Updated: Jul 6, 2020
A glitch in the matrix… or is that just the game?
Available On: PS2, PC, Xbox
Developer(s): Shiny Entertainment, Atari
Genre: Third Person Action/Adventure
Release: May 14th, 2003
First off, a confession. I nearly skipped over this game entirely in favor of Matrix: Path of Neo. The other matrix title that came out 2 years later which directly adapted the events of the movies from our boy Neo’s point of view like everyone really wanted when this game was released. The reasons for this might become clear as we go along on a pure game-play level but for now it was solely because I was afraid. Enter the Matrix has a special place in my heart and even then I was aware that it wasn’t a great game, but it didn’t matter, it was awesome to me and what I really wanted to avoid was being proven wrong. This came out at a time when I knew more about the Matrix canon then ANYBODY else. Whether that’s actually true or not is not up for debate because screw you, I wasn’t allowed talk to people on the internet back then to be proven otherwise so HA.
Ahem…oddly defensive outburst aside, the other main reason is that Path of Neo, on a technical level, is a far better game and when I decided to go back to look at it, I was really enjoying myself. But I was also lying to myself too. I won’t pretend to have any sort of journalistic integrity about a blog post, just know that it was more important to me, for the sake of these tie in articles, that I play the game that most reflected what these tie ins have been about and in choosing the right games to talk about. I didn’t want to play this game, because I was afraid I would hate it, that my world would be turned upside down and shattered because the perceptions of this game in my youth would turn out wrong and therefore prove I was stupid to enjoy this back in the day….Still reading? Awesome cause I changed my mind and here we are!
What I Remember
Obsession. Cracking the system. The Matrix is real, and it had me. I was all in on this gravy train and like the Animatrix before it I lapped up every morsel. The story, developed by the Wachowskis no less, fills out the backstory of the supporting characters from the films. Tying in key plot elements to compliment the larger tale and honestly just filling in some plot holes too. This was an intentionally made game that served a greater purpose and, on a story telling level, really worked. Getting to matrix run (it’s a thing) through a green tinged office building as slo-mo bullets whiz by, karate chopping the balls off of clueless guards and legitimately running in terror from an Agent were highlights that captured the magic of the movies. Oh and leather, unreasonable amounts of leather... and trench coats.
It was a different time…Just kidding it was a bit much back then too…
The dual stories of main characters Ghost and Niobe were well thought out. Allowing you to go through the same story beats per level but choose which characters point of view to play it from. This allowed for varied types of game-play too and while the majority was still third person/wall running/fists flying action it sometimes segued into driving sections where you had to either get behind the wheel to chase/escape the police or partake in an on-rails shooting section as the passenger. It even intersected with events from the movies to make you feel like you were backing up Neo, Morpheus and Trinity from the shadows and in a way explained some of their blind luck in those movies too. Though if you weren’t a gamer good luck making sense of half the plot to Reloaded...go ahead, I'll wait.
Back in the 2000’s, at least from my own view, Atari were a struggling publisher. Far from the gold rush in the 70s & 80s heyday of the Atari 2600, the company had made a series of missteps and while it still had a foothold, it was dwindling. Games published under the Atari banner were a mixed bag and Enter the Matrix was no exception. It ran poorly even then, the camera was weirdly placed directly behind the character and locked there, only changing for fist fights and an awkward (horribly inverted) first-person view mode. It was also incredibly difficult in places, partly because of the awkward control scheme and partly because of strange difficulty spikes…. but mostly the controls (you’ll see soon don’t worry).
But still none of that mattered. It was the feeling that made it sing. The Wachowskis who green-lit the production and developer Shiny Entertainment really cared and clearly wanted to make a good game. They even had a mini hacking game, using the infamous ascii table/ cmd menu that is used to “hack the system” and recruit Neo in the first movie and navigate those characters from behind the scenes, I lost literal hours too it. Playing over and over trying to figure out what it all meant. Weeks later finding a mini guide book (which I still have buried somewhere) that came with Playstation Magazine which explained how it worked and more importantly the cheats it unlocked. I replayed my favorite levels over and over and finished the game multiple times. You could say it made an impression on me I guess.
This is actually kinda cute….awh… look at him go, fair play!
Ehhh….. Would you still believe me if I said I had fun? You’d be forgiven if not. Look, this game gets a bad rap, and it did at the time as well. The controls are poor and unnecessarily awkward. Instead of feeling like a kung fu / gun fu master you kind of just…flail about bumping into everything including guards and more often than not only ever accidentally do something cool, like this:
But really, end up doing something more like this:
What’s changed you ask?
Well i definitely don't hate it so my initial worries are put to bed but it's now more like watching a good friend make a bad step after one too many, unintentionally hilarious with a sobering hint of concern. The animations are hilariously stiff, Ghost in particular has no neck to speak of judging by how rigidly he moves in game and strafing around looks like the torso is not naturally connected to the rest of his body. I guess in coming back to this one I've accidentally opened my eyes to all the issues I easily ignored before. It's not that I didn't know they were there, because if anything replaying this has just reminded me what I already knew. It's just amplified now, partly because we've moved on considerably since those days on a technical level and partly because I'm just a tad more jaded and removed from that time. Objectivity can sometimes be a bitch.
So... does it hold up?
Funnily enough, of all the titles on this list, this is the one I've played the most since starting this journey (as of writing anyway). I don't exactly know what that says about my mind set because objectively, if you were never part of that generation of consoles this released on or even if you were but never got around too it, I would be hard pressed to say run out and find a cheap copy somewhere and just pray to god it still runs on your system of choice.
It's absolutely a product of it's time in all the worst ways. Bad checkpoints, just plain s**t controls (that goes double for the camera), it runs terribly with a bad frame rate and has some really goofy animations that have not aged well.... at all. BUT, over 15 years later I'm still having a blast. This game (and some of the upcoming titles I'll be discussing) came out at a time I really needed it and all these memories came flooding back as a result, both good and bad. If anything I appreciate it more because I get the sense that Shiny Entertainment, outside of genuinely trying, knew this game had these issues, but rolled with it anyway and made something so bad it's good, you can't put a value on that kind of unintentional magic.
First image found here
Second image found here
All gifs are recorded from game-play by me, edited and uploaded here
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Have a great content idea that would be perfect for CGC? Contact us here and we’d be happy to chat!