Back in 2003, the supposed Year of The Matrix, part of the Wachowski brothers mix was to create a videogame that would serve as bridge between Reloaded and Revolutions. While the game left a lot to be desired, it went on to become one of the biggest profit making games of 2003. Gamers everywhere wanted to ‘believe' that Doug Perry and his Shiny Entertainment outfit could develop a kick-ass game that would put an end to poor movie to videogame translations. Enter The Matrix allowed us to play as secondary characters such as Niobe and Ghost in the background stories that we did not see in the movies. The game felt rushed and in places and somewhat broken in terms of control. It just did not feel right. Shiny and the Wachowski brothers had made a deal to help create and develop two titles.
Enter, The Matrix: Path of Neo. The Path of Neo takes the player on a grand compiled journey over the trilogy, all from Neo's point of view. The game begins with Neo sleeping at his computer and then meeting Morpheus for the first time in order to take the red pill. Before really getting into the meat of this game, the player is required to go through a number of training sessions. Although most are uninspiring, one that sticks out is the face-off against Morpheus in the Dojo. Once you manage to complete the training exercises, the game begins with sections from the first film. These include classic moments such as the lobby scene and followed by the rooftop scene, bullet-time included. The story continues as you know it but the Wachowskis have added a few more side story developments that complement the story as we have come to know it. Throughout the game, a number of movie clips have been strung together to give the player a different perspective on the whole Matrix universe.
The game itself runs fairly smooth although there are points where things start to slow down. I have played the game on both the PS2 and Xbox and was very surprised to discover that the PS2 version was superior to the Xbox version in terms of complete visuals and framerate issues. The slowdowns usually occur when there are too many things happening on the screen. There are a number of occasions where Neo is taking on a number of enemies, whether it is in the lobby scene from the first film, or the coveted Burly Brawl in Reloaded, things tend to suffer. The rest of the production is brilliant from the voice work coming from most of the actors themselves to the adrenalin inducing soundtrack and accompanying sound effects.
Gameplay is mostly balanced except for the slowdown issue. One of the main facets of the game is to have Neo learn hundreds of different moves. While they look great on paper and in training videos, the fact of the matter is that most people will not be able to remember them all in such a way that makes them accessible to execute. When there a number of enemies on the screen, the moves you try to link into combinations tend to get lost within the bullet time and frenzy happening in front of you. It is not uncommon for a move to occur 20 seconds after you initiated it. This may be due to final limitations in the PS2 hardware but then again the Xbox version was worse in this regard. It may just be design where forcing slow motion upon already lengthy move animations, causes the over-the-top action to be displaced at certain points in the game. As you progress, Neo becomes more powerful much like in the films. Moves such as focus block allow Neo to stop and avoid bullets from enemies.
The longevity of the game clocks in at around 8-10 hours spanning just over 40 missions that cover the trilogy nicely. The final ‘superman' battle against Agent Smith in the pouring rain is about as exciting as it gets. Beyond clearing the game once, there is not much incentive to return unless of course you would like to show off some of the great moments to friends and family.
Practically every Matrix moment has been tucked up this game's sleeve. It may not a solid fighting game or as fluid as it could be, but Path of Neo will still satisfy the diehard Matrix fans, if there are any left. For everyone else, a solid weekend rental will suffice the curiosity.