Sorry, that was just my eyes vomiting, this game looks like a PS1 title. The models are terribly made, looking like a collection of rectangles with a poorly pixilated texture stretched over it. BUT EHKOS! Isn’t that what it’s supposed to look like? Yes, in the N64 era. Over the years, graphics specialists have been working on disguising wire frames and behind the scenes tricks to make things look more 3-d and more realistic. In the PS2 era, a game looking this ridiculous is unacceptable. However, that’s not to say this game isn’t pure fun on a small platter.
Like gamers have been doing since the 80’s, ignore the graphics for a minute and settle in for the gameplay. The controls are a little rough around the edges, literally, but easy enough to handle. I swear they used the same engine as Max Payne, but I couldn’t get the name off the internet. The gun play is made difficult by an over aggressive weapon spread, but once you go into bullet time, they seem to behave more. There is also hand to hand combat you can mix in at close range but switching isn’t seamless. I think this game compromises on the regenerating health debate because it has a health bar that regenerates, if only it stopped at 20% and you needed health packs for the rest.
The Wachowski brothers made sure the game was somewhat canonical, they released it in tandem with The Matrix: Reloaded. This game lacks the feature many were hoping for in that it doesn’t feature the protagonist Neo. Instead you play as either Ghost or Niobe from the Logos crew. Ghost will shoot from car windows and turrets and Niobe drives so pick whichever one you want. There is a mandatory driving section for Ghost about halfway through, so be prepared for that. The driving controls in this game aren’t very good and we see why Max Payne never drove. Not to mention the odd conditions of victory on the road, most times you’re going to be driving on copy pasted roadway repeating like an old Flintstones cartoon. The only way to win is spend a set amount of time on the road which has to be one of the worst game designs I’ve ever had the displeasure of playing.
That being said…there is a marvelous cheat code entry system. Shiny really went all out on this, you could almost say it’s part of the game. Taking on a DOS-like appearance, it makes you feel like a real hacker, so any fan of games like Uplink are going to enjoy this. There is tons of stuff to do, from unlocking a multiplayer brawling mode with two police cars swinging axels at each other, to unlocking a sword as a weapon. There are voice files from Morpheus and Trinity, concept art, and a lot of files to dig through. If you’re playing on a console the keyboard is going to get annoying but it’s well worth the time. In fact, I almost want to say go spend the $3 just to experience this part of the game…which does not bode well for the rest of it.
The game goes from random to weird later on, there are apparently monsters and vampires left over from the previous versions of the matrix when the Architect got drunk and decided it would be a good idea. You go tromping through sewers at one point, blow up a nuclear plant, cause a large amount of damage in a post office AND airport, and run around in Chinatown. All in a days’ work for rebel terroris…wait. With the patented matrix slow motion, the kung-fu and jumps, this game is a lot of fun, Shiny made some great set pieces and worked with a short deadline. And I would love to give them a pass as a studio and let them try again. But the problem here is that they already did, and proved that they were inadequate as a game developer. The “sequel” The Path of Neo, yet again brought substandard graphics, terrible level design, and just like George Lucas, the brothers Wachowski screwed up some major parts of the script.
It’s an interesting ride for whatever that’s worth, and there is not much to be found while playing through what seems to be an over-the-top terrorist plot, but running on walls, shooting through slow-mo, and cracking skulls seems satisfying nevertheless.