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.

28 Comments on “Enter The Matrix Kinda Blows”

  1. Whew. If nobody gives you a trophy for being right on the money, I will.

    (It may be tacky and made of cheap plastic, however.)

    I play mostly console games, so I can’t make save-anywhere-like-you-ought a dealbreaker for games. It still really annoys me, though. Metroid Prime is a–erm–prime example: hit four awkward-to-reach buttons in order to gain access to the boss. Now, either wind the game back for four minutes or so to get to the last save point (which may not actually save the access state) or win. There is no save point just before the boss (that appears on the map, anyway). If I lose, I have to walk through it all over again. I hate that.

    Usually I get around it by not turning the console off. The GameCube’s been on for about two weeks now. I’ve been playing Ico instead.

  2. This may be an incredibly stupid question – sorry. You say:

    “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.”

    What exactly is the difference between a PC gamer and a console gamer? I suppose I fall into the second category (OK, I probably play so little that I don’t qualify as a “gamer” at all), but it is mostly for technical reasons – I have a really crappy computer at home, so most PC games are out of reach. I don’t like to put them on my “good” comptuer since it is a laptop and I have visions of pounding my hard-to-replace keyboard to bits when playing action games.

    So I content myself with my PlayStation 2, which I had the good luck to win the year they came out.

    So, completely clueless, what is the difference in approach for console games vs PC games?

  3. That’s rather a shame. The game was built up with almost as much hype as the movie, as long as you were in the gamer circles. It even transcended typical gaming mags and made it’s way into side bars of Matrix stories in Time and several other mainstream magazines. It was touted as a game that was overseen by the Wachowski brothers, along with the fact that they were, indeed, gamers. You’d think a pair of guys supposedly jacked into pop culture would realize what a good game should have in it.

    A good camera is paramount. No matter how good a game is, if my eyes get stuck in some wall just as I’m about to unleash holy hell on an army of demons, it ruins the experience. The game obviously evolved from a console-centric seed, otherwise you would be able to save anywhere. You think they’d at least put it into the PC port, but rushing something to have it out in time for the movie is never a good idea.

    Shame, though, it was such a brilliant concept. Make a game stand alone, but at the same time have it fill in bits and pieces of a bigger story. They could have spent more time on it. Sounds like a rental, at most.

    By the way, one of my favorite parts of the movie was right before the car chase. They stuck a sign on the tall median that said, “55 and stay alive”, I had to laugh. Notice it in the game?

  4. “So, completely clueless, what is the difference in approach for console games vs PC games?”

    Apart from the obvious, there isn’t much, technically. This is a design philosophy held over from the old days, when PlayStations had 2 MB RAM and N64s had as much as 8MB RAM to work with and consoles had very little space for saving game data. It made sense then, but these days, it simply doesn’t make sense anymore. Games like Zelda: Wind Waker show that doesn’t have to be done the old way (although even Zelda hesitates a little, there.)

    Consoles are–in a lot of ways–as powerful or more powerful than desktops these days. There’s simply no good reason to not save anywhere where you are anymore.

    Or, at the very least, put a save point where it matters the most.

  5. Sara asks:

    “So, completely clueless, what is the difference in approach for console games vs PC games?”

    A lot of it has to do with controls, actually. PCs, with their mouses and keyboards, are better for certain types of games like first person shooters (which benefit from the fluid movement and precision of the mouse) and complex strategy games (which utilize most if not all of a keyboard). Console are better for fighting games and for sports games, where joysticks and button combinations are really important.

    “Enter the Matrix” is definitely designed with consoles in mind, because many of the moves you need are combo moves (perfect for a keypad), and the because things like targeting enemies with guns are done with an auto-lock, which is good for console (it’s hard to line up shots with those little joysticks), but not so great for PC folks, whose better precision with the mouse could more than take up the slack.

    There’s also the matter that console games (typically) have slightly clunkier graphics and other design limitations imposed on them by the (relative) lack of processing and memory firepower , so games that originate on consoles and are then ported to the PC often carry many of those limitations with them. In the case of EtM, the graphics are slightly upgraded, but the game design limitations are still there.

    (At least, I hope that it’s the case that they built for the consoles and then ported. Because if they built for the PC in mind, they did a really not so great job.)

    Matthew, I think of the problems may simply have been that its release was tied to the release of the movie. Video games that are tied to hard and fast deadlines are notoriously buggy — indeed, the very day EtM came out, there was a patch for the PC version to fix some bugs.

  6. Oh, I’m very aware of the differences between PC and Console games, and gamers for that matter. I’m just kinda sitting on the fence. I love my Unreal Tourney 2k3, I can’t live without my Zelda, I’m looking forward to the next Castlevania game every bit as much as the Warcraft 3 expansion.

