Thursday, 1 May 2003

Archive Review: Enter the Matrix

(PS2, Xbox, Gamcube, PC Review)

When Enter the Matrix was due for release there was excitement amongst Matrix fans and gamers alike. It boasted over 1000 motion captured martial arts moves, integral plot with amazing and exclusive DVD quality extra footage, and more importantly the developers dubbed it as:

"The next generation in digital entertainment."

If this game is a sign of the next generation in gaming then that means that the next generation of games will be bugged, repetitive, overly hyped, and lacking in the gameplay department.

Enter the Matrix is a third person action game where you can shoot or fight - it's a lot like Max Payne with the Kung-Fu Mod. What was meant to be so special about ETM though was that it was in the Matrix world. This means bullet time, insane martial arts moves, running up walls, actually Max Payne with the Kung-Fu mod has all that...

I was one of the excited gamers to get my hands on this. I was hoping for a really good scrolling beat em up (Streets of Rage series) with gun fighting elements and bullet time which worked with martial arts. ETM gave me all of this and to begin with I was in heaven. My first encounters with inept security guards was bliss. The camera tracked in for a more cinematic angle on the action and I performed a series of ace moves in slow motion of course. My excitement continued as I worked my way through the first level, I was now sussing the controls and getting the hang of it. Before long I knew the controls and could block enemy punches, counter, throw, and punch/kick back with ease. I could run up walls, cartwheel whilst shooting from the hip, flip, dive, perform a polka dance for small change... it was really fun.

That initial fun then begun to alter to that of, "Okay I have already performed that throw twice in the space of 1 minute now". "I've seen this move so many times". I ran out of variety. 1000 martial arts moves? Try 30, at most. This game promised the best fight engine ever created, instead we have abysmally poor ai running at you with you pressing an attack key to swiftly end them. They are no challenge at all, even when you are up against 5 at one time. The on-screen number never really exceeds about 5 either, so don't expect any Matrix Reloaded style fights with dozens upon dozens of agents or cops. What about the gun fights? In bullet time (the max payne term for the matrix slow motion panning effect) gun fights are cool. They are cool, but just not as cool as Max Payne. You get no cross hair and instead it auto-aims at the enemy. You can select your target but cannot aim manually at things. Old school? No, just piss poor.

The level structure is akin to Sonic the Hedgehog. You start at point A and must get to point B but to get to point B you must work your way through a pre-set linear pathway with shockingly unchallenging A.I placed to try and kill you. Once you pass these obstacles and reach B you are faced with... an end of level Boss! Yes, this game has last level Bosses. They are just like the stereotype in your head too: think crappy unfair big things that attack you in a repeated pattern which can easily be memorised. Once memorised you know when to strike and know when to hide, and eventually work the Bosses energy bar down until it either dies or blows up to reveal another form of the Boss, like a SWAT helicopter without a chaingun, so it starts using a rocket launcher.

One of the most tedious aspects of this game is that it does not allow you to control the camera. What drives you crazy though is that this game, on the console versions, only uses one analog stick! There is an entire stick free! Why didn't they allow this stick to control the camera, like Splinter Cell? Why? I demand to know why? It defies logic, and intelligence? Did they just not think about it? I thought this game cost more money to make than any other in history!

Is there anything good to say about ETM? Okay, it can be fun. This fun factor relies on the player enjoying the cool looking fights but over and over again. I do not doubt that this game has the best looking visual representation of martial arts action ever, what I doubt is that the martial arts action plays well. The game needs more moves, and tougher A.I who block and actually fight you instead of standing there saying: "Hey, you shouldn't be here" whilst pitifully trying to slap you. Do I care that the voice of that A.I guard yelling at you is really good acting from a highly paid professional voice artist? Do I Moses.

Graphics and Sound

Etm has pretty neat visuals. The characters look good, I played as Ghost and he looked like the onscreen guy. He had a goaty, sunglasses, black suite with tie, and sideburns. Niobe looks fine too. The motion capturing is very impressive. But imagine if it wasn't? The Brothers Grim themselves (Matrix trilogy directors) commented on this game using the best motion capturing technology available. Too damn right this game has good animation. But did I mention it's by far from perfect? The next generation in digital technology does involve clipping issues, bad connection timing (sometimes chars look like they are getting hit when there is a foot of air between them and the fist). This makes it often seem like an episode of the 60s series of Batman. I wanted to see "Pow" and "Boof" in bubbles over the heads of the enemy. It just didn't happen for me.

The sound? Ah well here we have a strong point. The sound comes in two parts... 70s kung fu movie style "doosh's", "umpffs", "ushh's" and I could have sworn I heard the bloke with the long hair from Karate kid 3 go "Ha-Sah" once at least. Maybe I had the tv on. But then there is the music! The diagetic music is sweet. Most of it comes from the Matrix movies with a decent array of techno rhythms which go well with the action. But there were so many moments I just got pissed of. I was close to lobbing my ps2 controller at the tv when I was in a section of level 3 that basically recreates the gunfight from The Matrix in the Skyscraper Lobby. Pillars can be shot up with tiles cracking and police charge you. Remember the devs are the film makers too with all the music licenses... Did they play the music that was played in this scene in the film? Did they jack! In fact the music was lame at this point, not fast paced or cool in anyway. The diagetic music is bugged and often won't boot up fast beats in combat at all. Cackness.

Before I finish this review... I have to mention the fact this games boasts "driving action". Sure this game has a car... you shoot from the roof as which ever character your not playing as drives (the A.I drives). You race down a street with an mp5 that oddly has unlimited ammo and never needs reloading. So you just never let go of the trigger and the insanely thick police cars chasing you blow up or drive into the back of you and blow up. I suddenly realised when playing this, do you even need to shoot? Nope, just sit back and enjoy the view of stock city textures as suicidal police cars drive into you and blow up.

I have one message for the world when it comes to this game: Let the film makers make movies, the games developers develop games, the chef's cook food, and the dossers doss.

Note how I have not mentioned the fact this game has been advertised as having "extra" and "exclusive" footage of the Matrix Reloaded story. The content is good, but this aint a film! I consider this addition simply an attempt to sell more units.

This game is a sham! Another piss poor movie tie in, keep clear or rent it.



Fighting looks cool, very neat music, novel "hacking" console for cheats.


Shoddier than a shodmeister, buggier than buggsville, repetitive, very un-inspired.


The next generation in digital entertainment sucks

by The Critical Alien
© 2003

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