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Enter The Matrix

Tuesday, July 01, 2003 by Helly || [2 Comments]

Enter The Matrix
Overall: 1
Graphics: 2
Interface: 1
Movies tend to spawn all sorts of spin-off products. The marketing machine spews forth action figures, backpacks, promotional tie-ins with soda manufacturers, and more recently, video games based on the movie. As with most tie-ins, the related material tends to suck at best and suffocate children at worst. However, Shiny approached Enter the Matrix in a novel manner, making the video game another element of the ongoing The Matrix storyline. The game’s action parallels that of the second movie in the trilogy, The Matrix Reloaded, and full motion video sequences pepper the game (not a whole lot, mind you) featuring some The Matrix Reloaded actors, to move the story along and provide another connection to the movie. In short, Shiny attempted to make a game that complemented and expanded upon the world already known to so many of us via the movies.

Graphics/Display:

On my PC, this game seemed like a rushed PS2 port. The models weren’t particularly well animated and my frame rates were pretty poor. However, I only have an Athlon 1.33, 512 DDR RAM and a GeForce MX440, so I wondered if others with better systems fared better. For a game with recommended (not the required) requirements of a 1.2 GHz processor, 256MB RAM, a 64MB nVidia GeForce 3 or ATI 8500 or better and a Sound Blaster Audigy, I would have thought I’d be doing all right. After speaking with several other gamers, it appears that everyone noticed bad frame rates, despite the power of their systems.


Get used to the color scheme

Oh goody - crappy ads for crappy stuff in a crappy game
The game features a significant amount of the Green Matrix theme, so be prepared to feel like you’re slightly nauseous all game. Models are downright bland and repeated over and over throughout the game. Security, Cops, Swat, rinse, repeat. There are other models and funky creatures from the movie do make an appearance, but by the time you meet them, you’ll have gone glazed-eyed from seeing the same enemies over and over again. Mix in a significant amount of texture re-use and pretty soon you’re seeing nothing but slightly green blocks and jaggies everywhere you look.

The cut scenes, occasionally a movie scene but more often rendered with the in-game engine, allows you to get up close and personal with the models. Here you’ll notice that the facial mapping is actually pretty good. Unfortunately, everything below the neck is bland and blocky again. Luckily for us gamers, some of the most legibly rendered items in the game are ad-placements for Pentium 4 processors and Powerade (a big sponsor of the Matrix Reloaded, in case you haven’t your TV on in the past three months). Nothing I like better than plunking down $50 for a game and being advertised at while I’m playing.


Don't worry, they just run in circles

Holy crap! I'm playing Postal 2 again!


You’ll also run into multiple clipping issues in the game, as well as several places where the boundaries of walls are simply ignored by both AI characters and the bullets they fire. Items both large and small (helicopters with mini-guns a-blazing is a good example of large) simply disappear in places. Luckily, the game is designed so poorly that you can still shoot at the item without really aiming – you’re bullets magically go where they’re supposed too as long as you’re in the same zip code as your target. This leads us to gameplay and the interface.

Interface/Controls:

The game itself is a chore. Where to begin? For starters, the actual fighting is a pain in the ass with the keyboard/mouse combo. It’s not difficult, mind you, just annoying. You have to be right on top of your opponent to hit them, which makes sense, but the camera likes to switch views to inconvenient angles when you’re fighting, meaning that you lose sight of your opponents and have to fight both the camera and your enemy. I have a feeling that this game translates better to consoles, control-wise, than the PC’s mouse/keyboard setup.

Those of you who enjoyed Max Payne (and who among us didn’t?) will recognize the “Focus” option. This staple of the action-film was best translated into video game form with the release of Max Payne, and ETM just recycles it here because it looks similar to the slowed-down fight scenes in the movie. Of course, one could argue that Max Payne stole the idea from the original Matrix movie, but now we’re into semantics. Suffice it to say that, while briefly entertaining, using the focus option generally slows down your fights for no particularly good reason. However, using focus does allow you to pull off some cool combos, cartwheels and funky jump moves reminiscent of the movies, so it’s worth it for that alone. Unfortunately, you won’t find it a necessary part of the gameplay and may realize that you’ve worked your way through an entire level without any use of the Focus option.


Yay! More ads! I spent how much on this game?