    I won’t play a FPS on a console unless it has USB keyboard support (for the PS2), and I won’t play fighting games on a PC… not that there are any.

    PC gamers are used to a different set of rules than console games. Specs come to mind, upgrading one’s system is a time honored tradition to stay ahead of the curve. A console sticks around for upwards of five years, PCs change daily. PC gamers also have to deal with patches. Lots and lots of patches. I tend to think PC game developers spend less time looking for bugs because, hey, there’ll be a patch. Plus, even though things have gotten easier, just installing a PC game takes more time than on a Console, where you just pop it in and go.

    A lot of it has to do with the fact that PC’s are not gaming devices. They are office machines that people can use to play games. I hear MS is working on that, but it’ll take time.

    Even from a design standpoint, PC game developers have to account for a much, much wider variety of hardware specs. With a console, you know what you’re designing for.

    The downside with consoles is that they ARE around for five or six years. Graphics tend to look dated by the end of a console’s run compared to PC games. The good side to this is developers have time to learn the system and REALLY crank out some nice stuff (E.G. Vagrant Story on the PS1)

    The best thing to do is keep up with both sides. You won’t be playing Warcraft 3 on a console, and I don’t see Soul Calibur 2 coming out on the PC.

  7. Yeah, it’s not an either/or situation, I’d agree. I tend to play more PC games simply because a) my PC is tricked out and b) I’m in front of the damn thing for hours a day, but I have my PS2 ready for Soul Caliber 2. Oh my, yes.

  8. “A lot of it has to do with the fact that PC’s are not gaming devices.”

    I am going to have to disagree on this one. Every major advance in home PC hardware has been dictated by the desires of gamers. The reason we have 3 Ghz processors, DDR ram, and $400 video cards is because gamers want bigger, faster, prettier games. People buy tricked out systems to run UT2k3 at 1600×1200 with full screen anti-aliasing on; in a home environment very few people need 3ghz to run Office and no application outside games needs a Geforce FX or Radeon 9800.

    On an aside note, it is a pretty good bet a game will suck if it is being released for more then one system on the same day. Games should be tailored for each system to play on the system’s strengths and weaknesses. Playstation 2 games need to be optimized for the low video ram and slower processor. Xbox games should take advantage of Live, the practically limitless space for saved games, and the superior graphics capabilities. PC games need to take into account the mouse and keyboard, as well as any joysticks or gamepads, they need to scale depending on the system capabilities (from the minimum system requirements to the god machines that put consoles to shame), and they should utilize the internet. Unless a publisher has been holding a finished product for a couple months to ship for all platforms at once you will probably not see this done right on same day releases.

  9. I have a simpler rule. Games based on licenced property almost always suck. I assume this is because the licence goes to the company with the best bid, who then skimp on the design because they have to pay that big fee, and the fans will buy it anyway, right?

  10. The way I sum up the PC game/Console game difference for people is simply this: Console games are made so you can play them with your thumbs.

  11. Rogue Squadron/Leader were pretty good.

    Heck, they were better than the last two Star Wars movies.

    Myst III wasn’t bad. (Not great, but not bad).

  12. As soon as I heard that the game was definitely, without question, set for day-and-date with the movie, I threw any expectations about it out the window. The reason: Shiny (the developers behind the game) are notorious for delayed games. They simply don’t know how to work within a reasonable timeframe. When given enough time to work with, they can come out with some pretty fine product…but even then it’s not a guarantee.

    So, who’s the game developer who reads the Whatever?

    -j.

  13. You *would* ask me that. And now I feel like an ass because his name’s not on the tip of my tongue. It’ll come to me.

  14. Josh, I have to disagree with your disagreement as to the game worthiness of PCs. Yes, companies do put out really tricked out rigs capable of truly impressive feats. I had one, it’s obsolete now, it’s only been two and a half years. But even though it’s obsolete, a LOT of developers are still making games that I can play. Having to develop games for the PC means having to design them for a majority of the PC owners out there. I doubt a whole lot of people own 3.3 GhZ systems with GeForce Mega Incredacards and a gig of RAM. Yes, it’s a machine meant for gaming. It’ll also cost you about 12 times as much as a current console… you also won’t be using it’s potential for quite a long ass time, by which time it’s value will have decreased greatly because of whatever the current monster is.

    I’m not going to be well liked for this comment, but people who purchase a PC solely for gaming, and spend untold thousands on that purchase are a silly group of folks. Of course, if you DON’T get the current $3000 Alienware beast, it’ll just go obsolete that much faster.

    Granted, I own a computer and I game on it. It’s also used for my finances, school stuff, orginization, communications and art. So it was worth the purchase price, especially since I got it at a decent cost. Had I not been interested in anything other than gaming, I don’t think I could readily justify spending that much. But, hey, some people have disposable incomes or put their priorities in different places. I still think it’s silly.

