, though those are used by holding down the punch button for a few seconds and then releasing. Pretty much, if you’ve seen a gun in a Matrix movie, it’s in this game. When you draw your weapon, a crosshairs appears in the middle of the screen for you to aim at, but it will autotarget when an enemy is in range. You can also go to first person view by pressing the right analog in any direction, if you want a little bit more control over where your shots go.

When you attack an opponent at close range, it will switch to a side view of the action (normally it’s a behind the back camera angle) giving you a better view of what’s going on. You can punch, kick, or throw the enemy. You can even go MGS on people and sneak up behind them and choke them out silently. The martial arts that the characters display are really cool and fast, almost like Jet Li is in the game.

Whenever you want to do one of the cool moves that you see in the Matrix movies, you go into focus, which is achieved by holding down L1. While you’re focused, time slows down, you can see and dodge bullets easier (you can even SEE the bullet trail like the movies), and you can perform all sorts of acrobatic feats. Again, pretty much any cool move that was in the movies is in the game. You can run on walls, do cartwheels, jump and do a spinning dive, and all of this while firing your gun. You can even aim better while focused.

There are various different types of missions you will encounter in the game. The first is a standard go here and get something then get out. There are also driving missions where one person (usually Niobe) drives and the other shoots. Ghost is fun in these missions because you get unlimited ammo and get to blow up other cars. Niobe isn’t near as fun, but I’ll get to that in a bit. Other types of missions that aren’t as fun include protection ones, where you have to prevent some other guys, who should be about as good as you, from getting capped.

Now I’ll talk about the gripes with the gameplay. First of all, the complexity could be considered a downfall because there is so many buttons to press. Typically, I avoided focus and fired when at long range and punched at short range. It’s cool to have all this extra stuff, but it really doesn’t need to be there all the time. Also, the controls could have been a lot better for jumping. There are several places that required you to make a jump or you die, and when the character doesn’t jump the way they’re supposed to, it’s not a whole lot of fun. It also stinks when an in game tip tells you to jump straight up to grab on a pipe, but your character doesn’t agree and WON’T grab on.

The one thing this game could have done without is driving missions. Like I said, shooting while someone else is driving is A LOT of fun, but doing the driving sucks. The car is too sensitive, if you hit a bump you go flying, and having to follow someone while others are chasing and shooting at you. I’m referring to a mission where, as Ghost, you must chase first an airplane then a car, all while being chased by cops and you don’t have anyone shooting for you. Oh, and if you lose sight of either the airplane or the car, you lose and have to start over. No fun.

Also worth mentioning is the horrible load times. The load screen is the vertical green symbols of the Matrix. You know, the one that the operators on the hovercrafts see. Anyway, it scrolls like it does, and the first few times it’s kind of cool. But after you spend more time on the loading screen then playing the game, it gets pretty old.

Graphics
In all honesty, the graphics aren’t all that great for a PS2 game. But it’s understandable considering that there is often A LOT of stuff going on at once, like tons of enemies, bullets flying everywhere and large environments, so I won’t fault the game too much in this aspect. In its defense, I’ve yet to see any slowdown of any sort.

There are also several live action cut scenes in the game. While the quality of these is pretty poor, they are nice because the actually have the actors from the movies, so in essence, this could have been considered The Matrix 2.5. I don’t see any reason why the quality of the video should have been bad though, considering that it’s on a DVD and there isn’t THAT much of it to merit compression. Another problem is that all of the graphics are very dark, which makes it hard to see things, but I guess that’s just the style.

Sound
Even though there were some problems with graphics, one thing they did flawlessly is the sound. Sound effects are literally taken right from the movies. The Agent’s Magnum Desert Eagle sounds exactly the same as it does in the movies. Likewise with all the other guns. In fact, many sound effects were lifted straight from the movie, including the sound it makes when the Agents take over a person.

Like with the FMV shots, the actors voice their in game characters. Not much else to say except that it leads to the authenticity of the whole experience.

Fun Factor
One thing that they added to the game that is really nifty is the Hacking minigame. After you save your game the first time, you can go back to the main menu and access the game. It serves as sort of an omake, or bonus, where you can view pictures of some of the weapons, view the FMVs that you’ve seen before, and even insert cheat codes. It’s not an integral part of the game, but it makes the game more interesting. There are some fun little things you can do there, so I’d recommend it to people who play the game.

As for fun in general, I will say this. It is hella fun going and beating on 3 guys with kung fu, then whipping out the guns and shooting others down the hall, then running along a wall, doing a cartwheel and capping some more. It’s also a lot of fun to be the shooter in the car, because it is somewhat reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto when you have cops coming after you left and right. Except this time, someone else drives.

Ratings
Gameplay: 8
Graphics: 8
Sound: 10
Fun Factor: 10

Short Attention Span Summary
This game is a must for fans of the Matrix series of movies, as well as action game fans in general. The story is deep and well connected to the movie, and it’s fun to play. There is a steep learning curve and the game is frustrating at parts, but ultimately rewarding. Everyone should at least rent it, unless you absolutely hate The Matrix, but I’ve never heard of anyone like that.