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Enter the Matrix Review

publisher: Atari
developer: Shiny Entertainment
genre: Action

PIII 800, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 4.3GB HD
ESRB rating: T

release date: May 14, 03
» All About Enter the Matrix on ActionTrip

Long ago, when Shiny Entertainment began building up its reputation with titles like Earthworm Jim and later on MDK, it was clear that we were witnessing the birth of a fresh and talented development team. After achieving critical acclaim with excellent PC games such as Messiah, Sacrifice and others, Shiny Entertainment got the privilege to work on a multiplatform project based on the highly successful movie, The Matrix. Corresponding with the premiere of "Matrix Reloaded," the second installment in the Matrix trilogy, Enter the Matrix created a major hype, which soon engulfed the entire gaming scene. Everyone was keen to cross the threshold of reality and enter the sci-fi virtual world of the Matrix. The entire crew and cast from the movie were also hard at work to film additional scenes that have been shot exclusively for the game - a terrific extra for true fans.

Atari (formerly known as Infogrames) and Shiny designed the game with the idea to place gamers into an interactive movie that's enwrapped in mysteries and wonders of the unique Matrix universe. To make one thing absolutely clear for those of you who are uninformed, Enter the Matrix features a plot that's unrelated to any of the Matrix movies. Which means you won't get to control Morpheus, Neo, or Trinity, but rather Ghost and Niobe - two characters that appear very briefly in the second Matrix movie. The game's storyline doesn't exactly explain what The Matrix is all about and it was written with the assumption that players already know everything from both movies. Basically, you play as either Niobe or Ghost, going on various missions, some of which are crucial to the survival of the human race, while others are less important and are regarded as combat training simulations.

My first disappointment with the game came right at the very beginning. Considering the unbelievable publicity that surrounded the game and how much time was invested into its creation, I really expected so much more in terms of visuals (we'll get to the details on that later). After being initially disheartened with the game's graphics I decided to go with the flow and try to be as objective as I could. Within minutes I got acquainted with the straightforward controls and combat principles. Offering players a chance to combine a wide variety of fast-paced marital art moves with different kinds of firearms to boot, Enter the Matrix manages to capture your attention very quickly. So basically, this is one of the rare aspects of the game that makes it temporarily addictive and fun to play. One of the most important things is that the controls were well-optimized, making it fairly simple for players to get into the game's intricate 360° combat system. The only thing which I could stress as being a very irritating characteristic of the control system, is the camera movement that was clearly customized for a console game pad. The mouse is not intuitive enough in this respect, so players might encounter difficulties in attempt to fight, shoot, and move the camera about all at once.

Still, it's not like the title doesn't offer anything interesting for gamers. Matrix fans, above all, can dig into juicy cut-scenes and extras that were done by the Warshawski Bros. and the entire renowned film cast. Also, there's absolutely no doubt that you won't have fun while fighting against multiple enemies in slow-motion Matrix-style combat. The player has two bars he must constantly look after - health and focus. Focus symbolizes an exact amount of energy your character has for performing fighting stunts like Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus keep doing in the movies. In focus mode, Niobe and Ghost can run across walls, perform deadly combos, and use weapons more accurately. They'll also get the ability to leap through glass, dodge a rain of bullets, and dive backwards while firing their weapons (a sweet old-fashioned move a la Max Payne). Players can also use their focus to be more efficient in performing their martial art moves. For instance, once in focus mode, you can press jump if you're near a wall and then hit 'kick' and your character will walk across the wall, turn around in a flash, and effectively knock the hell out of an unsuspecting foe. More fighting delicacies are also available, like counter-attacks with which players can block or avoid being hit, thus gaining a split-second of advantage during a brawl. Another useful thing is taking out some of the guards and soldiers silently - just creep up behind the victim, press action, and watch your foe fall into a "peaceful slumber." Once you stop using your focus powers, they will automatically regenerate if you stay disengaged from battle. Although if you're fast and skilled enough, you could restore your focus energy throughout hand-to-hand combat.

