|Matrix: The Path of Neo (2005)
Available for: PlayStation 2, Xbox
After brutally upsetting fans of “The Matrix” franchise with two second-rate film sequels, an animated collection of shorts, one horrible, horrible game tie-in (“Enter the Matrix”), and even less popular “The Matrix Online,” the guys over at Atari have hooked up with the Wachowski brothers again to deliver the latest chapter in the “Matrix” grand marketing scheme. “The Matrix: Path of Neo” is by far the most positive step for the franchise of the past few years, with highly addictive gameplay and a story that fans have been eager to control since the first film debuted in 1999, but it’s a tough sell for anyone who doesn’t still have the “Matrix” falling code as their screensaver of choice.
Anyone who is even remotely interested in playing this game has more than likely seen the film trilogy, so there’s no reason to say anything more about the plot except that you play as Neo during the events that transpire across all three films… sort of. The third movie (“Revolutions”) is glazed over a lot more than the first two, but then again, Neo plays a much bigger part in both of these chapters. Along with playing through parts of the movie (helped along the way with MTV-style edited cutscenes that jump and skip around way too much), new missions are integrated in order to create a more complete tale, and this is in turn the biggest problem with the game. It’s nice to see that the developers have produced these subplots in order to offer a more fulfilling experience for the gamer, but most of the time they are incredibly boring to meander through.
The real highlight of the game can be found within the combat system, which mixes mindless button mashing and fancy combos to create some of the coolest action gameplay on any of the current-gen consoles. You’d think that a brawler so dependent on button mashing would become a tad monotonous after a few hours, but Atari has done a fabulous job with keeping it fresh throughout, thanks mostly to the fact that there are numerous combos that you won’t even see until midway through the game. Equally impressive is the fact that they managed to secure all of the major talent from the films to return for voice work, because without Keanu’s voice behind his staggering likeness, it just wouldn’t have been the same.
There are still a few problems with the overall execution of the game, but by far the most annoying of them all is the camera, which not only tends to drift off in the middle of a fight, but is also just a major pain in the ass to control. You’d think that hours of maneuvering Neo through tight corners and across building gaps would make you a master at camera management as well, but it’s just as tough five hours into the game as it is when you begin. Still, “Path of Neo” is a pretty impressive title considering the combined failure of past “Matrix”-themed games, but this isn’t just for any casual gamer. Issues revolving around quirky camera controls, messy video editing and meaningless branch-off missions will undoubtedly turn off anyone that’s not a diehard fan of the franchise, but for those that do decide to give it a shot will be pleasantly surprised.