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Matrix: Path of Neo Review

Developer: Shiny Games Publisher: Atari
Release Date: November 8, 2005 Also On: PC, PS2, and Xbox

Shiny Games dropped the ball with Enter the Matrix back in 2003. They rushed their product to meet the release date of Matrix Reloaded, and the flaws were evident in a game riddled with bugs and an awful design. Somehow the game still sold millions of copies and drove Shiny to create another Matrix video game. Sadly, Matrix: Path of Neo isn’t much better than Enter the Matrix. It isn’t as loaded with bugs and glitches, but it’s a game that could have been smoothened out with another few months of development.

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In Path of Neo, you put your arms through the leather sleeves of Neo’s trench coat and take on all of his abilities in the process. The story revolves around him, and throughout the game, it’s your goal to learn new abilities and the ways of the Matrix while also doing missions from the movies. In between levels there are Matrix movie clips that help give the levels some sort of meaning, but the clips seem to have been randomized. Any Matrix fan will feel the urge to laugh at such out-of-place movie samples. The cut-scenes themselves are actually better, and are voiced well by sound-alikes of the movie’s original cast. That’s probably the only positive thing about the story, which I never cared about from the beginning.

The fighting in Path of Neo is difficult to appreciate, despite having a lot of potential. Neo has a lot of moves, and being able to use them all is exciting enough to make every enemy encounter a fresh one. The environments break apart, making some of the fights as epic as they were in the films. The slow-motion “Focus” mode that was made famous by the Matrix films is also a nice perk to the hand-to-hand combat. The only problem is that new moves are constantly being discovered, so for a long time, each battle will be fought with similar moves and combos that become quickly repetitive. The controls don’t help much, as they simply dirty up the experience even more. At times, I’d hit more than one button at a time and Neo would just stand around being mauled from all sides by enemies. When the controls are functioning correctly, there is a little too much button-mashing for my taste. There is a single punch button, a grapple button, and a dodge button. I can promise you that you’ll wear them out through a lot of time with Path of Neo.

Now, moving away from hand-to-hand combat and into weapon combat, any sort of excitement goes away. Fighting becomes a disgustingly choppy experience. With melee weapons like staves and swords, Neo swings his weapon as roughly as a bumpy gravel road and hitting enemies is difficult when he turns as slowly as he does. Guns themselves just aren’t fun to use and feel very weak. The auto-aim system is frustrating and broken. Oftentimes after an enemy goes down, the lock-on cursor will stay on the dead body, making Neo run around staring at a corpse. Of course, while this is going on, the camera is spinning out of control and enemies are left shooting at you. The result is nothing but confusion, cheap deaths, and frustration.

The presentation of Path of Neo is a mixed bag. The graphics are really inconsistent. Sometimes the character models and environments look fantastic. The environments are destructible and the Focus effects always look like a treat. Other times, though, the textures are ugly and broken, graphics blur together, and the animation chugs behind a frame rate that is never consistent in the first place. The music is the typical Matrix fare, and the sound effects don’t sound very unique or explosive. Again, the voice acting is probably the best part of the presentation. I must say that the pause screen is really cool, as it turns everything on-screen into the neon-green Matrix coding.

I think Matrix: Path of Neo wasted a lot of potential. It was cool to punch Morpheus through the walls of a dojo in Neo’s training. But struggling with the awful controls and trudging through the repetitive, boring levels brings down the experience to a level low enough that I can’t recommend buying the game. After every session I had with the game, I felt myself wanting to play the game less and less. I actually think Path of Neo is better than Enter the Matrix, simply because there is potential entertainment to be found here, but I’d recommend a weekend rental at most. Morpheus was wrong, because Neo’s not The One.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 5
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 4
Final: 5.4
Written by Cliff Review Guide