Hello all! Last week, I talked about an oldie I didn’t appreciate until quite some time after release. You smash buildings and it’s fun.
This week brings me to a game I was really looking forward to...until I actually got it.
Enter the Matrix is, of course, based on the Matrix movies. Remember when that was popular? I was in high school at the time, and man, I really wanted to play a Matrix video game. This one came along just as the movies came out! Convenient, that. Anyway, Enter the Matrix casts you as either Ghost or Niobe, two secondary characters from the movies. They’re on a mission to do...Matrix stuff? I was a bit confused during my replay; I’m pretty sure they’re looking for Neo and company (you’ll remember Neo as the cool, ultra-powered character you don’t get to play as in this game). Naturally, shenanigans ensue.
This was the first Matrix game ever released, and it dropped in the early GameCube/PS2/Xbox era. So it’s not as mechanically sound as a game of today would be. A typical level consists of running, shooting, and kung-fu acrobatics. Shooting is mostly auto-aimed, though you can go into precision mode if you like. As far as fighting, you’ve got a surprisingly light move set, but it functions well considering your typical enemy goes down in a couple hits.
It wouldn’t be a Matrix anything without slow-motion, so Enter the Matrix allows you to slow down time—which makes your shots more accurate and your punches/kicks more effective and cooler looking. Called “Focus,” it also allows you to run along and up walls, jump huge distances, and generally look and feel badass. It’s still pretty fun to use.
In addition to all that, the game features about an hour of live-action cinematics shot in conjunction with the movies, and it shows. Not a whole lot of action occurs in the live action cutscenes, but they’re produced very well and don’t feel disconnected from the films. Combine that with music and sound effects from the film series, and you get a faithful companion piece to the trilogy.
But is that really enough? I remember eagerly awaiting Enter the Matrix way back in the day. I reserved a copy, saved my money for it, and even left the cash with my mother so she could pick it up for me—so I could play it the second I came home from school. Upon arriving home, I grabbed my copy, hastily thanked Mom for picking it up, tore it open, and threw it in the GameCube. Actually, the first thing I did was go into the game’s Hacking mode, where a DOS-like prompt...uh...prompts you to type in code, unlocking things like weapons and such. GOD THAT’S COOL, I shouted internally, eventually getting around to the game.
So much Matrix! Horn blasts! Kung fu! Slow-motion! I was hooked. Loved it. Then an hour passed, and I liked it. Another hour, and...well, the game was ok. See where I’m going here? This game had captured so well the essence, the feel, of that movie trilogy I thought was awesome. It still does, as best it can. But the longer you play a game, the more that feeling wears off. You start to see the cracks. You brush them off, but they reappear. I began to see that Enter the Matrix just isn’t very good. I mean, every gun is the same, every enemy is the same, every punch and kick is the same. The shooting is pedestrian, the fighting nonsensical from a mechanical standpoint—there’s fleeting moments where it looks decent, but it’s almost entirely punch, kick, dead. There’s certainly high points—the highway chase (if you’re playing as Niobe) and a couple of levels where you need to evade the invincible Agents—but they really only stand out because the game is so soul-crushingly mediocre.
And that’s the thing; I don’t even really consider Enter the Matrix a horrible game, but rather a highly unimpressive one. This one really taught me about tempering my expectations for a game—just because it looked cool didn’t necessarily mean it would be cool. It also taught me that the source material of a game has no real bearing on whether it’s fun or not; Enter the Matrix took a story about hooking up your consciousness to a computer and fighting basically everybody with exaggerated Kung Fu and mountains of guns...and it made that story kinda dull to play. Conversely, I’m not really into rap, but damned it Def Jam Vendetta isn’t loads of fun.
I still remember passing by a friend in my school’s hallway. He’d also bought Enter the Matrix. “It’s a good game!”, he said as he passed by. “Yep,” I replied, heading to my next class, thinking to myself, “Is it?”
The short version of all this is: be informed. Read reviews, watch gameplay footage, talk to people...absorb any and all information about a game, as much as you can, before buying it. That game you think looks way awesome could be a festering bowl of boring, no matter who developed it or what it’s called.
Thanks for reading! I have a Twitter and I like talking to people, so follow me!
Next week, we look at a PS2 shooter that’s a bit Deus Ex and a bit Blade Runner. It’s one of the most surprisingly good games ever made.