The Matrix: Path of Neo
Everyone complained about how awful Enter the Matrix was, but what did these people expect? The movie itís based on was terrible, and the following film was equally bad. The sequels and the game were an equal match. Now The Matrix: Path of Neo comes along and promises to take the best part of the movie (the cool action) and deliver an intense videogame experience. Remember the disappointment you felt when you first saw The Matrix sequels? Prepare to feel that again.
Unlike Enter the Matrix, you actually get to play as Neo. Starting off in his office and ending in a fight with Agent Smith, the game covers all three movies and even expands some parts while filling in some gaps from the film. Itís actually somewhat interesting seeing Agent Smith taking over the matrix in the Revolutions part of the game. There are even some interesting missions where Neo rescues people in order to recruit them for the fight at Zion.
If you havenít seen the movies and the previous paragraph sounded like a bunch of annoying jargon, then playing the game wonít be much better. Thereís an abundance of clips from the movie, but theyíre edited out of chronological order and the amount of quick cuts would give Michael Bay a seizure. More in-game cutscenes would have done a great job of transitioning the events of the films to the levels, but the developers were unnecessarily stingy with these cutscenes. Instead, weíre forced to watch the incoherent clips from the movies.
Sort of like the films, the plot can be ignored in favor of the action. The Matrix: Path of Neo should be all about slick hand-to-hand combat, a plethora of melee weapons, and stylish gunplay. Some of these things came out rather well, but others arenít anywhere near succeeding. The best part of the game is the melee combat. Thereís only one button to strike and another to grapple, but there still manages to be a plethora of moves thanks to the unlockable special moves and some diverse attack animations. As the game progresses, Neoís force meter (AKA bullet time) increases. Holding the left trigger adds a satisfying sense of grace and style to the combat. Evades becomes easier to do, as do counterattacks and powerful special moves. Being surrounded by a group of enemies and managing to kick two directly in the head, tossing another into a wall, and then grabbing the last guyís gun and using it against him is an exhilarating rush.
Itís just too bad the camera is as antagonizing as Agent Smith. The cameras angles manage to be a mix of the somewhat workable and genuinely frustrating. Walls and other objects constantly obscure your vision, making it hard to see where enemies are. This eliminates the sense of grace that the combat can sometimes possess since you just end up hammering the attack button in hopes of hitting the invisible enemies.
The camera becomes particularly offensive while wielding guns. The gunplay should have been great since thereís the ability to dual-wield weapons and what seemed to be an intuitive lock-on system. Simply flicking the right analog stick towards an enemy is supposed to lock onto the foe, but in the end, things donít turn out that simple. Switching between targets isnít nearly as responsive as it should be, and sometimes it locks onto an enemy above, so you end up staring at nothing but a ceiling while other guys shoot at you. Also, when you lock onto someone and kill them, you stay inexplicably locked on for a few seconds. This is detrimental in some of the fierce fights, and in order to lock off a target the weapon needs to be unequipped. So much for experiencing the exciting gun fights from the movies.
Much like the rest of the game, the levels are also uneven. For every decent level there are a couple lame escort missions to deal with. The fight with Agent Smith inside the subway station and rescuing Morpheus with a helicopter were intense, well-made levels, but no other stages could compete. Thereís also an abundance of boring training levels that canít be skipped which considerably slows down the pace. Even though the 30 or so stages are short and the whole game can be beaten in just a couple days, I couldnít help but get bored by many of the stages.
Another problem is that the tone of the game is inconsistent. The levels for the first movie are relatively serious, but things get goofier as the game progresses. The fight with Seraph ends inside a movie theater with the scene from the movie playing in the background. An unfunny nerd is also in the theater talking about finally understanding the movie. Thereís also an equally unfunny jab at politicians and videogame violence thatís about as subtle as a brick in the face.
The strangest moment in The Matrix: Path of Neo occurs right after a lengthy fight with Agent Smith during a violent storm. Right after he is defeated, the scene switches to two odd creatures composed of a few pixels. Itís the directors/writers of the movies, Andy and Larry Wachowski. They crack some jokes that are wildly out of place, and then discuss the new ending, which you may have seen the many ads talking about. In order to make the final fight more in line with a videogame, they just added a ridiculous Agent Smith robot composed of buildings and other debris. Itís all fairly silly, and to make things worse, the boss battle is boring. After Queenís ďWe are the ChampionsĒ starting playing during the final scene, I didnít know if this game was supposed to be a parody or not.
Keeping with the inconsistent and uneven feeling of Path of Neo are the sketchy graphics. Some things are impressive, such as the damage modeling and the slowdown effects while using bullet time. However, the character models are sometimes laughable, and the spotty frame rate can cause some headaches. A few of the stages look fantastic, such as the final boss battles in a dark and rainy metropolis. Other stages suffer from looking generic and boring, which was something Enter the Matrix suffered from.
At least the sound fares a little better. Pretty much all of the original actors come back to voice their original roles, although hearing Keanu Reevesí dull and monotone voice isnít exactly a joy. The other actors seem to sound somewhat bored, but at least the music livens up the audio department. Tracks from Juno Reactor, Junkie XL, The Crystal Method and others suit the game well, however it would have been great to have some more memorable songs from the movies.
I guess Iím partially to blame for not enjoying The Matrix: Path of Neo. For some inexplicable reason, I got my hopes up for this game much like I did for the movie sequels. That was a big mistake. Although Path of Neo is an improvement from Enter the Matrix, it should have been much better than it turned out. I have a feeling this is going to be one of the final nails in the once lucrative and respectable Matrix franchise.
Five out of ten