You know, I admit I liked all three of the Matrix movies. True, Keanu Reeves reminds me of a stoned out Hot Dog salesman trapped in a Grateful Dead parking lot and is nearly impossible to take seriously, but you gotta admit that the first time you saw bullet-time it left an impression. So I choose to ignore the general lambasting from the gaming press and pick up the Enter the Matrix game (in the clearance bin of course.) Boy was I sorry. The lesson here I suppose is this: Believe what EGM tells you.
To say the game "sucks" isn't really fair. What it is though is "rushed," and it looks it. For the most part you can tell there was high hopes and plans for the game, just too bad they didn't spend enough time on it for everything to come together. When are these companies gonna learn that you'll make more money with a decent, thoroughly tested game released at any time of the year rather than a buggy over hyped piece of garbage regardless if it's out in time for Christmas?
You can choose to play as either Captain Nirobi or Ghost, and the plot follows the events just prior to the second Matrix movie (and in fact ties in events from the Anamatrix to Matrix reloaded.) There is some exclusive footage to this effect and it's generally well done. What isn't well done is the execution of the game.
First off your guy controls like ass, big smelly monkey ass. The camera is all over the place. It has a tendency to get stuck between you and the wall, where upon you've gotta waste time walking around until you can get it back into position. Hand to hand fighting is actually pretty easy (using a simplified system akin to Virtua Fighter,) and it's actually easier to run up to a cop and bust his chops rather than waste time shooting him. The problem with gun play is while you're able to lock onto an enemy rather easy it's not easy to tell which guy you're currently targeting, leading to situations where you're firing blindly into a room full of bad guys, hoping you're hitting the right thing.
Bullet-time is activated with the X button, and I must admit it's cool (although not as cool as other games like Max Payne, but this is the Matrix however, so you can't say they ripped it off or anything.) Beating a dude senseless while in bullet time is pretty fun actually. You have a meter that slowly empties the longer you use it, and it takes a while to build back up. The problem comes with bullet time coupled with gun play. While regular time gunfights are confusing, bullet time gun fights are near impossible to control. You guy goes flipping through the air and stuff and it almost seems like whatever stunts and crap he does are automatic. You jump, hold the X button, and wait until either you die or everyone else is dead. "Free your mind" indeed.
Funky controls wouldn't be so bad if there was like actually cool things going on in the game. The controls aren't that bad that you can't learn them. But here it seems like the first half of your adventures in the dangerous Matrix world involves you (get this) going to the post office. Now a game environment can be pretty much anything and be fun. It can be filled with turtles and giant mushrooms. It can be on Mars but with demons. It can be filled with checker squared loop-de-loops and pinball bumpers. But the Post office? In a damn Matrix game you should be jumping off buildings, running on the walls and ceilings of leather fetish clubs, jumping out of exploding helicopters in mid air, and leaping from car to car during speeding freeway traffic while albino demon-rouge programs shoot at you with machine guns and two eighteen wheelers explode in a giant fireball from a head on collision. What is this Post office shit?
Well, the post office thing does fit into the story line, I guess. So I'll let them get away with that. I was expecting to spend an hour waiting in line in a highly realistic post office simulator, but I was wrong. Because in Matrix land the post office is not some tiny building with huge bureaucratic lines and crazy old people working the terminals, no no no. Here a post office is this gigantic multi-roomed government facility filled with swat team cops and poison gas. Yeah that makes sense. I was half expecting to see the secret postal service nuclear missile silo around the corner. This wouldn't be so bad if it was like, a level or two. Thing is the first hour of the stupid game takes place in this stupid post office, with you running through miles and miles of rooms with postal delivery crap, fighting cops and agents and shit nearly every step of the way. I had no idea the mail in this country was so well defended. I guess the Zion freedom fighters never heard of Fed Ex. They do overnight delivery you know.
After you finally get out of the stupid post office there are a few more rooftop escapes and such, coupled with the occasional straight up shooting segment. For the most part they are handled ok. Thing is you probably won't have the patience to get to them as the game seems to pause to load nearly every five seconds. I'm not kidding, every time you go to a new stage and sometimes even when you enter a new room the screen blanks out, the action stops, and you get to sit around for five to ten seconds staring at a loading screen. I really cannot emphasize this enough, because the game is rather fast paced. But any feeling of tension it creates is destroyed by the stupid loading screens. This is really too bad becasue apparently there is a lot more to the game besides the post office, like a stand alone one-on-one fighting mode with unlockables taken from secret hints in the movie, and even a whole little hacking subgame. Too bad that crappy loading times have to ruin it for the whole game.
So you're a crazy kung-fu bullet-time Zion freedom fighter, running away from cops and agents and stuff in the mail room, when after accidentally killing your 417th government employee because you have no control worth a damn the action halts to a ten second "Now loading" screen. And there's still like five hours left to the game, which means you'll be staring at this loading screen for like twenty hours. Fuck that. Sorry, the machines win. Please, whatever you do, DO NOT Enter the Matrix.
Graphics: Somewhat dark, but discernable. There is the occasional arm or foot through the solid object that is telltale of sloppy collision, but for the most part they look ok. There is no blur effect when the agents dodge bullets. I don't know what's up with that.
Sound: Machine gun fire, breaking bones, and sirens fill the sound effects roster. The voice over (and acting) of Nairobi and Ghost is decent, although a step lower than what's in the movies. For game acting it's probably oscar winning material however.
Gameplay: Fast paced gameplay which is totally destroyed by seemingly random loading times that come often, a lot, all the time, to the point where you get pissed off. Thing is by 2003 several other Gamecube games used various data streaming techniques to nearly eliminate load times, so to see load times here worse than the PS1 is totally unforgivable.
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