December 29, 2012

Gaming Flashback: The Matrix – Path of Neo

Succeeding where most other movie games failed, Path of Neo brought its own unique vision into the adventure of the computer hacker Neo. There were already a handful of movie game hopefuls by the time Path of Neo made its splash in late October of 2005. Yet being late to the party did not spoil the glory and unique experience that only this game managed to offer.

What was the reason for it being our favorite out of all other Matrix games? Well, it could be that it was overseen by the Wachowskis, then known as the Wachowski Brothers. These were the guys (and now woman) that developed the entire Matrix trilogy as young cinema directing hopefuls.

As young as they were in their field, the original studios of Fox didn’t trust that these two could push out an attractive movie for fear of them not having enough experience. The solution? They handed over ten million dollars for a “Treatment” to see if an attractive title came out of it. The first ten minutes of The Matrix was born, and a legendary trilogy was written into history that day.

In the time that has passed since the end of the Matrix Trilogy, we have seen countless Triple A titles rise with the passion of the industry and fade silently into the wind. One could say that we have learned from the mistakes in game design to move forward with a fashionable product. Yet we have never seen a game quite like Path of Neo, nor have we stopped seeing terrible games.

What set this game apart from those that came before it was that it combined all three of the Matrix movies into one super package of awesomeness, effectively making it not just a movie game, but a trilogy movie game. We began the story as Thomas Anderson, a computer hacker inside an extremely dull and uninteresting cubicle on the 19th floor of an insurance building. Morpheus gives us the call, and already we’re sucked into the suspense and danger as Neo weaves his way around patrolling Agents and police officers to a safe room.

It should be noted that despite the one-way road that the movie’s story took players in, the game offered various different scenarios and endings to outcomes that we felt dissatisfied with in the movie. This game took us through our favorite scenes from the films and even peered behind the scenes with back-stories that you more than likely never heard about.

Did you know that the very first training program that Neo experienced was inspired by a Japanese gangster scene from the 70’s? Or maybe you noticed the ninja scene in the frozen outside dojo was inspired by the Adult Swim TV show Full Metal Alchemist?

Dozens of cinematic Easter eggs had been sprinkled all over Path of Neo, and it was usually up to the player to even notice them.  Of course this is never revealed to the player, you’d have to understand the minds of the creators. It was that same understanding that took me on a psychological journey, ripping me out my fear and reluctance and replacing in that same space a desire to learn and explore the world.

Knowing the style of these guys was the key to knowing the true source of their imaginations: The Wachowskis are complete nerds!!! A shining example of what happens when you fuse a brilliant philosopher and cinema buff with an experienced video game developer. Truly the most remarkable scene of the game was the Burly Brawl from The Matrix Reloaded. The game scene was a revamped version of the fight that Neo had with the army of Agent Smiths. You might find it more recognizable in your memory when thinking of the windmill move Neo did with the sign pole.

The fight quickly erupted as you were pitted against dozens of Smiths at once, armed with only your wits and your speedy fingers! If you used those tools to your advantage, the possibilities of move combos were incredible, making the worst part of this sequence the very ending. I cried every time it cut to the next scene. Probably the most amazing boss fight was the giant Smith robot that we fought towards the end.

Who is the Smith robot?

Spoiler Alert.

In the films, the final battle for Neo was between he and Agent Smith. It was a metaphor for Neo’s infinite triumphs and was meant to outline the fact that he and Smith were complete equals. It also made light of the fact that no matter how long or how hard they fought, the battle could never end. This was the reason that Neo gave up the fight and allowed Smith’s cloning attack to take over his form. By doing this, the machines could spark Smith’s programming and manually delete him.

In the game?

The developers animated two representations of themselves sitting in the classic red chair of the battery scene in the first film. In this scene, they made it very clear that replicating this scene from the movie would be entirely unoriginal (These guys made the movie and they’re worried about originality), and they need to add something new. The result? All the copies of Agent Smith fused into a giant Smith and initiated a mini game of “Who can throw the bigger car?” with the player.

Simple, yet fun.

This game had it all, providing for us a gaming experience that sits comfortably at the back of tens of thousands of gamers’ minds as the greatest movie game ever made.

Cheers to the Matrix: Path of Neo!!!

Image Credit: Atari

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