With the new edition to the Matrix video game category I could hope only that they didn't follow suit of the films. The first Matrix film was a marvel but the sequels were some what of a confusing disappointment. 'Enter The Matrix' is a good game although being Ghost and Niobe did not give us Matrix enthusiasts the true feel of the Matrix world we know and love. Neo, therefore, opens up a whole new realm of gaming pleasure...
The title of the game gives away the general gist and you follow the story of Neo as he travels through the 3 films. The scenes and environments you travel in are related to some of the main parts of the films. For example you fight the vast numbers of Agent Smith's with the infamous 'metal pole' and battle it out with Seraph to prove to him that Neo really is the One.
There is quite an extensive move collection with the kung fu fighting style adopted for the majority of the game. The moves have greatly improved from 'Enter the Matrix' but it was inevitable since you are Neo in this new encounter. The moves are quite easy to master and can be picked up by all different ages of gamer within minutes. However, you will need to master the controls if you think you can challenge the best fighters in the game or large amounts of enemies. There are some truly spectacular moves that I sat back and admired and some that 'Enter the Matrix' players will be familiar with. However some moves are uninspiring and do not really do the powerful Neo justice. Also when fighting vast amounts of enemies it is quite easy for it to turn into a button thrashing frenzy rather than a skilled approach.
Shiny Entertainment promised eager Matrix followers an upgrading system for Neo; they have kept to their word. Once a mission is completed an upgrading booth is opened and you can choose which special ability to unlock. More abilities are opened to unlock as you progress whereas others are awarded to you at the beginning or during game play. There are different stages of upgrading and ranges from attacks when running up walls to rising from the dead and reflecting oncoming bullets. I think that the upgrading system could have been improved by having an experience point structure where you earn points to buy new upgrades by showing style, speed and damage, not unlike the Lord of the Rings games. In Path of Neo you earn one point per level to use to upgrade on Neo, the more powerful upgrades are only valid for one level which is a shame.
A whole new range of weapons are provided for Neo. You can now use samurai swords, metal and wooden poles, axes and other similar weapons to defeat your enemy. I found the weaponry very slick and really enjoyable and is a good contrast to pummelling SWAT team members with an AK-47. Of course there is hand-to-hand combat for you to play with. 'Focus' is a crucial attribute to Neo's character and is effectively 'Bullet Time' as experienced in the films. Focus allows Neo to move and fight in slow motion and a new set of moves is opened as a result. You can run up walls and Neo is much stronger and more effective when fighting Agent's and other strong opposition.
The graphics have been improved from 'Enter the Matrix' but I still feel that there is a whole lot more detail achievable that would make the next Matrix game a dream. We may have to wait for next generation consoles to come out for this dream to become reality. On the other hand the story missions are brilliant. They are exiting and truly portray scenes from the three Matrix films as well as new levels that are not encountered in the films but help to complete Neo's path. A lot of detail is used in the levels and there is usually a good area to roam about in although there is always one goal that has to be achieved in that certain level so doesn't leave you many options. There are also training sessions you partake in such as being left in a room with kung fu fighters pilling in, intent on killing Neo. Also you fight Morpheus in a training programme and have to show him how fast you really are and attempt to hit him (The Matrix). The training programme I enjoyed the most is when you are Neo with a samurai sword and have to defeat the samurai master who is a skilled swordsman. This is challenging but highly entertaining.
Gameplay is fantastic and you will be awed by the way Neo defeats enemies swiftly and how moves can be linked to form powerful combos. At the start of a level or a series of missions there is usually a cut scene that involves different scenes from the three films plus Animatrix (cartoon Matrix). The clip moves through short scenes from the films to form a new clip which helps for you to understand the mission you are proceeding in. It may be hard however for those not familiar with the Matrix to pick up the storyline quickly and may be quite puzzling. There is still a large portion of the Matrix films missed out due to the fact that you are following Neo and never focus on any other characters unless helping or accompanying them in a mission.
One of the coolest parts of the game I thought was code vision. This allows you to see Neo and the area you are within in Matrix 'code'. When in code mode you can see through walls and find hidden items not visible to the naked eye. It also offers an alternate way to fight enemies you come across although not the most traditional. Neo begins to interpret the code as he progresses which is called 'Neo Vision' and is a new approach to a Matrix game.
Overall I had great enjoyment following the path of Neo and is definitely better than the path of Ghost and Niobe. The longevity of the game is better than average and levels are more challenging than in 'Enter the Matrix'. There was a slight delay when fighting huge amounts of enemies like in the 'attack of the Smith's' but it's what to be expected although I did lose the feel of Neo's blistering speed during these times.
This is definitely a welcome upgrade from 'Enter the Matrix' and provides advancements rather than tweaks to improve the quality of the game. It is great following Neo's story and even though the graphics aren't brilliant this is still a good game. Any 'Enter the Matrix' owners looking for a new Matrix innovation then this is it. The moves are great although have been done before and maybe better in games like Prince of Persia and others. But don't stray from the fact that you are Neo in this game; this makes it a ton more satisfying. Recommended for Matrix, 3rd person and hand-to-hand combat enthusiasts and if you fall into another gamer category I would advise a trial before buying.
8 out of 10