Platforms: PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PC
Developer: Shiny Entertainment
What we expected: The original theatrical run of The Matrix was as mind-blowing and horizon-expanding as the 1977 premier of Star Wars. Everyone who saw it left in slack-jawed awe of the seemingly impossible special effects or was stunned by the film’s intriguing, potentially franchise-igniting premise. Word quickly spread of a sequel, then two sequels to make a complete trilogy. Expectations were astronomical, obviously, both for the films and the videogame adaptation that would finally let us take control of the excruciatingly awesome Neo, Morpheus and Trinity, or in our wildest dreams, leap from rooftop to rooftop as the undying Agent Smith.
Above: What the fu… who the hell is this?
What we got: Two brand new characters (Ghost and Niobe) who would play minor roles in the tie-in sequel film (The Matrix Reloaded). So, right off the bat we’re not playing as the superhuman heroes of the first film, which was an instant “WTF?” for most of the gaming populace. This was kind of balanced out by the fact the game was treated as a serious part of the Matrix story, with plot points that crossover with the film and directly influence future events in the series. Sounded like a decent compromise… until it actually came out, revealing a sloppy, buggy, indefensibly unfinished mess. Even if it were a smooth experience, the gameplay devolved into using the same bullet-time kicks over and over again, while never once letting us perform the dazzling acrobatics that made the 1999 movie a permanent part of pop culture.
Above: Hope you like doing this… and only this
The main run, gun and a kick game was dull, but anytime the game tried to diversify, the results were even worse. Driving levels (meant to lead directly into Reloaded’s hectic highway scene) looked, sounded and handled like ass, and the final area played exactly like Sewer Shark, a Sega CD title that’s mostly remembered for being, well, shitty. Oh right, then there was the whole “lesbian kiss” fiasco…
Persephone (Monica Bellucci) and Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) are supposed to lock lips for a (VERY IMPORTANT) plot point. Naturally this captured everyone’s attention, prompting we’d guess thousands of people to play through to just that point and witness two very attractive, very popular actresses make out in a videogame. As the video shows, Smith couldn’t be less interested in the scene, which sucks for people who paid to see this, and even more for those of who were actually attempting to suspend our disbelief for the sake of an action movie. When you’re this stoic, this unwaveringly disinterested in the performance you agreed to, how can you expect anyone else to care?
Despite all of these crippling issues and venomous word of mouth, the game still sold five million copies in 2003. However, this botched game and its two film counterparts did enough damage to the Matrix brand that it’s never fully recovered. From 1999 to 2003, this was poised to become a major cross-media juggernaut on par with Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Instead, it fizzled in the span of six months (May to November 2003) and to this day remains stuck in the “oh the first one was cool but the rest sucked” camp. Subsequent games have been better (Path of Neo, Matrix Online) but thanks to the jumbled nonsense that was Enter the Matrix, far fewer people are willing to bite.
Dec 28, 2009
The Top 7... Games that don't deserve nostalgia
Honestly, they were never that great in the first place
The 15 worst-reviewed games of the past 15 years
We scrape to the very bottom of the barrel... and then keep on scraping
The Top 7... Crushing letdowns in E3 history
The most dismal disappointments from gaming's biggest shindig