These aforementioned combat features might be one of the rare aspects that pull this game out of the crappy-titles bin. Hand-to-hand clashes can be fun and all, but may soon become tedious, since the player doesn't have any particular goal or purpose in mind other than finding phone booths or running away from agents. It's true that the game is story-driven, but the whole concept is rather weak and hardly sufficient to keep your excited for long. The developers have attempted to refresh the gameplay with occasional car chases and high-way shootouts. Sadly, that doesn't amount up to much, considering the highly linear approach that was taken in the design of these sections (scarcely worth the action and gameplay of, say, GTA: Vice City). Gamers can also make use of different weapons such as various pistols, shot-guns, rifles, Uzi's, grenades, and snipers. It's a shame though that more time wasn't invested in tweaking and balancing some of these weapons. Throwing grenades, for instance, seems more like throwing small pickle jars instead of explosives - the physics are all wrong here, which makes it difficult for the player to predict where a grenade will land each time he hurls it.

The programming team also failed to attend certain AI glitches. In a couple of levels, when you're battling it out through a long waterway, some SWAT troops won't even notice you until you fire at them or stand in front of their very noses. In addition to that, some levels feature NPC's that get stuck in a particular spot for no apparent reason (!?!). There are two patches released for the game, but neither of them manages to address these weird issues. We also observed a few unattended issues in the engine code, which can cause enemy bodies to get jammed on ladders and staircases - not much effort on the rag-doll physics there...

My initial impressions weren't that far off. The graphics were poor all through the game. Believe it or not, the visuals are a factor where Enter the Matrix sinks the lowest. Which is a bummer when you ponder how much effort and cash was spilled out to create a visually stunning movie. It remains obvious that the lads at Shiny were forced to work within the confines of the franchise, which didn't exactly come out well in the game. The levels are mostly linear and they restrict players to walking down a set path of corridors, hallways, sewer canals, and the like. Considering Shiny's outstanding reputation, we honestly expected a more meticulous approach in level design, coding, engine tweaks, and such. In other words, the game was launched with a great deal of technical mishaps. It's true, on the hand, that they incorporated numerous effects like fragments dropping off of walls and pillars when they get hit by bullets, blurry vision and the bullet tracks that occur in the focus mode, reflections on well-polished floors, etc. They also threw in several cool elements to flavor the combat. In the Château level, for example, when you're engaged in mortal combat, you can inadvertently (or on purpose) smash sculptures, busts, books, candles, and so on. As for the models and character animations... well, they really could've done a much better job since the characters sometimes move around like they have a bunch of crabs in their pants. Okay, there are a few nice details; like enemy troops grabbing hold of their eye if you happen to bull's eye 'em in the head, but that's about it. Honestly, for a game created by Shiny Entertainment, we've expected a whole lot more. Textures are poor in detail, the models have a low poly count, some characters are rigid in movement, and occasional visual bugs can observed with certain Radeon graphic cards (especially with older cards).

The game's soundtrack is of the highest quality, yet it somehow fails to achieve the desired effect it successfully manages to emit throughout the films. This is mostly due to the fact that some tunes repeat once too often during the game. All in-game sounds, dialogs, and ambient effects in the background are very good, so we didn't find any particular flaws there. Also, the voice acting is cool, which comes as no surprise bearing in mind the reputation of the movie cast.

To put it shortly, Enter the Matrix has a solid combat system that's addictive at times, but the game doesn't offer any gripping features that might increase its replayability. Also, it's mostly linear throughout the entire course of the plot. As far as the shoot-outs go, you won't see anything you haven't seen in Max Payne, which can also stand for the graphics by the way - everything looked better from textures and background details, to character models, and level design. The sad truth is that Enter the Matrix lost a lot of its visual potential when it was labeled "multiplatform." All in all, even if the game came out before Max Payne it would still be rated as mediocre at the very least. It's gameplay lacks more depth, the plot doesn't fit very well with the constant action so there's nothing to tie the player for a long time, and bugs in the engine code and AI were there to screw things up even further. With such a reputable crew behind it and after the spectacular movie incarnations, Enter the Matrix turned out to be less than average. It's a damn shame...


5.9   Okay

The 360° combat, a wide variety of moves, the focus mode, etc. High-quality cut-scenes.

The story is not presented well. Level design. There are a lot of AI and visual bugs. Poor graphics.



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