Talk to me about the Matrix and the first words that come to mind are "Mixed" and "Bag". The film series from the Wachowski Brothers is something to take notice of, for sure, if just for the push in special effects technology and the countless examples of "bullet time" that have since been put into nearly every action game in creation. But then you have to consider the downfall of the storyline over the three films. The original Matrix was fantastic in itself, a classic, wonderful film that held up all its own. Then the Wachowskis did Reloaded, a follow-up with some killer car stunts but a story that really left you scratching your head. Revolutions, the final installment, ended up lapsing into chaos, a mess of a film that had only one highlight, the big battle between Neo and Agent Smith that looked like something out of Dragon Ball Z, right down to a vicious ground slam.
The game Enter the Matrix suffers from the same sort of crisis. There's a decent amount of things to like in the game, like graphic detail and the production values, but they're totally left for dead by the game's terrible gameplay and lacking value. Shiny Interactive, a company normally known for their offbeat and wonderfully produced games, suddenly found themselves having to redeem their reputation, and here is their latest fruit of labor, The Matrix: Path of Neo. In a sense, it's kind of an apology for Enter the Matrix, as it skips the mumbo-jumbo and gets to the point of what would make a Matrix game fun- controlling the "one" himself, Neo.
In the game, you'll hard-drive Neo through a number of scenarios from the three films, most of them instantly recognizable from the start. Burly Brawl? Check. Super-brawl with Smith? Yep. Fight in dojo with Morpheus where he says, "Stop trying to hit me and HIT ME!"? Priceless. There's a couple here for you. All of it is backed up by film clips, voice acting from most of the stars of the film (not Keanu Reeves, though), and some original CG that looks pretty damn remarkable, especially when you get to the first and second endings that the game provides. (More on that in a second.)
So is it any fun? Yeah, I suppose. Shiny's learned a lesson or two (or fifteen) about the gameplay and has fixed it up so that Path of Neo is more fun to play in terms of its fighting. Does it still get a bit stale over time? Yeah, especially when you're trying to plow through the so-many Smiths that hit you up, but at least it's got collision detection that's rather attentive and controls that can be engaging at points. Weapon combat could've used some touching up (ESPECIALLY when it came to targeting- yeesh) I just wish a couple of the needless segments and loading time were done away with.
What odd segments? Well, let me just give one prime example here. There is a moment in the game where you're actually given the opportunity to select from the red pill or the blue pill. Of course, you could choose the wrong pill by accident and, boom, your adventure's over and you're right back to the beginning again, where you have to endure such loading time before going back and selecting the RIGHT pill. I can understand that Shiny wanted to go for authenticity, but, really, was this necessary? This and other moments in the game (like the stale stealth run through the office when the areas are easily highlighted) could've been done without. I suppose Shiny was trying to follow the movies right down to the singular events, but, really, it's all about the kick-ass.
There's also a question about the game's performance. The game's graphics don't have the 60 frame rate per second polish as Enter the Matrix had, but it also avoids all the bugs that killed that game. Plus, to Path of Neo's credit, the levels are a lot bigger. However, there are points that you can clearly see the visuals chugging along, especially when you've got so many enemies on-screen and all you want to do is move ahead. Some of the gun battles look fantastic, but the detail just drops at times when it shouldn't. Furthermore, the camera can be a bit of a hassle at times. It's not too often, but when it hits and all you want to do is see around you, it's a bummer.
Past that, the game is quite an entertainment, and is sure to appeal to Matrix fans who might still give a damn. And kudos to Shiny for re-emerging their tradition of tacking on some bonus stuff in the endings, even though not all of them are quite up to par. I won't go into extreme detail to give them away, but here's my quick take.
Obviously, you know about the one involving a gigantic Smith made out of metal pieces that looks bad-ass (and, really, it is), but there's another one involving virtual Wachowskis in a hilarious piece. The third, though, bleh. So, ironically enough, they follow the pattern of the films. The first one's excellent, the second is somewhat decent, the third sucks. That about covers it.
There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. And taking on Path of Neo is rewarding for those wishing to tackle it...especially if you're looking for validation from the first Matrix game. However, it's not for everyone, as following the white rabbit ain't what it used to be. Oh, well, those savoring an experience true to the films finally have it, case closed.