the writings of a mind

Title: Enter The Matrix
Genre: 3rd Person Action
Strap: We need fun. Lots of fun. John Walker chooses the red pill, dons his shades, and disappears down the rabbit hole.

There has never been so much hype. As this review is written, PC Format is still waiting for the film to be released, and the tension hangs so heavily in the air that we’re getting sore necks. Of course this means that we have not yet seen the film, and as such, shall be reviewing this game in such a light. And this is the correct light – a game is to be judged as a game, not a novelty decoration for a movie franchise. We’ve discovered a way to wash ourselves clean in an anti-hype shower, and now we stand before, glimmering and sweet smelling, ready to tell you the Truth.

No. That’s the answer to your question, and we may as well give it to you as early as possible. No, it’s not good enough. Enter The Matrix is not a revolutionary, moment-making, genre-defining game, and it is not worthy of the license. There is no escaping from this judgement – it had to be that good, if it was to live up to the cinematic trilogy from which it is spawned. The Matrix reset the boundaries for action cinema, and Enter The Matrix was required to do the same.

ETM is a cross-platform third-person action game, asking you to take on the role of one of two minor Matrix characters, in a series of tasks that mirror the events of the film. You are either Ghost or Niobe, male or female, sniper or ass-kicker – a choice you make at the very beginning, opening up their specific path through the game. Which means that you’ve got yourself twice the game for your money, as each character has a distinct approach to the tasks in hand, and later in the game, an alternative set of responsibilities as the pair of them work as a team.

The vast majority of the game is running your chosen character through the enormous levels of twisting corridors and occasional large interiors, beating up, and shooting at, the legions of enemies thrown at you. And so of course here is where all the effort has gone. That’s right folks, it’s bullet time.


Once upon a time, a game called Max Payne appeared from nowhere, and rather astonished everyone by introducing a new means of shooting things on your computer – slow motion. Clearly inspired by the original Matrix film, 3D Realms created ‘bullet time’ – a means by which you could slow time down, but maintain your regular reactions. It was fantastic, allowing you to dive from behind a wall, shoot three or four baddies with just three or four bullets, and then roll into hiding before they’d even heard the first shot. Despite Max Payne’s faults (too short, slightly weak level design), the ‘bullet time’ concept was so compelling that it became compulsive playing. And now the rightful owners have come back to claim their property.

Called ‘focus’, the slow-mo antics are absolutely at the centre of any merit ETM earns. Indicated by a slowly draining bar, the focus opens up your character’s abilities to an enormous degree, transforming them from a merely competent martial artist, to the gravity defying magicians that everyone loves so much from the movies. With focus held down, you can run along walls, leap giant distances, perform awesome spinning kicks, cartwheels, and punches, and best of all, do that run up the wall and backward somersault thing. The moves that can be pulled off during the endless fights are mind-blowing, frequently causing us to let out exclamations of "oh my goodness!" and "good grief!". (Can you hear the arrival of a ‘but’?) But, none of it is ever done on purpose.

Here are the combat controls in full: Left click – punch. Right click – kick. The end. Because of its console roots, ETM has only the most pathetically simple options of involvement. And since the bulk of the game is spent in fisticuffs, the bulk of the game is spent frantically clicking your mouse buttons, pulling off the most spectacular fighting moves, and feeling wholly dissatisfied with the entire experience. Even when using the enormous numbers of weapons available, you have no crosshair, no option to aim – it’s all done for you, leaving you once more doing nothing but clicking the mouse.


Of course, the thing you’ve already heard about Enter The Matrix is that it contains over an hour of film, written and directed by the Wachowski brothers. And indeed it does, and indeed at points it is very good indeed. There are some fabulous scenes, featuring what is by far and away the best acting in ever to appear in a PC game. Two that particularly stand out are the lorry crash, featuring Morpheus being rescued by a certain someOne, and a superbly acted scene between Niobe and the Oracle. But it’s their high quality that only makes the rest of the game look so amateur. Apart from the face design of the two main characters, the graphics never reach anything above mediocre, embarrassingly managing to look poorer than Max Payne’s – a two year old game.

Beyond the hour of film footage, there are hours more in-game cut-scenes, which while extremely well voice acted, look awful. There’s never a visual moment that causes awe, and frequently moments that make you shake your head in shame. At some points the engine is so weak that cars have hexagonal wheels. Explosions, of which there are many, are particularly dreadful, cracking into the seams of the engine, exposing it for the hollow casing it truly is.

So do you bother? It’s a tough one. It does truly add another dimension to the film, picking up threads, and filling in sub-story detail, all crafted by the film’s writer/directors. But this put aside, all you have left is an immensely difficult game with minimal interaction. (There’s no quick save, and the gaps between save points are often filled with near-impossible sequences to complete – especially when battling agents). It works, and it’s playable, but its remarkable fighting isn’t enough to pull it out of the average mire.

Reality check:
The entire world is an elaborate computer program, and you are a feeble drone, trapped and helpless.

Don’t Miss This:
The Matrix Reloaded has already won acclaim for it’s portrayal of hacking. Here’s your chance.

What is it? The hacking screen is available from the very beginning of the game, and gives you the opportunity to open up certain abilities that one might be tempted to describe as ‘cheating’. There are very vague instructions of how to use it, and you have to figure the rest out for yourself.

Where to find it: The hacking screen is available from the main game options, but where to find the codes is more complicated. The collections of letters and numbers that you are looking for are hidden about the road signs of the highways.

 A very mediocre action game, failing to live up to its creator.


Tech Specs:

Publisher: Atari
Price: £35
Minimum System: PIII 800, 128 Mb RAM, 4.3 Gb HD space, 32 Mb 3D card
Recommended: 1.2 Ghz, 256 Mb RAM, 64 Mb 3D card
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