RETRO – In 1999 The Matrix became a concept for action movies, and there has not been an action game that adapted the entirely storyline in one game. After the Enter the Matrix fiasco, Shiny Entertainment has decided to take up the task. They really vowed this time…
If we were to select a movie that best represents the video game world, then it is definetly The Matrix. As this „matrix” is a metaphore for addiction where – as hardcore gamers – we all „suffer” ( though not really) hooked to the machines intravanously, we are switched off from the real world shooting, hacking, slashing our way through imaginary worlds.
There is not a more welcoming game theme, yet we had to wait until Enter the Matrix until we were able to take th ered pill. Well that red pill was nota s sour as a lot of people claimed it was. The game was a let down for all those who wanted something revolutionary from the makers or MDK and Messiah. Atari did not complain against Shiny, but rather they stayed quite as EtM brought in big revenue. It seems that the Wachowski siblings did not mind either, as they allowed Shiny to develop the next game.
This Neo is so good
The first thing that puts a smile on the fans faces are that finally we are not in a Rosencrantz and Guildenstein type of game where we control two other people related to the main story (Aka Enter the Matrix). Here we control Neo, The One. The game’s story follows Mr Anderson’s life entirely, although there are a lot of things that are different. Some of these changes may cause fans to cry, but since Wachowskis were okay with, we should not complain too much…
Just like with the previous Matrix game, watching the movie is a requirement, as the game’s story is not coherent enough to figure out what it is about. So for those that have not seens the movies they should go and watch it right now on Netflix or on DVD. The important parts of the story are told through cutscenes lifted from the movies which is neat.
These cinematics really give you the feeling that it was made by the Wachowskies, as they are really atomspheric, and seep with The Matrix movies ambiance. Another interesting part is that the game entirely skips the third movie in terms of story and just goes straight to the fight against Agent Smith which is the final confrontation. So luckily it is not just a frame by frame recration of the movies, as it follows and diverges „Neo’s” path.
This is not a problem, what bothered me though is that the tone of the game was incoherent. The mystical, serious tone remained but at parts the entire game goes into self-parody. Oh and we also get references that have no link to the Matrix franchise but it seems the Watchowski brothers are a fan of them. In one sword fighting section the entire screen goes black and white into a weird Seven Samurai world which takes place in Japan. We also see a lot of references for different Japanese movies and jokes related to these movies: these are rather tiring as in: „Hahahaha get it ? GET?!” – So I was not too happy with these jokes. The ending for the game is … well I do not want to spoil it, but I can do say that there are „surprises”, and not everyone will be pleased.
Hey but who cares about the story, as long as the gameplay is good. Well as finally we get to control Neo, and not Niobe or Ghost, we have the opportunity to try out a list of awesome abilities. All in all The Matrix is a simple action game, but for some reason the developers decided to put in a rather annoying stealth section (when Neo has to escape from the office building where he works), and after that we have to complete a boring tutorial. No idea why Shiny Entertainment thought it was a good idea to put these sections into the game as we were okay without them in Enter the Matrix…
What bothered me more was the combat itself… I do not have a problem with the extremely well animated kung-fu moves, as they bring back the movie’s ambiance. The problem I had was that these moves could be completed with the push of two buttons, and fight our way through the game. Where is the challenge here?
You are the chosen…
On the other hand there are great ideas that saves the rather flashy but boring combat. We get new abilities rather quickly and pretty awesome ones. With the help of „code vision” for instance we see the Matrix, just as Neo can: green numbers everywhere that shows us hidden secrets, enemies and other dangers that lurk to end our hero. Neo besides the vision power can move objects via telekinesis – and – you probably will not guess this one – he can avoid bullets, stop them, and even reflect them back to the enemy!
Of course we cannot forget about good old bullet time, which I’ll skip explaning how it works as since Max Payne, and twenty other TPS games it has not changed. I did not like the childish, and annoying puzzle sections that the developers implemented to pad out the gameplay time. One of the most frustraiting ones can be found int he merovingian’s house, and I almost headbutted my monitor by the time I got through that idiotic section.
Ugly little duckling
I was also not impressed by Path of Neo’s graphics either. There are a lot of washed out textures, and the environments bland, plus the voice acting was as if a third rate dubbing company produced it. The character models look especially horrible: poor Neo has such a weird Adam’s apple, and tentacle like arms that Keanu Reeves would commit seppuku if he looked like this in real life. Also it reeks of console port as it can be seen from the quality of the graphics on PC. Path of Neo takes the cake when it comes to shoddy PC ports.
Keanu would have skipped this
I guess a lot of you were expecting the movie actors voicing the ingame characters just like in the first movie. Well sadly here this is not the case: only Laurence Fishburne worked with Shiny Entertainment. The rest of the voice actors were sweating blood to get the voice and tone of the originals. There is not much of a difference honestly, and when it comes to the overall quality of the game, the fake voices did not really bother me. Except when there is a movie cinematic playing we can hear the original actor’s voice, and right after that cutscene there is an ingame moment when the voice actor speaks. It really breaks the immersion.
The music is okay, it is pretty generic and I’m surprised that they could not licence the music for the game from the music. The sound effects such as gun and other effects however are really good.
The Machines won
As a third person action game The Matrix: Path of Neo is almost below average, a mediocre game with ugly graphics at certain sections. The melee combat is great, thanks to the great animation, however I would not call it the height of interactivity, when it just takes two buttons complete a complex combo. Speaking of controls even that is weak in this game.
If I was to think as Path of Neo as The Matrix’s long awaited adapation, than it is a massive failure. The fact that Wachowski brothers let Shiny Entertainment do these games was a mere fluke, since they could not have known that the team behind MDK would so underperform for a second time… is beyond bad luck.
+ Great cinematics
+ Awesome kung-fu animation
+ In the Matrix again
– Weak controls
– Monotonous gameplay
– Bad jokes
Developer: Shiny Entertainment
Relase date: 2005