Before I begin, let's get one thing straight: I'm not hard to please. I really like games. And I like playing them. If a game is remotely fun or even partially enjoyable, chances are I'll play it to completion. This game though, Enter the Matrix, well, it blows. Sorry. I hate it and I hate the people responsible for it. I am not a rich man and I cannot afford to waste money on terrible games, which is what this is when you consider the price and the license. With the astounding amount of hype I had heard about this game... and I do mean astounding... I had expected something which, while not necessarily *amazing*, would at least qualify as good.
I will assume that Shiny Entertainment, the people responsible for this pile, were given gobs of money to produce this game, considering the license it is attached to. Well, good job, Shiny, for wasting a whole lot of money on I can only imagine what. And yet, naturally, this game was guaranteed to sell exceedingly well: it's The Matrix, after all. It could be a Pong clone and it would have sold well as long as they put Keanu Reeves on the cover, shoot-dodging little Pong ball pixels.
First up in my complaints about the game are the animations. Come on, guys. That's not motion capture, unless you motion captured someone with cerebral palsy. The characters are stiff and not at all believable, they run like robots, and they climb ladders like they're having a seizure. When they fire pistols, they hold them straight out in front of them like Superman holds his arms when he flies. It's not cool, it's not stylish, it's just dumb. The one saving grace of the animations is that the hand to hand animations are, frankly, great. This is a constant theme in the game: the shooting portions are awful, the kung fu portions are actually pretty cool. Sadly, the game seems to concentrate on the shooting portions, with long, linear levels and lots of line-of-sight fighting. Don't get me wrong, the kung fu is neat, but it's so underutilized in terms of level design that it may as well not be there.
Every so often, Enter the Matrix has a driving level thrown in, apparently in an attempt to break the monotony. Ha ha, nice try, guys. Next time, try making driving levels that aren't awful. The actual driving is reminiscent of the original Midnight Club: drive from this point to this other point using boring controls and unremarkable driving physics. At times, you aren't required to drive, but are instead required to lean out the window and pointlessly shoot at cop cars which are pursuing you while your idiot partner drives. And by "drives" I mean "runs into absolutely everything". I know that women are supposed to be bad drivers, but this seems a little extreme. In short, the driving-and-shooting sequences are the equivalent of the arcade games with the fake gun mounted on a swivel on the front of the machine, only the arcade machine keeps moving around and sometimes flips over, crushing you beneath it.
The boss fights are boring and formulaic. You fight people (or, worse, vehicles) which have much greater health than you. Chances are, you either win the first try or constantly get obliterated until you figure out the pattern the boss uses. A good example of this is the airport level, where you are required to fight a helicopter which occasionally drops men in through the ceiling while it flies back and forth, and which can kill you in about three seconds if it gets a clear shot. I sure enjoy hiding behind a pillar until a helicopter stops shooting so I can shoot at it for ten seconds with a gun. Why, I haven't had this much fun since the final boss fight in Max Payne! And if one helicopter wasn't enough for you, the very same level has a second, even more retarded helicopter fight, only this time the helicopter can appear in one of four places and the pillars you get to hide behind are much smaller. Now that's what I call innovation.
In fact, the only thing in Enter the Matrix that I would call "innovative" is the bizarre system you use to unlock cheat codes. You are presented with a command line prompt reminiscent of DOS (although it doesn't actually work like DOS, it just works like something that works sort of like DOS) and are required to 'hack' the 'Matrix' with extremely slow and laborious keypressing compliments of a little keyboard which is displayed on the screen. It was, at the very least, an interesting attempt to make cheating more than just cheating, but it comes across as obnoxious.
The controls (at least on the PS2 version) are ridiculous and awkward. To do a cartwheel while firing guns requires something in the order of four seperate buttons, and the bullet time button must be held for the duration whenever you are doing a 'special move'. Compare this to Max Payne, where you could simply press the button once to turn it on and it would stay on until you either completed the move or tapped the button again. Firing amounts to constantly mashing on a trigger and the auto-aim means that you can dive forward and hold down fire and clear a room without doing jack, since the autoaim will lock onto the next person as soon as the previous person was killed.
But is it The Matrix? Sure. You can kill endless numbers of cops and the occasional Agent, while watching grainy live action footage of Jada Pinkett Smith and that other guy between levels. It's also the first game I have ever returned to the store.
Clearly, this is a hype game produced to go along with a much-talked-about movie. It could have been a good game, even a great game, but it's not. Why do I keep mentioning Max Payne in this review? Because absolutely everything Enter the Matrix attempts (with the exception of the awful driving segments) was done twice as well in Max Payne with the free Kung Fu mod, which I highly recommend. Despite the fact that you can play through Enter the Matrix with two characters, this game does not even begin to appeal to me. In fact, the suggestion that I would even want to play through such a terrible game a second time is, quite frankly, insulting. And yes, I realize that the missions are different depending on which character you choose. Even so, I would rather slit my wrists with a wire potscrubber.