The Matrix: Path of Neo Review
By Chad Montague |
We might as well get it out of the way and tell you right from the beginning that The Matrix: Path of Neo is a whole lot better than 2003's spin-off, Enter the Matrix. It looks better, it plays better, and taking control of the former Mr. Anderson is more satisfying than running around as Ghost or Niobe any day of the week. But more than that, Path of Neo tried to do things technologically on consoles that few other titles rarely attempt. Its Windows counterpart, however, doesn't exactly push the limits of its hardware with a surplus of particles, shadows, lighting effects, and animations... regardless of that fact that Path of Neo has a lot to like in just about every element of its production.
Speaking of which, when industry press first came out of E3 proclaiming that the game had one of the best uses of a license they'd seen in quite some time, they weren't joking -- everything about Path of Neo screams "Matrix" at nearly every turn. Whether it's the cool green coding effect you'll get during loading screens and pause menus or the meticulous recreation of the trilogy's most famous environments, everything you'd expect to be here is here... or at least, everything you'd expect from a game about Neo. After all, the story this time around is told exclusively from Neo's perspective, so the highway chase from Reloaded and the massive real world battle between Zion and the machines in Revolutions didn't make the cut.
Training levels teach you how to wield deadly tools of destruction.But one of the things that makes Path of Neo stand out is that there's still a lot to do despite its narrow character focus. When Neo is trying to flee from agents at the start of the first movie, for instance, players don't just have to worry about running from cubicle to cubicle before making it to an outside window -- Now Neo's escape is a lot more elaborate. He'll have to shimmy across various ledges, avoid agents and police officers next to construction zones, and sprint down several flights of stairs before zooming off with Trinity on a motorcycle. This kind of expanded storytelling bleeds into every other level of the game as well -- especially in the early going, when the brief montage of Neo's facial reactions learning martial arts we've grown accustomed to gets replaced with full-blown playable training levels.
Strangely, the training levels in Path of Neo are actually one the game's biggest detractors. As helpful as they may be, they're the slowest moving and clunkiest stages of the entire experience and aren't a good example of what players can ultimately expect. Unfortunately there are six of these levels in all, and other than the famous battle with Morpheus in the dojo, fail to have the drawing power that most initial stages in action games usually do (thanks in tandem to its lack of aggressive AI, available moves, and straight-forward level design). This is why I'm not surprised that a lot of my colleagues' early impressions of the console versions were overly pessimistic; the inaugural stages of Path of Neo really don't impress much at all.
There can be an impressive number of characters onscreen at once.But that's probably what makes the remaining two-thirds of the game are a more enjoyable experience. Because once you've made it past the dry and uninspired instructional areas, things really begin to pick up (and pick up fast) and that's when Path of Neo's more impressive elements come to light .