Enter The Matrix Kinda Blows

I bought the Enter the Matrix video game, and I have to say that aside from whatever other qualities the game might have, it combines two of my least favorite things: a third-person perspective with a really clunky camera system, and the inability to save any where, any time.

The first of these is aggravating — you start fighting in the game and all of a sudden the camera swings around by some weird dictate of the code, and you have no clue where you are or what you’re doing. Hint to game developers, since I know there’s at least one of you who reads this: Nail the friggin’ camera down during fighting. A wildly swinging camera does not help me kick my opponent’s ass, and when I die because my camera suddenly wants to give me a viewing perspective from behind a box, what that makes me want to do is hop on a plane to where your studios are and unload a couple of clips into your workstations.

Enter the Matrix does have a first-person setting, but it’s unbelievably bad — for one thing, when you’re in the first-person mode, you can move from side to side but you can’t move forward or backwards. Who is the idiot that thought this would be a good idea? Another note to game developers: Look, if you’re going to give me a first person mode, make it useful to me. Providing me with a lame-ass first-person mode just makes me think you’re a lame programmer who can’t even figure out how to move forward.

Second thing: I should be able to save my anywhere, anytime, whenever I want. Why? Because I paid 50 bucks for this argin’-fargin’ game to be entertained. And I will tell you what is not entertaining: Having to slog through a significant portion of a level over and over and over again just to get to the point in the level that is so poorly scripted that it does not allow me to complete my objective in a reasonable manner, thus causing the game to stop and me to begin at the beginning of the level again. I can accept that I am part of the problem here; perhaps at age 34, my mad sniping skillz are not what they used to be. However, bad game design is also part of the problem. If I could save at the moment just before I am required to do a very difficult task, I could probably live with it. But instead I have to start at the beginning, several minutes earlier.

Never tell me I shouldn’t be able to save when I want. It really is the simplest way to get me not to buy your game. I’m serious about this, incidentally — There have been games I have been slavering over that I’ve not bought because I’ve read a review that mentioned that the “save” function was not under the player’s control. It’s a deal breaker for me. I’m buying the game so I can play it, not so it can play me.

Aside from these two major issues, I have to say so far I’m really not impressed with Enter the Matrix all around. The other character controls are very clunky, the graphics on the PC are twitchy (I have a high-end processor and video card, so this shouldn’t be the case), the level design is bland and the textures are uninspiring. From a the PC gamer point of view, you can tell this game was initially design with the console player in mind, which is not always a blessing from the PC gamer point of view. All in all, mostly a disappointment so far.

The game does provide us with more scenes of the very tasty Jada Pinkett Smith as a reward for slogging through the levels, but at this point I’m tempted to use the “hack” tool that comes with the game just to watch those cinematic scenes and skip the rest of the game altogether. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the game.


Stubborn Kid

The picture at right serves two functions. First, for all the people who noted that I looked fairly scowly since I got the new haircut, it is proof that I am still capable of smiling, and not appearing as if I’m 12 hours in to a weekend prison furlough. Second, the picture captures a certain fundamental orneriness inherent in Athena. Also her desire to ham it up for the cameras. But mostly orneriness.

Which generally speaking (and you must never tell her this) I approve of highly. Stubbornness can be overdone, but at the same time I like the idea that my kid, even at a very early age, is confident enough of her own opinions that she’s willing to get stompy about it. I don’t like it so much when it’s bedtime and I have to keep myself from smothering the dear sweet child with a pillow because she won’t settle down. But most of the rest of the time it’s not so bad.

There’s very little doubt that Athena gets a substantial amount of her stubbornness from me, since while my level-headedness and general apathy combine for a mostly-agreeable “whatever” attitude from me on many things, I am rather notoriously stubborn about the things I decide to be stubborn about (I pick my fights carefully these days). But I’m not the only stubborn adult in the family. Krissy’s stubborn dynamic is different than mine, a righteous steamroller to my passive-aggressive stalled truck, but it’s there.

Be that as it may, last night while watching Athena stubbornly do something (or more to the point, not do something), Krissy commented that she wasn’t actually stubborn as a child — that her stubbornness only really manifested itself as an adult. Well, you know, I found that hard to believe, so I got on the phone with my mother-in-law, who laughed uproariously at the idea of Krissy not being a stubborn kid. She related a story in which the young Krissy, when told to pick up something, would drop her hand until it was about a millimeter away from the surface of the thing she was supposed to pick up, and let it hang there, as if to say, see how close I am to doing what you want? And yet, I’m NOT doing it. Nyah nyah nyah.

Which made me laugh, because that’s one of Athena’s signature moves, that and its flip-side variation of hovering her hand over something she’s been told not to touch, on the reasoning that if she’s not touching it, she can’t be punished, but she can annoy you by almost-but-not-really touching it. This typically ends badly for her, by the way, since as a four-year old her motor control is not it all it can be, and she inevitably ends up touching the thing by accident. But she keeps at it. Hope spring eternal.

This news from Krissy’s childhood made me feel more affection for both my child and my wife, if that’s possible. In many respects, physically and mentally, it’s pretty obvious that Athena is my kid. She resembles Krissy no less than she resembles me, but those resemblances tend to be more subtle; this is an example of that. But I love finding things about both of them in each other, and I love seeing how what was part of Krissy and what was part of me come together to become wholly and originally something of our daughter’s. Stubborn is a family trait, but Athena’s variation is a delight to behold.

Except when it’s not. But for those times, there’s always the pillow. And the smothering.


Contest Winner!

Thanks everyone for the many interesting entries in the contest to win The Rough Guide to the Universe. Here’s how it went:

Third Place: “The Universe is a very short poem.” Very clever. And linguistically not incorrect.

Second Place: “The Universe is ribbed for your pleasure.” This one cracks me up because, aside from comparing the universe to a condom, it’s also not entirely far from the truth: Thanks to quantum irregularities during early expansion of the universe, the universe’s matter distribution is, if not actually ribbed, certainly a little lumpy. However, it’s not likely that was done for our pleasure. Even so.

First Place: “The Universe is… the beta-test version of the biverse.” This would explain all too much about the way things are.

So, Sharon, e-mail me your address and I’ll send out a copy.

For everyone else, remember that I have at two more books coming out this year. We’ll be playing again.

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