The Neo game is here, does it exceed expectations?
The second Matrix game to hit consoles following the mixed reviewed Enter the Matrix comes Path of Neo, which follows a different path to its predecessor by this time letting the player control the one himself through all the movies in the trilogy and more. While some felt that Enter The Matrix was rushed to be out when the movies were released did the extra development time for this game pay off? Do we finally get the definitive Matrix experience on gaming devices that can stand alongside the movies with pride. Let's first start with this game's unusual production.
The game's development is a very interesting story if you haven't heard it and quite surprising as well. Shiny Entertainment released Enter The Matrix as a companion to the last two Matrix movies which told the story of Niobe and Ghost and what they were doing when the movies take place. The story was an original one written by the Wachowski brothers and even contained exclusive live action cutscenes filmed during the production of the movies. This was a very nice fresh approach to the usual video game adaption of movies and I think the way this genre should have continued in the future. But this wasn't the case.
Gaming journalists and players alike criticised Enter The Matrix for not having the main characters of the film and wanted to just play the scenes they saw in the movies, not learn something new about the Matrix universe. The outcry was so loud that Shiny Entertainment decided to make a game where you play entirely as Neo and recreate all your favourite scenes from the movies. So when the game that everyone wanted the first time around came out, was it worth the wait and everything the fans wanted? Let's see.
Lets start with the story. The first two movies adapted in this game are very well done (I'll take about the third movie later on). It contains all of the scenes you would want them to recreate such as the subway fight scene from the first movie and Neo vs unlimited Agent Smiths after visiting The Oracle in The Matrix Reloaded. It does quite a nice job of filling some of the gaps the movies leave but I find this odd as the whole point of this game is to recreate scenes we know, not to show what we didn't see. Enter The Matrix did that fantastically yet people complained. But I digress.
Overall the game is paced well but has some slumps such as during the 'Reloaded' portion we have to save random people from agents as we convert them to our side. Again, this seemed more in place with the previous game and will distract many players from what they got the game for. The story is told by showing footage from the movies then thrusting the player immediately into whatever situation the characters from the movie are in. It's a quick and easy approach to get to the action quicker which is good but if you aren't entirely familiar with the trilogy it can be rather confusing.
The combat in this game is fantastic. As you would expect from the previous game which has a very good fighting system this game is no different. You can pull off all the moves you see from the movies and more with bullet time never becoming dull during the game. The further you progress, the more moves you unlock and the more awesome you will be become. The gun play is fine albeit pretty simple but does the job in a game where using Melee weapons or your own fists is where you will have the most fun. Games like the Arkham series have been lorded as having very impressive combat systems but for a game that's 7 years old, the combat holds up really well and doesn't feel dated at all.
The graphics aren't the best in the world and take some getting used to after playing HD games the last few years but aren't bad enough to distract from the experience. The only shame is that they are slightly worse than Enter The Matrix which came before it but I guess that's more of a compliment to that game than a criticism of this one.
The authenticity of this game is very good but does have some small flaws. The biggest disappointment by far is the lack of voice actors with only Lawrence Fishburne reprising his role of Morpheus from the movies. This can distract from what is otherwise a very faithful and engrossing adaption. The bullet time and combat looks and feels just like they should and the look of the characters and the world including code vision really feel like they're straight from the movie.
It would be impossible to review this game without talking about the ending so a clear SPOILER ALERT from this point on. The ending to this game is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever played in my life. The Matrix Revolutions part of this game consists entirely of just the final battle between Agent Smith and Neo on the streets with the rain falling hard. Many people will be happy that this is the only part of this movie present but it seems very odd that even the Wachowski brothers themselves deemed this the only part interesting enough for the game. But if you thought that choice was weird it gets better. After defeating Smith in the street you may think the game is over. You would be wrong.
What happens next is pretty simple. The Wachowski brothers pop up on the screen, in 8 bit form, to explain how the martyr ending of the movie wouldn't make a very good video game ending and so have decided to completely change it to make the game more fun for the player. Still with me so far? A cutscene then shows all of the Agent Smiths on the street being pulled together, along with cars and rubble, forming a giant Agent Smith. Complete with giant sunglasses of course. Getting over how completely ludricous and insane it is to change the ending after what has been a pretty faithful video game adaption so far I could forgive them if what they gave was what they promised. A fun ending to the game. They did not give this at all.
What follows is the most boring boss battle in the history of video games. Dodge, attack. That's it. Dodge what MegaSmith throws, attack him. Rinse and repeat many, many times. Without taking one hit this took 25 minutes. If you don't die of boredom once you defeat MegaSmith you will then see film footage from the final moments of The Matrix Revolutions with Queen's "We Are The Champions" playing over the top. No joke. I honestly think the developers even forgot there was a third Matrix movie and after making two good adaptions they made the third one during the last week of development. It really has to be seen to believed.
Bar the games very odd and out of place finale I did thoroughly enjoy my experience with Path of Neo. I preferred Enter The Matrix which I think is a criminally underrated game but that isn't important here. What's important is that Path Of Neo deserves to be played if your a fan of the series or a fan of action games in general. I picked this game up for next to nothing this year and got 8-10 hours worth of entertainment which more than justified the purchase. If you are like me and still enjoy dusting off the PS2 every so often then I'd definitely recommend giving this game a go.