    Now, as for liscensed fare. Yeah, it generally sucks. Developers have a very small window in which to release the game so it doesn’t fall into the obscure. So, it’s rushed in that respect. Plus, why take the time for quality when it’s name will sell most of the copies? Shame on Shiny. They should really do another 2D Earthworm Jim game…. ahh, the good ol’ days.

    By the way, anyone consider it a crime that a good graphics card can cost nearly twice as much as a console? Or is it just par for the PC course?

  15. The argument that PC’s simply aren’t as good for games as consoles are also implies something about gaming that I think is just flat-out wrong: the idea that having the flashiest possible graphics is more important than designing a good, interesting game. Somebody mentioned Rogue Squadron earlier. Sure, it’s awfully pretty, from what I’ve seen…but frankly, I’d rather replay X-Wing or TIE Fighter any day of the week. The gameplay is simply a lot more interesting, even if the graphics can be hand-drawn in real time by a monkey.

  16. “By the way, anyone consider it a crime that a good graphics card can cost nearly twice as much as a console? Or is it just par for the PC course?”

    PC gfx cards can be used for more things than gaming. Some of the more expensive PC gfx cards make decent cards for 3D modeling, in spite of the gaming emphasis.

    Console gaming hardware generally isn’t developed with pushing large numbers of polys around (whatever the theoretical numbers are, since consoles generally all have less RAM than PCs), so you wouldn’t expect console makers to support graphics features in hardware that would be useful to artists, like quad polys as well as triangles. This makes console gfx hw cheaper to develop.

    Also, maybe because I’ve played a lot of Star Wars games, I rather think the Rogue Squadron series to be among the best of them. I like less talk and more blam, as Sergeant Schlock might say.

  17. There was plenty o’ blam in X-Wing and TIE Fighter — what I liked about them, and what I’ve been told is missing from the newer titles, is a great deal of control over your ship. Shifting shield balance, redirecting energy from one system to another, changing laser firing sequence, that sort of thing. Perhaps I’ve been misled, though; if the Rogue Squadron titles feature that kind of stuff, and assuming you can hook up a non-thumb-oriented joystick, titles that play like XW and TF would be worth the price of a console to me.

  18. “So, who’s the game developer who reads the Whatever?”

    ::raises hand::

    I could give you many reasons why EtM sucks donkey nuts, but the main compelling reason is because Dave Perry and Shiny were behind it.

    I’ve been saying for years that Shiny (and Perry) don’t deserve a single ounce of the praise the video-game industry gives them. The only decent game they’ve ever made was Earthworm Jim, and from there on out it was nothing but crap.

    Every game that Shiny has made (at least those that I’ve played) has been:

    1). Run down hallway.
    2). Enter room.
    3). Kill badguys.
    4). Repeat.

    That’s not good game design, and I see from playing EtM that things haven’t changed over there. You can’t even say that the graphics are any good, because they’re what I’d expect from a college student, not a professional studio with 10 “award winning” games under their belt.

    On the whole, I’d give EtM a 2.5 out of 10, and 2 of those points are for the filmed cinema pieces (which is all I’m playing the game for now; to see the rest of the Matrix storyline).

    The other interesting thing to watch for is the budget for this game: 20 million dollars. I’m pretty sure that’s a record in the industry, and just going by console sales alone (because I know what the break-even price points are on consoles), that means they have to sell 2 million units just to break even. That’s a ridiculously huge number, and it doesn’t get you one dollar worth of profit.

    Watch for EtM to be filling landfills ala E.T. the Atari 2600 title.

  19. I do not deny that additional controls over your fighter craft are cool, but in my case, they’re utterly unnecessary. RS and RL:RS2 don’t have the same controls; it might be nice if they did, but I’ve never missed them.

    I like thumb joysticks, so I’m utterly ignorant of any alternatives for the N64 (I’m pretty sure Rogue Squadron is N64-only) or the GameCube. They probably exist, but since trying one out would mean abandoning my Wavebird, it’s never gonna happen.

    There are 2 reasons I can’t/won’t play PC-only games. First is comfort. I never feel comfortable sitting at a desk to play a game. I like a nice chair and the feeling that I’m not somehow still at work.

    When/if they ever perfect a joystick/keyboard PC controller with the portability of the GameCube’s Wavebird, I may reconsider.

    Second is time. If there are any problems with game installation, I resent the developer and whomever else happens to be in the room. Also, taking the game back is not always an option. When I first bought Myst III: Exile, the minimum hardware requirements printed on the box included my laptop. When I installed it, it worked, but only barely, and the only way to ensure a return after the tech I called told me that my laptop was not on the recommended hw list after all, was to mail it to the publisher, who sent me a sealed copy, which I could then return to the store I bought it from.

