The Matrix: Path of Neo Review
developer: Shiny Entertainment
PIV-1000, 256MB RAM, 4GB HDD, 64MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Nov 15, 05 (released)
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Anybody remember "Enter the Matrix?" No? I do. It's an agonizing memory to say the least. I think most of you know why, especially those of you who had the misfortune of playing the PC version.
Uh, one of you guys got a spare tie on ya?
More than two years ago, Atari saw a golden opportunity. They seized the Matrix franchise with the notion of creating a "cool" game just in time for the theatre launch of Matrix Reloaded (how novel). Of course, in addition to employing the top-notch cast from the Matrix movies to play through all the additional cut-scenes, Atari also had to choose a renowned development team that was up to the task of making such a game. Shiny seemed like a good choice. Unfortunately for us, they didn't do a very good job. As a matter of fact, the first game was dreadful (read our review to find out why).
So, a few years later, Shiny was offered a decent chance to redeem itself with The Matrix: The Path of Neo.
When I loaded the game, I got the impression that history was repeating itself and that we're faced with yet another bug-infested Matrix game. At first, I didn't have any sound at all, which I managed to circumvent later on by installing the latest Creative Labs drivers (even though their official web site urged me that my drivers are up to date). Anyhow, 2lions and I both tried the game on our rigs. 2lions played it on an AMD 64 3400+, NVIDIA 6800 Ultra, and 1GB of 400MHz RAM, while I tested it on a AMD 64 3000+, Radeon 9800 XT and 1 GB of RAM. Neither of our systems could handle the game's maxed out visual details, so we had to tone them down. By the way, you can determine the quality of graphics by using a 1-10 scale, which means you don't get to fiddle around with advanced visual settings - the game automatically determines if your system can handle the latest and greatest DirectX 9.0 features. Suffice it to say, 2lions has the latest NVIDIA ForceWare drivers installed and I applied the new ATi CATALYSY drivers. The game worked mostly fine on both systems with the visual detail set to 8 (it was unplayable on both systems at 10, even though the image quality itself did nothing to justify this). Even at the visual detail set to 8, however, I did experience a sluggish frame-rate during crowded combat scenes, as well as other visible glitches in the engine. I should also mention that it crashed once during the tutorial, and twice later on during the game... for no apparent reason. Visiting a few forums, I learned that players experienced a variety of sound problems, in addition to all kinds of visual bugs. The latest patch fixes certain issues, so I guess you'd better download it if you want the game to work properly.
In general, the visuals aren't exactly first-rate, which is certainly a disappointment for such a franchise. PC version offers mediocre graphics and isn't much of an improvement in comparison to the console versions, even if you play it in higher res. Characters, environments and practically everything else is grimy and not very pleasing to the eye. The game's shoddy textures make it look outdated. Model animation isn't all that bad, but still nothing exceptional. There are a few PoP (Prince of Persia) elements, which involve Neo running over walls, shimming across buildings and window ledges. But alas, the quality of animation in The Path of Neo doesn't even come close to the slick and fluid movement of the male protagonist in the latest PoP games.
After a somewhat slow start and a series of disappointments right off the bat, I finally began to play the game.
Neo's path begins with a very thorough combat tutorial to help him master a variety of nifty moves, most of which weren't seen in the previous game. Martial arts training should prepare Neo for the challenges that lie ahead. The tutorial is pretty extensive and, on top of that, a mandatory part of the game, so you cannot skip through it. The good side to this is that you'll become pretty proficient at executing Neo's moves, which makes things easier later on. The bad side is that there are nine lengthy combat simulations to go through... before you begin your first actual assignment. That was just way too much for me. Two or three would have sufficed.
My first major grudge with this game has to do with the way the developers decided to present the story. Regardless if you're a fan of the Matrix universe or not, the storyline in The Path of Neo simply lacks the fundamentals of any story to make you play on. There's no real plot because most of the story is told via cut-scenes that were randomly picked from the movies. Let's face it; the movie's tale was puzzling enough. Merely cutting through all the crucial scenes is not the right way to incorporate an intricate movie plot into a video game. Essentially, it all boils down, to a collection of baffling sentences, which I'm going to paraphrase: "You are the One, Neo! No, sorry, the Oracle said you're not the one! But hey, Trinity's got the hots for you, so you must be the One! Hey, watch for that agent Smith, he's a nasty one! Ah crap, believe whatever you want! You must free mankind from enslavement, and do it all by yourself... And while you're at it, kill a hundred or so agents. But remember, it's not the spoon that bends, it is yourself!" Whatever. Frankly, such story-telling practically dismisses characters like Neo, Trinity and Morpheus, and basically makes the whole Matrix myth seem rather shallow and pointless.
However, as long as there's kung-fu and lots of guns involved, it should be fun, right kids?
I'll have to admit that the combat was fun and bullet-time was implemented well into the gameplay. The amount of moves you can pull off is impressive, and if that's not enough for you, there's a whole variety of ranged and melee weapons you can utilize to defeat your opponents - ranging from shotguns, dual pistols, Uzis, grenade launchers to samurai swords, axes, poles, etc. Almost every object, wall or ceiling, in the surrounding area helps you perform a new and effective combat move. Also, there's a cool RPG flavor to it all. Fighting against soldiers, S.W.A.T. teams and agents, awards Neo with more experience and energy, which can be used to increase his skills and unlock new moves and combos (and believe me there's a lot to choose from).
6.4 Above Average
Fun combat, plenty of cool combos and weapons to execute, reasonably lengthy, upgrading Neo's skills, sound;
Buggish yet again, lousy story presentation, characters lack depth, AI issues, linear missions and level design.