God loves, hype kills. Marketing departments everywhere are doing such a thorough job that it seems every other day, a new entertainment property emerges that is heralded as the be-all, end-all experience ever to grace a movieplex, television screen or concert stage. Usually, the “new best thing” cannot stand up under the weight of expectation.

If the universal hype machine had never been fired up, perhaps folks would just sit back and enjoy their movies, games and music. But as it stands, everyone is expecting the most mind-blowing, orgasmic experience of their lives every time they sit in a theater or pop a game in their console or PC. The second Matrix film, The Matrix Reloaded has been playing to mixed reviews, partially due to the rampant hype that has been unleashed by the creators, media and fans. As the tagline states, no matter where you are “The Matrix Has You.”

Enter Enter the Matrix. Developed by Shiny and published by Atari, it’s the first game ever to exploit the uber-lucrative Matrix license. It’s impossible to know what kind of game would have to be shipped in order to avoid disappointment, but it’s easy to see that Enter the Matrix is not that game.

Hype aside, what it is, is an above-average action game that incorporates cool elements of the film with a decent engine to provide an experience that is similar to Dead to Rights and Max Payne. What’s more, the movie’s creators went the extra mile to ensure that the game isn’t a rehash of what played out onscreen in The Matrix Reloaded. Instead, the movie follows the side-story of Niobe and Ghost, and their missions within the Matrix to help the A Team (Neo, Morpheus and Trinity) succeed. There is tons of exclusive content that was shot at the same time as the film that is inter-cut with the story. That alone is probably worth at least a rental from hardcore Matrix fans, and there are a lot of them in the world.
Enter the Matrix Head-to-Head! Now that you know how the game stacks up, why not find out which version is best? IGN Insiders have full access to our highly detailed comparison, including side-by-side screenshots, load time comparisons, and more! It’s also complemented by a detailed Video Head-to-Head!

Enter the Matrix is neither as bad or as good as everyone was predicting. It’s good enough to hold your attention, and the fighting and bullet-time elements are very cool, but the game is also deeply flawed. Chalk it up to a development cycle that absolutely needed to put the game in stores by the release of the movie, but do chalk it up. Enter the Matrix is not all that it could be, but it is worth a look as is.

Gameplay 
When determining what absolutely needed to be included in a Matrix game, Shiny and Atari got about 70% of the stuff they should have. The acrobatic fight scenes and cool bullet-time effects are here in spades. These two elements account for a lot of what made the films cool. Slow-motion kung fu and bad-ass weapons lay the foundation for the action in both the films and the game, and it’s as solid a foundation as any. The designers know a thing or two about their audience, and they knew that the fighting had to be great in order to sell this product. In terms of fun, it definitely is. The fighting system allows for a lot of context-sensitive action, meaning you can use your environment to create attacks and movements seen in the movie.

The focus system, which is the basis for all of these maneuvers, allows you to enter “bullet-time” (provided you have enough juice in your meter) and see your enemies in a sort of slowed-down reality. This effect is not new to video games. Max PayneGTA III and Vice CityDead to Rights and Perfect Dark have all used this sort of battle technique. But in those games (with the exception of Max Payne), it was often more of a gimmick than anything.

Graphics

Early in the development cycle, there were concerns that Enter the Matrixwouldn’t get anywhere close to the slick feel of the film. While the gap narrowed between then and now, it never fully came together. Throughout the game, the color pallette is a dull, almost sickly green, with a few muted grays thrown in for spice. That would be fine (as the films’ pallettes are not that much broader) if the textures throughout were good. They’re not. They vary from polished (the marble in some of the larger indoor sequences) to pretty bad (some of the rock and concrete effects outside).

Sound

One of the handiest things about having a great movie license like The Matrixis that the game music can be lifted directly from the film. Too often, however, game designers get lazy and don’t use music correctly. That isn’t the case with Enter the Matrix. All of the dramatic fight music is employed here, and it’s almost always applied well. There’s something satisfying about kicking ass in slow-motion as the awesome score from the film punctuates the action. The blending of one passage of music to another is handled fairly well throughout as well ,although there are a couple of moments where the music simply stops, then resumes.

The aural goodness doesn’t end at the score, however. This is a sonically rich game, especially if you have the setup to appreciate it. The sound effects from the film are brilliantly captured here, including the agent-morphing effect, and the Matrix-drizzle effect (for lack of a better term).

Special attention has also been paid to getting the gunfire and explosions sounding extra-delicious. There are definite differences between the cadences of the guns. Beyond that, the echoes and ambient noise surrounding the hail of gunfire (bodies being hit, tiles exploding, etc.) sound absolutely amazing.Also quite magnificent is the difference between real-time sound and focus-time sound. The “underwater” sound of focus is similar to the sound of bullet-time in the film, and it is a glorious sensation, indeed. The transition between real and focus time is also quite keen. Don’t believe me? Then your TV isn’t loud enough.

The Verdict

This is the most difficult kind of game to make and review, simply because everyone in the world has preconceived notions of what a Matrix game should be, and can be very disappointed if the game doesn’t live up to their lofty or idiosyncratic expectations. Enter the Matrix is a decent game. It’s not as good as Dead to Rights, and not as fun as Max Payne. But people want to play it (including me), because it is a game based on the films.

The fundamental flaw with this game is that it looks and feels slightly unfinished, from the unpolished textures to the bad camera and sparse level design. The fact that the game had to ship at the same time the film was in theaters was an economic decision, and unfortunately, that compromised some of the quality. It happens all the time. But no one wants it to happen to the game based on movies they love.

That said, it’s worth a play to see the extra footage and experience the bullet-time and focused hand-to-hand combat. At times the game makes you completely forget its flaws and hone in on the joy of creative carnage. The first time you pull off a spinning kick off the wall, don’t be surprised if a smile creases your lips. If only the whole game was able to capture the fun inherent in the fight sequences, it would be a true masterpiece.

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