Enter the Matrix
By: Matt C. on May 23, 2003
With hands-on help from the Wachowski Brothers, a massive budget, and more than two years worth of development time; one would think there could be no chance in hell of Shiny Entertainment messing up the highly anticipated Enter the Matrix video game. Shiny even had access to most of The Matrix: Reloaded cast. In a nutshell, Enter the Matrix is an all around good game, but unfortunately, the entire package has enough flaws to prevent it from reaching "must buy" status.
Instead of throwing players into the shoes of Neo and Trinity, Enter the Matrix revolves around Niobe and Ghost (both are playable) -- the crew of the hovercraft called the Logos. Both characters receive relatively little screen time in The Matrix: Reloaded (considering how long the movie is), but they have an entire game devoted to them. The best part is that Enter the Matrix's storyline interweaves with the film, so you get to see many of the things that are going on "behind the scenes." I don't want to give away too much, but for example, Niobe shows up out of no where in the film to save Morpheus and the game allows you to control her up to that point. In other words, Enter the Matrix reveals how Niobe reaches Morpheus to save him in the movie. There are other "behind the scene" type moments like this as well.
On top of that, Enter the Matrix has a nice amount of exclusive FMV not shown in Reloaded. Surprisingly, the bonus footage for the game is so well done that the Wachowski brothers could insert it into the actual film if they wanted. I thought the new footage would be half-assed and ultra crappy. Unfortunately, the new FMV doesn't have all that much action (aside for one scene), but it is still a nice addition to the game.
More importantly though, Enter the Matrix allows players to do many of the same impossible stunts as in the movie. By simply holding L1, Niobe and Ghost will enter Focus Mode and they will be able to move so quickly that everything around them will slow to a crawl. While in Focus Mode, you can also run across walls for a limited time, run up walls into a backward flip, dive backwards or forward, perform cartwheels -- all while shooting. Not only does it look amazingly cool (especially with everything happening in slow motion), but it makes you super difficult for enemies to hit you. Of course, you can't go into Focus Mode all the time, but the Focus meter regenerates rather quickly.
There are other Focus Moves that you can perform, but I won't mention them here because it is more fun to experiment and figure them out on your own.
Sadly, everything else isn't quite as solid as the Focus Mode. For starters, your movement is very limited when in a first-person view, so you must rely on your character to automatically aim his or her weapon at nearby foes. The auto-target feature doesn't always do its job very well, because it doesn't always aim at the person you want it to. Another problem lies in reloading your weapon. Your character reloads the weapon for you, but sometimes he or she doesn't do it right away, so you have to stand around for a couple seconds waiting for them to put in another clip. Very annoying. There should have been an option to do a manual reload.
With that said, I still think the weapon combat in Enter the Matrix is good -- it just needs some improvement. Hand-to-hand combat is a bit better. When you attack an enemy, your character will enter his or her fighting stance, you will lock onto the enemy, and the camera will swing around to your side so you can get a better view. Triangle is to punch, circle is to kick, square allows you to block and counter, and pressing circle and triangle at the same time will make you grab and throw someone. If you hit the counter button at the correct time, you can grab the enemies' weapon right out of his hands and use it!
Hand-to-hand combat is fairly fun, but the controls aren't quite as smooth and fluid as they should be. I also wished Ghost and Niobe had a little more martial art moves, because you often end up doing the same set of combos over and over again. Once again, hand-to-hand combat isn't all that bad but it could have used a few tweaks here and there.
To mix things up, there are driving and hovercraft segments in Enter the Matrix, but in my opinion, they are the least enjoyable aspects of the game. First off, the driving missions are extremely basic, which makes it far from exciting. When playing as Niobe, you are the driver and all you have to do is follow an arrow to your destination. You also need to press L1 to make Ghost come out of the passenger window to shoot up anyone in pursuit. When you select Ghost, a computer controlled Niobe does the driving while you do the shooting in a 1st person view.
Police cars will often appear in an attempt to stop you, but each car doesn't provide much of a challenge as they just constantly shoot and ram you. To matters worse, the driving portion is amazingly linear. As far as I can tell, there aren't any shortcuts or jumps that you can use to your advantage. The car physics are not all that great either. All in all, the driving missions feel like one of those $9.99 PS One budget games.
The hovercraft mission reminds me of Sewer Shock for the Sega CD, which isn't a good thing. To be fair, you only spend a couple minutes in the hovercraft, so I guess I shouldn't be complaining.
At a glance, Enter the Matrix appears to have a lot of replay value with two playable characters, but Ghost and Niobe's missions are basically the same (it takes about 5 hours to finish the game the first time through). No matter which person you choose, you often end up going through the same areas. There are a few exclusive levels for each character though. I just wish there were more of them. Lastly, Enter the Matrix has a hidden two player mode that allows you and a friend to fight as characters besides Niobe and Ghost, which is definitely really cool. However, as expected, there is a drawback -- you can't go into Focus Mode.
I hate to admit it, but Enter the Matrix looks like a first generation PlayStation 2 title. Hell, even as a first generation game, it still wouldn't impress very many people. Environments lack detail and the wall textures are very dull and plain. Things appear to look better later on in the game, but it is not a drastic improvement. I would expect visuals like this from a small Japanese game company, not a fairly successful company like Shiny Entertainment.
Oddly enough, the character models look quite good. Niobe's red coat has a nice shine to it and her hair looks just like it does in the movie. The animations look great too. Everyone's martial art moves and combos look very convincing and they usually flow together nicely. Although Niobe and Ghost's climbing animation is friggin' comical and ridiculous. Looks more like a puppet than a human climbing those ladders.
Enter the Matrix features Dolby Pro Logic II, which sounds really sweet when a bullet whizzes by your character in Focus Mode. And each punch and kick delivers the same "woosh" type sound from the film.
Despite all its flaws and shortcomings, I still consider Enter the Matrix to be a good game. I know I did a lot of complaining, but the overall package manages to give the player a fun opportunity to jack into The Matrix and perform all the gravity defying moves found in the film. I simply loved unloading my assault rifle while running across walls and knocking opponents unconscious with a well placed wall kick to the head in slow motion.
Even if you are only a casual Matrix fan, you should rent Enter the Matrix to experience this bad boy at least once. Just use some caution if you plan on making a purchase, because this game was obviously rushed.