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The Matrix: Path of Neo

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Shiny


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PS2 Review - 'The Matrix: Path of Neo'

by David Wanaselja on June 7, 2006 @ 1:10 a.m. PDT

Set in the Matrix universe, The Matrix: Path of Neo will enable players to actually play as “Neo,” the central character, and relive his most important and memorable scenarios from the complete film trilogy, including the original film, The Matrix. Throughout the game, the path the player takes to resolve each scenario and the resulting consequences will be scripted and directed by the Wachowski Brothers.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Shiny Entertainment
Release Date: November 7, 2005

Enter The Matrix was hyped up to be the coolest title of all time, but when it was finally released, it was a major disappointment. I mean, it was a Matrix game, and you didn't even get to control Neo? Give me a break. Thankfully, the game was panned in the press, and although it did manage to get a few things right, Shiny Entertainment obviously took the disparagement to heart and went back to work on a Matrix game that would try to live up to everyone's expectations. This time, they've come back with The Matrix: Path of Neo, which attempts to quiet the rioting fans who are still dismayed with the first game.

One of the first things you'll do as Mr. Anderson in Path of Neo is attempt to escape from the Agents who have been sent to pick you up in the office building, just like at the beginning of the first movie. Strangely enough, this is the first break that the game makes with the movie. If you succeed, you can actually escape from the Agents and make your way with Trinity right from the beginning. Of course, being captured by the Agents is still a viable option as well. This is one of the coolest parts of Path of Neo: You can make your own choices, and depending on your actions, different things might happen. You can even choose to forego the whole experience and take the blue pill. Of course, the game ends at that point, but you do have that option. It's all very cool.

From the beginning of the game, you'll enter various training stages to learn all about Neo's abilities in the Matrix. It's like an extended version of the scene in the movie where Neo learns all the fighting styles and culminates in the battle with Morpheus in the dojo. While the training stages can be fun, they do tend to drag on a bit. However, it is almost a necessity to have the training levels, as Neo's abilities, moves, attacks, and powers are so vast that you'll almost never be able to use all of them unless your skills at memorizing hundreds of button combinations is god-like. It's absolutely insane how many moves Neo can pull off, and combat feels so much like the movie that it's unreal. If you manage to pull off some of the cooler moves that Neo can utilize, you'll really feel like you are Neo.

Unfortunately, the sheer volume of moves, though cool, is almost wasted on the fact that a lot of them are hard to pull off, and do require memorizing button combinations that most humans can never remember, especially in the middle of a fight with tons of gun-toting baddies. You'll have your hands full remembering how to dodge bullets and jump off walls, leaving you little time to remember how to disarm multiple opponents and break their necks. Combat usually degenerates into the easiest combos, but if you work at it, you can still pull off some cool combos and get a lot of satisfaction out of the combat scenarios.

Of course, Path of Neo is not comprised completely of combat. There are plenty of opportunities to solve puzzles of varying degrees of difficulty, which helps to break up the action and gives you the opportunity to use your brain for a bit. Some of them can be fairly annoying, though, and you might find yourself wishing you could just go back to bashing in some heads at these times. Thankfully, the game does seem to make use of straight-up fights more often than puzzles. There's also fighting during the puzzles, which helps as well. As you progress through the levels, you'll also have the opportunity to choose certain skills to upgrade, which lends a sort of RPG-like aspect to the game. Depending upon what you choose, Neo will develop in different ways, allowing you to tailor his abilities to your skills and likes.

One thing that you can be assured of is that the game will not be too easy. At the beginning, you'll be thrown into a fight with Agents and SWAT team members in the office lobby with which we're all familiar. Depending on how you perform in this scene, your difficulty level will be set at a certain point. As you progress and Neo gains skills and abilities, you'll be asked to put them all to use, ensuring that you never rest on your laurels and get complacent.

Graphically, Path of Neo is one of the best-looking games available on the PS2. There are tons of graphical effects at work, and the world is well modeled and huge. Each level is filled with destructible elements that can be broken and destroyed by bodies hitting them or just a well-placed sword swipe or gunshot. There are lots of details, and each level really feels like a new location, not just a scene change with the same props. The textures are a bit iffy, but most everything else looks fantastic. Unfortunately, Path of Neo does not like to run at a consistent framerate, probably because of how good the game looks. If it were smooth the entire time, it would be the graphical showpiece of the PS2. As it stands now, the game is beautiful but flawed, like a supermodel with a hairy mole on her nose. Thankfully, most of the time, you won't even notice that hairy mole.

The audio is equally impressive. The voice acting and sound effects are both top-notch, making use of aspects from the movies as well as new elements. The voiceovers are not cheesy and don't degrade the experience in any way. The sound effects, like gunfire, swordplay, and fisticuffs, all sound exquisite and really add a lot to the game. You'll feel like you're stepping into the Matrix yourself when you play Path of Neo.

The story loosely follows the story of Neo as told by the movie, and the game does show numerous scenes from the films and animated shorts to try and tie everything together, but the tale still doesn't really satisfy all that much. The adventure is fairly lengthy at around 20 hours, but the real length comes from trying to unlock the numerous extras that were included. Cheats, video clips, and other extras are all available for you to unlock, adding considerable length to the game. Path of Neo is a fun experience, despite its flaws.

If you are at all a fan of the movies, you'll easily find something to love in The Matrix: Path of Neo. Whether it's the insane amounts of fighting that you can take part in, wielding Neo's incredible, almost god-like powers, or just having the opportunity to participate in the events of the movies, Path of Neo throws everything the Matrix has at you and more, and you'd be hard-pressed to not find something to love about this game. Neo's adventure certainly is an exciting one, and the game really sucks you into it and makes you feel like a part of the exciting world that is The Matrix.

Score: 8.0/10

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