Shiny developed the previous The Matrix game, Enter the Matrix, which was very costly but not a very satisfactory game. In The Matrix: Path of Neo Shiny made efforts to improve the experience by choosing Neo as the main character, but it was not enough to salvage the game from inadequacy.
The game starts when Neo wakes up, and Morpheus lets him choose between the blue and red pills. If he chooses the blue pill, Neo goes back to sleep and you end the game - so you must choose the red pill. The first level of the game forces you to maneuver in an office, trying to escape the agents, while Morpheus gives you directions. In this level you have to learn stealth movements, but, strangely enough, there is no use for them in the rest of the Path of Neo. In the first three levels of the game you have to escape from a building, while running away from officers and agents, being able to only shove the officers, but not the agents â€“ they are too strong for you at this point. At the forth level you learn (finally!) how to fight in true Matrix style. The feeling that the game really starts there, ends quickly when you find out that there are 6 long levels of training â€“ after you finish the kung fu training, you have to go through sword training, winter training, aerial training and dojo training. Only then, the real game starts.
In the tenth level (out of 33 levels), you start fighting enemies, using martial arts or weapons that you take from defeated officers. In Path of Neo there is a variety of weapons, such as pistols, guns, knives, swords and sticks. Even though some of them help increase the amount of fighting moves Neo has, the better way to go down the Path of Neo is to put them away and use martial arts instead. The kung fu with â€˜Focusâ€™ is much more useful than the many weapons at your disposal.
The fighting sequences of the Path of Neo are magnificent, and they make up most of the game. The problem is that they are generated mainly by you mashing your poor mouse buttons. The developers promise over 600 martial arts style fighting moves, and even though Neo has a lot of them, I never stopped to count. The â€˜Focusâ€™ function in the game allows you to slow down time in classic â€˜Bullet Timeâ€™ style, and actually enables more fighting moves as long as the â€˜Focusâ€™ meter runs. â€˜Focusâ€™ lets Neo dodge bullets, and towards the end of the game, even stop them in midair and redirect them back to the enemies.
At many points in the game Neo receives new or improved abilities, such as greater strength, longer â€˜Focusâ€™ meter, walking on walls, longer hitting combos, weapons grabbing and more. Some of those abilities are supposedly for you to choose by purchasing upgrades between missions, but your selection is limited, and by the end of the game you have to choose all of them - so there is no real personal progress.
The A.I. in the game is usually bad; the enemies do not give you much trouble, nor try to dodge your bullets. Sometimes they will defend your hits, but it only means that it takes you longer to kill them. Your friends, who fight alongside you every now and then, tend not to help you on too many occasions.
Saving in Path of Neo is in checkpoints, which are not distributed very well inside all the levels so you end up replaying some parts over and over. If you quit the game after reaching a checkpoint in the middle of a level, youâ€™ll have to restart from the beginning of that level.
The sound in Path of Neo has its ups and downs; the voice acting is well done â€“ even though most of it is not by the original actors. When I first played the game there was no sound at all. After patching the game and updating the sound cardâ€™s drivers the sound worked well enough, even though it was not smooth and even disappeared at times.
The graphics are not first-class in Path of Neo either; the characters are not very detailed - Keanu Reeves does not look much like himself, nor do the other actors. The surroundings are a little better looking, but they are also not very detailed or sharp even though they are very breakable, which is a lot of fun.
The cut-scenes in Path of Neo sometimes use in-game graphics, which emphasizes the poor visual side of the gameâ€™s engine, while at other times they are taken from the three movies, and are suitably more appealing. The main problem with these cut-scenes is that they were edited badly â€“ sometimes single sequences are patched from footage taken from different movies in the trilogy. The Wachowski brothers have rewritten the ending of the last film to better fit the game, but if you go through all of the game just to see it, you will probably be disappointed. Without giving all of it away, there is a fight with a huge ugly boss in the end of the game.
The PC version of Path of Neo suffers from many technical problems. Besides the sound troubles mentioned earlier, the game crashed or did not load a few times, and when running autorun from the DVD the game asked to â€œPlease insert Install Disc 1â€ (the DVD is the only disk). The framerate of the game drops a little when there are too many enemies. Besides the disappointing graphics and new ending, the game feels as if it were taken straight from the console version to the PC with no adaptation; the controls are hard to get used to, and the in-game menus cannot be accessed with the mouse. After a few levels in Path of Neo your mouse clicking finger will hurt from the button mashing. Even the biggest fans of the trilogy should think twice before going down with Neo in this path.