When The Matrix Reloaded came out, a number of movie reviewers sneeringly likened the film to a videogame because of the relentlessness of action sequences and the precedence they were allowed to take over matters like character development or the telling of a coherent story. This was a cheap shotnot against the movie, which deserved it, but against videogames. In recent years, game designers have demonstrated amply that a well-written gamesuch as Half-Life, Deus Ex, No One Lives Forevercan be more than a series of fights strung end to end.
Unfortunately, as games go, Enter the Matrix is a step backward. It's basically just a series of fights strung end to end. While it's easy to get excited about the prospect of using all those funky powers from the movies (running up walls, dodging bullets in slow motion, kicking a bad guy across the room), the reality of it isn't all that thrilling after you've tried out all the moves once. Meanwhile, the scenery is drab, the levels are monotonous, and the whole screen starts to stutter each time it fills up with too many combatants. And several times, I diedeven on the highest brightness setting, I couldn't tell that I was about to walk off a ledge. Add to this the disappointing fact that your choice of characters is between generic background characters Niobe and Ghost, and you're looking at a game that is seriously short on charisma. (Don't even ask about the game's nearly unplayable driving and sniper sequences.)
And yet, there is something rewarding about Enter the Matrix, something deeply, viscerally satisfying, and that's the part that has nothing to do with playing a game. Each time the action stops for a cut-scenesome animated using the in-game engine, others filmed on the actual sets and featuring the movie's castyour heart leaps. In the very first scene, when Ghost justifies the way he reloads his gun with an allusion to the philosophical writings of David Hume (1711-1776), you know you're in for some above-average dialogue.
Yes, it would be better if the game were more fun to play. It's frustrating that each time the game reaches a climactic moment that calls for some major derring-do, a cut-scene kicks in and the derring gets done without any input from you. But that doesn't change the fact that the cut-scenes are great fun to watch.
It's ironic: The Matrix Reloaded may have been a better videogame than it was a movie, and now along comes Enter the Matrix, and it turns out to be a better movie than it is a game. Sometimes you just can't win. But then, any student of Hume already knows that.