There's gotta be a way outta here


The AI in this game is very poor. Here’s an example: I played as Ghost and early on I was riding shotgun for Niobe as we escaped the first level Post-Office. I do believe that a three-year-old chimp on methamphetamines could have driven the car better than Niobe’s AI. The amount of times we ended up in walls, stuck against obstacles or simply upside down made me want to get out and walk shotgun instead. Luckily, the developers seemed to realize how inept their AI was, so when the car went upside down, it just righted itself automatically. Of course, these sorts of fixes do throw off the game-immersion factor. Not helping the immersion was the fact that, for some reason, I possessed unlimited ammo with my sub machinegun while I was riding, as opposed to when I was out of the car. This could be rationalized as me picking up clips from the backseat, but for crissakes, at least put in a reload sequence after I chew through 30 rounds.

AI problems also arose with the guards and police who run into multiple pathing issues. Sometimes they’ll get stuck running around a pillar, other times they’ll be running in a tight circle for no apparent reason and still other times they’ll seem incapable of getting out from behind where they’re hiding. Don’t worry though, because not only can they see through walls, but they can shoot through them too.

Level design is sub-par throughout. In fact, the entire airport mission can be seen as one giant example of how to develop thoroughly uninteresting and underutilized levels. It can also be viewed as a wonderful example of how to recycle textures, but probably shouldn’t.

Making all this below-average game design experience even less enjoyable are the actual controls of the game. The default controls for the game are not well mapped out for PC use. They may be better using console controllers, but since I don’t play console games, I don’t know. All I know is that trying to control my character while fighting was a pain in the butt.

My major gripe is the way the weapons work. You have a gray crosshair as your reference point for your weapons. See it? Ok, now say goodbye to it, because you won’t be able to use it. As soon as you get into a combat situation, the crosshair becomes all but invisible. This doesn’t matter, because you have no control of where your bullets go anyway. Just shoot in the direction of your target, and an auto-aim feature takes over for you. Mouse control of your aim at this point is worse than useless; it’s downright frustrating, as it has no visible effect on your projectile’s targeting. This snafu gets significantly worse when it comes to the sniper rifle. Feel free to zoom in an out and try to target enemies, but don’t worry about completing missions that are dependent upon your aim – all you have to do is shoot in the general direction of your target, even if it's invisible in your crosshairs because you haven’t zoomed up to it (and yes, I've done this), and you’ll nail it, dead to rights. By the way, your default zoom keys are 3 and 4, which can only hint at how much fun it is to cycle through weapons with your keyboard.

Level switching is another bone of contention between this game and me. When I, as a gamer, get a mission to complete, I want to complete it and earn the reward of moving the plot forward. ETM has decided that the gamer doesn’t need to actually complete most tasks, as long as I get the character close to completion. Once I’m in range of my goal, poof! Cutscene time, short movie of my character doing what I thought I was going to be doing and then it’s onto the next level. It’s as though the developers felt that the last steps of a mission might be too much for a player to contend with, so they sacrificed them in order to keep the game flowing. Perhaps this was a concession to my last major gripe?

Save game settings are horrendous. Why a game developer makes a game without an option to save your progress as and when the gamer wants is still beyond me. Setting up arbitrary game-save points drives me nuts, as those of you who have read my Mafia review know. Unlike Mafia, Shiny spaced the save game points close enough that even if you do need to reload, you will only have to work your way through part of a level to get to where you were before. So this is less of a game-breaker and more of an annoyance for this reviewer.

There was a mildly entertaining feature of the game called 'Hacking' in which you enter something akin to a command-line interface, a la DOS (but not really that similar). Within this interface, you can view floor plans, drop items for yourself and so on. This is also the place where you can enter cheats. The hacking module is completely independent of the actual game (it's in the start menu) and is worth playing around with, as it can be somewhat entertaining. I recommend you play around in the different folders - the game provides you hints as you explore to help keep you moving.

Multiplayer (if any):

Multiplayer? Multiplayer? We don’t need no stinking multiplayer!

Summary:

This game could have served as a very cool bridge or expansion for the movie in-stores now, but with the poor design and inane controls, the game is just too frustrating to play. Add to this a few FMV sections where Jada Pinkett-Smith appears to be acting while encased in transparent steel (read: she ain’t acting, she’s reading lines with a scowl) and you’ve got a story line that grinds ahead with all the excitement of a 2mph freight train ride. doesn’t proceed all that well or reveal all that much that is of any interest outside the movie.

I'll be 100% honest: I didn't finish the game, although it appeared easy enough to do so. I just got to a point where launching the game invoked pain in my brain that was akin to hammering my fingers with a brick, so I stopped.

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