How Atari must have been laughing at the success of Enter the Matrix. Despite receiving a mauling in all but the most untrustworthy of publications, the game went on to sell millions of copies world wide. It seems that The Matrix is now destined to deliver mediocrity, with two sequels that failed to come anywhere close to the original movie, but surely the sequel to one of the most disappointing games of 2003 has to be a better gaming experience... doesn't it? Well, yes, it is, but it's still far from great and often teeters on being terrible.
One of the biggest problems with Enter the Matrix was that you didn't actual play as Neo. This was because the game took part in sections of the story that weren't seen in the movies, but seeing as he is the star of all three movies, this was somewhat of an odd decision. Shiny has seen the error of their ways and this time let you play as Neo throughout The Matrix: Path of Neo, playing through all the best moments of the movie trilogy. There are also a number of original sequences, and while they start off being serious and in keeping with the movies, they end up being rather out of character for the series.
For most of the 10-hour journey through the game you'll be taking part in fights. Some of these are small affairs, while others feature hundreds of agents on screen at once. You have a basic attack and a stun attack; these two moves can be combined in various combos and while you do tend to mindlessly lash out in crowded fights, the system works pretty well. Firing guns is equally simple, using a target lock-on system. You can even combine melee combat with guns, sending an enemy flying into the air and then switching to your gun and filling him with bullets.
'Combat is very enjoyable, and bullet time makes it even better.'
Neo can unlock new moves as well. The most visually spectacular allows him to see the world in the green binary that is seen throughout the movies. When in this vision mode Neo can see secrets, such as hidden doorways and enemies. Another move lets him move certain objects (such as bullets) with his mind, sending them in a new direction. Combat is very enjoyable, and bullet time makes it even better. When activated your attacks become more affective and you can see everything moving in slow-motion, with bullets flying through the air and debris falling graciously to the ground.
When you're not beating up some agents or other bad guys (which isn't often) you're given a few slight gameplay variations. On the whole these are very poor, with the stealth sections and puzzles being particularly offensive. There is a pretty entertaining rail gun sequence from the original movie, but on the whole you'll be longing for more of the standard combat, even if it does become a little repetitive.
In the months prior to the game's release much was made of the game engine and its ability to render a huge number of character models on screen at once. Well, those claims were at least partially true. At times you'll see over a hundred enemies on screen at once, but you'll also see a lot of slowdown and some of the worst models seen in a high profile game for quite some time. The game has a very rough overall look, but there's a lot going on in most sequences, with the environments being torn to pieces. This destruction makes the game's visual weaknesses more bearable, but it's still not a good looking game. It's also worth noting that the PlayStation 2 version supports widescreen, while the Xbox version doesn't.
Despite being an officially licensed Matrix title, the voice work isn't all done by the actors in the movies. In fact, Laurence Fishburne as Morpheous is the only main actor to lend his voice to the game. Everyone else is played by a sound alike, and while this might set alarm bells ringing, it's really not too bad. Most of the actors do a really good job and it's only really noticeable when an in-game voice is heard directly after some dialogue in one of the movie clips. Music is also good, but many of the better tracks from the movies aren't featured, which is a little disappointing. Sound effects are solid, but things do become a little crazy in the larger gun fights.
The Matrix: Path of Neo is a solid videogame and a huge improvement over Enter the Matrix. Neo is a great videogame character and many of the action sequences are great fun, but it's still not the game Matrix fans would have hoped for, with some targeting and camera issues. The combat also becomes repetitive towards the end and some frame rate issues make certain sections almost unplayable. If these issues don't sound like they'll put you off you should enjoy what is a pretty entertaining game.