After seeing the Matrix the other day, I was left with a rather unfulfilled feeling deep down in my movie-reviewing heart. Disappointment is a bitter pill to swallow and getting indigestion afterward doesn’t help. This indigestion comes in the form of Enter the Matrix the video game which I’ll get to later. First I’d like to talk about the movie. Since I plan to do this at length, a convenient “read more” link is provided to ease the pain of an incredibly long post.

Alrighty, the movie, first and foremost, lacked in everything except for action and CG. And the action, unfortunately, was either over-the-top in places or simply went on too long. I’ll say this right now, to clear up confusion: I did infact enjoy the movie. It was a pretty decent action flick. It was not however, perfect in any right and talking about the negatives is always easier than the positives. Where was I, ah, the action. I paid my $5 fully expecting some action, and boy did I get it. Infact, I’d almost say I got to much of it. I’m sorry, that scene with hundred of Agent Smiths fighting Neo in the courtyard, it just went on for too damn long. Seriously, it was about 8 minutes worth of a 3 minute fight scene. It also seemed to me that they used “bullet time” in places where they wouldn’t have in the first movie. In the first movie it was such a neat effect that they used it to enhance the action, not simple during the action. Think of your favorite scene from the first movie. One of mine happens to be the rescue scene in the office building. The bullet time kicks in as Morpheus is running for the helicopter as a way of heightening the “will he make it” suspense. In Reloaded, it was almost like “well, I need to kick someone, better slow the action down.” Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

I also had a rather glaring problem with the underground temple-techno-orgy scene. What the fuck was that about? First, that whole speech he gave was a tad pretentious and over the top. Second, when you show a shot of guys playing drums and start up the tribal dance beat, that’s fine, but when you kick in the base and the obvious “I’m from a turntable” techno-track halfway through, you’d best be showing me a shot of someone on some Technics. Then we’ve got to have the obligatory sex scene that everyone knew was coming but instead of making it a normal sex scene we have to tie it in to the rave that’s happening next door, implying that thats what people do when they listen to dance music. Plus, it went on and on and on. What should have been a quick scene turned into one of the worst in the movie. And it still wouldn’t stop. Long after I was convinced of it suckiness, there was still 10 more minutes of it. It was a giant nipple parade. Can you honestly tell me that the people who were smart enough as children to realize the existence of the Matrix and got unplugged have all grown up to be scantily clad, perfectly tanned, 20 year olds? I think not.

There’s also a few logic bombs I’d like to drop onto this little fantasy world. To being with, when you jackknife a truck on the freeway, traffic stops. Completely. Traffic does not continue on and you do not have anything to weave back through on a motorcycle. This doesn’t even begin to mention the 20 or so cars that got destroyed afterward. And don’t get me started on exactly how many bullets a Cadillac can apparently withstand and still be drivable.

My basic theory about this movie is that the Wachowski brothers wrote a really big script, enough for 2 movies. Then, in the screenplay/editing phase, some odds and ends were added to help tie up some loose ends and explanations. So, now we’re up to 2 and 1/2 movies. Instead of going back and streamlining the movies, back into 2 or even 1, they extended it to 3. I’m sure it was a good idea at the time but this movie feels like leftovers. The first movie was great, and judging by the teaser at the end of Reloaded, Revolution will be a great finish to the first movie, but this just seems like “extra”. Extra is never a bad thing, but sometimes it can just be a little too much.

Like I said above, I liked this movie, I just found some real problems with it. It comes in somewhere in B+ range, with the original movie being a solid A.

And, now for the other bad news… the video game is about the same.

Enter the Matrix follows Niobe and Ghost from slightly before the sewer-meeting in the movie and criss-crosses the movie at random points. Like the movie, I think it’s a solid effort but just not quite there.

For example, the control system is completely screwed up. There’s nearly no cross-hair control. None. You walk in a particular direction and if an enemy happens across your path, regardless of what direction he’s coming from, where he’s hiding, whatever, you “lock-on” with your Matrix powers and automatically aim for him. That’s fine and dandy, “auto-aim” is a feature in many a video game, but there’s no option to turn it off. There’s also no option for free camera and free mouse movement, meaning that your stuck behind your character the entire time. Unless of course you’re in “fighting mode” where you’re beating people down hand-to-hand style. In that case the game jumps to a horizontal fighting-game style camera where you see the side view of your beating. Also, the auto-aim locks on completely randomly at different distances. For example, if you’re clearing a large room the auto-aim might lock on to someone all the way at the other end and not the guy standing next to you. Try as you might you can’t shoot at the guy blasting you in the head until you’ve gotten rid of his friend 100 yards away.

That’s not all. The game is plagued with technically problems as well. The sounds overload and make that horrible screeching sound when there’s too much going on at once. When a whole team of bad guys are firing MP5s in your general direction it sounds like a train wreck coupled with a chalk board. It’s completely unacceptable. I’ve had to turn down “effect” sounds nearly all the way so that I can play the game without giving myself a migraine.

There’s also the small matter of “sniper mode” or the shitty excuse for what it should be. You hit a button, the gun zooms in. Of course, since you don’t have any control over where you’re aiming your damn gun this really doesn’t do much. They “tried” to give you control in sniper mode but it’s useless. It’s about as smooth as truck-driver after a long haul. There’s no delicate movement of the cross-hairs, everything is a big block’o’target. Thankfully the game is stupid in terms of realism so you can aim at someone’s feet and hit them square in the face. Way to go guys.

Also, the video options are a joke. Regardless of what you have the game set at it looks the same. I’ve tried everything from “safe mode” (640×480, no Anti-Aliasing, no texture filters, etc) to 1600×1200 with everything on. It still has the same clipping issues, it still has texture problems and it still looks like crap. I was more impressed visually with the Max Payne Matrix addon/mod. It was smoother. I just mentioned clipping but it needs to be mentioned again. It’s horrific. Players heads jiggle and blink in and out of existence and the gun constantly floats inside their bodies.

I was elated last night to find out that a patch was released by Atari that addresses both video and sound issues. Unfortunately the patch did nothing. This is a more than typical problem with movie based video games. They get rushed and are never 100% done, so they’re buggy as heck and then it take 3 months to get enough patches out to make it playable.

The only saving grace of the video game is the extra movie footage you get that augments the movies story line. You get to see the before and after of that meeting in the sewer for example.

All in all, I give this entire Matrix experience a B. Whether that’s a low B or a high B will have to depend on how many patches the game gets and whether or not this movie will be sold on it’s own 4 disk DVD as a marketing ploy or I can just buy the 3 movie box set sometime after x-mas.

Oh well. They can’t all be perfect.

Matt out.