    Console games have never given me any grief, so I now play them exclusively.

  20. Here’s my strategy for PC gaming, and I think that it is a good one:

    1. Keep your PC capabilities up to the level of what cost $3000 around 1-2 years ago.

    2. Buy your games at Walmart for $12 or so.

    The way I see it, if a game was so great 2 years ago that you would spend $40 dollars on it then it will still be around now and it will now be cheap. It will be just as fun to play as it was 2 years ago. And if it sucked, then it probablly won’t be available, or at least you will have heard that it sucks.

    Also, after a game is around for awhile alot of the bugs have been addressed by patches and there is information available on the net about installation problems, etc.

    I am a Software Engineer and often work from home. My PIII 1.0Ghz, 512MB Ram, and GeForce3 video are doing just fine for me and I don’t expect to upgrade for at least another 2 years.

  21. Does anyone know why this is the only review of Enter the Matrix I can find? None of the big gaming sites have a review up, and the game has been commercially available for a little while. Don’t they usually give advance copies of hot games to big gaming sites ahead of time?

  22. They usually do but in this case they didn’t, specifically because the cut scenes in the game gave away major plot points in the movie. They didn’t want the game to undercut the film.

  23. The PC is a radically different beast then a console. It costs more, can be upgraded, and has additional functionality. Does that mean it isn’t a good gaming platform? Not at all. Sure my computer cost quite a bit (no where near $3000 since I built it myself) but besides the video card (which is optimized for games and would suck for Maya or other rendering programs. If you want a graphics card for rendering buy a wildcat, which will suck for games) the rest of the system can be justified by its performance boosts I get in Visual Studio compile times and working in photoshop. Graphically it is supperior to the consoles because it is using newer hardware; that is the advantage of the PC. I play both GTA: Vice City and Splinter Cell at max resolutions with everything enabled and get well above 70 FPS. They look a heck of a lot better on the PC then on consoles. Of course I paid to get that affect.

    PC games are no harder to develope for then consoles. Sure you need to develop detail levels for all of the graphics features and offer different resolutions to support all of the various configurations, but the development environment is easier to work with then that of the PS2 or gamecube (the XBox is easier since MS actually knows how to make a usable development environment. Of course you need to worry about multiple resolutions in consoles now, with HDTV support becoming more commonplace).

    I am not trying to pit consoles versus PCs. I own both a PC and between my roommates and myself, darn near every console yet produced. Each has its benifits and drawbacks. However I don’t think it is a fair assessment to think that a PC is not a viable gaming platform. Several million copies of WarCraft 3 sold in its first week suggest otherwise.

    As for licensed properties games sucking, that is usually the case but hardly a rule. The spiderman movie game was quite fun (even if it had some evil camera problems) as were quite a few Star Wars games. Basically it boils down to whether the developer wants the game to sell on its own merits or on the percieved merits of its license. There are more good movie based video games then video game based movies.

  24. There probably aren’t any reviews for the Matrix game out yet because all of the reviewers were at E3 instead of home reviewing games.

  25. Posted by Josh at May 20, 2003 03:06 PM:
    “If you want a graphics card for rendering buy a wildcat, which will suck for games” […]

    I think you must mean modeling, since rendering is done in software, for which a better CPU is desirable. If you want to push more polygons for modeling, Wildcat is better than any CPU upgrade.

    (Aaaaand if you want decent interactivity, a decently outfitted SGI is that much more desirable than any PC. But I digress.)

    “They look a heck of a lot better on the PC then on consoles. Of course I paid to get that affect.”

    I think this is purely a matter of a developer willing to invest the effort into a completely different platform (like the PS2). Games like Ratchet and Clank and Ico pretty much demonstrate that good looking (or even great looking) games are not an issue on consoles. Zelda: Wind Waker is another one.

    What you’re really paying for is in a good PeeCee gfx card is increased resolution and utility–things consoles don’t need to offer.

  26. I have just purchased Enter the Matrix and I’m having heaps of problems installing the game. I don’t think there is any probem with my PC spec it is a high end machine with a good graphics card.

    After inserting ETM Disc 2 (as instructed) the loading seems to get going again but a message pops up soon after that the incorrect volume is in the drive. It is looking for ETM VOLUME 1, which I can only assume is Disc 1. I’ve tried everything putting disc 1 back in and leaving Disc 2 in but the install bombs out.

    Can anyone help me ?

  27. Hey,John what i’ve got to say is simple.Try and find a save program so that you can save any time u want.As for the problems about the graphics and the camera I am with you 100%.No matter what age you are,don’t put yourself down.You know games and their problems so keep at it.

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