Review: The Matrix Online

I reviewed this back in August of 2005. I will admit my score would definitely be fairly lower these days… Original Article Here

What is The Matrix?

Following on from the hugely successful series of films, Monolith and Warner Brothers thought “How can we give the fans something more?” The answer was to create a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) based on the Matrix universe. With support from the Wachoski Brothers (creators of the films) the game was released late in 2004 to expectant fans. However, the game was slated by a lot of the gaming media and didn’t recieve very high review scores. A few months ago, however, Sony Online Entertainment bought the game, and have now officially taken control – so what better time to review the game and see how much it has changed since launch?

When you create your charcter, you begin as a Bluepill (not freed from The Matrix) but Niobe from the films has made contact and is offering you the famous Blue/Red pill choice – the Tutorial is your “initiation” – guided by your Operator, the games presmises (such as “Interlock” combat – more later) are gradually introduced in a fun and not so patronising way. However, one bad point of the tutorial is that it is unskippable – which can be annoying if you have already creaetd one charcter and are now creating an alt. However, the tutorial seems to be well thought out and its actually pretty useful at easing newcomers into the game before letting them loose into the online world.

Now, I must make room to mention the specs and graphics. MxO is demanding. There, I said it. Requiring 512 minimum RAM and 7GB of HDD space, it isn’t small. Once you are in , however and you are able to jack the graphics up to full, the detail is quite something. Textures look quite detailed for an MMORPG. and the areas are quite large – although not up to World of Warcraft standards. The only problem is with MxO being set in a city, the areas do look very similar, and there really isn’t much other than the name as you enter each area to differentiate between the areas in game. There is, however, one effect that this review found VERY cool that you will find in no other MMORPG – when you first load into the world, before anything is covered in textures, the world is seen in the Matrix “code” – and that includes your character. It’s a nice way to load the textures without having to wait and stare at a loading bar for ages and is a nice touch by the developers.

The gameplay in MxO is quite similar to other MMOG’s of it’s ilk. In that a lot of the fighting and gunplay uses numbers. You click on a bad guy, select your ability and fire – hopefully you’ll hit them before they hit you and vice versa. However, this is made more obvious in MxO – all attacks have a number – the higher one wins, lower one loses. The fact that this isn’t hidden is probably to fit in with the MxO mythlogy about everything being made up of code, but it still takes away a little of the illusion, in my opinion. After the tutorial you begin, like most MMORPGs, in a Newbie friendly area, and you can immediaetly pick up the phone and call your contact to start some nice easy missions. After a while you can choose to work for one of three major factions, the Xionites (Morpheus etc), The Machines (The Agents) and The Exiles (The Merovigian, Persephone etc) – each with their own agendas and ideals. However, in between the “Critical” (story) missions the differnces are purely cosmetic and in fact the filler missions in between can become quite repetitve. Even though there seems to be eight choices, most of the filler missions can be dissected into either: Collect, Kill and Escort, and some of one normally involve a little of the other two as well. Saying that, for quite a while you won’t notice it, as some of the Abilities you can earn are super cool to look at and perform – and don’t worry, Bullet Time IS in the game, but normally only appearing at the crucial blow of a fight, and on occasions, feels very underused.

Other flaws to this game include the lag. And believe us when we say it can be absolutely horrendus at times. You could be jumping from a building, only to rubber band it back to the top because the server was unable to keep up with your movements. However, saying that it HAS improved a LOT since launch and the SoE takeover – and the same goes for the bugs, a large number of patches has gone some way to fix the annoying glitches that were present in the game at launch.

One good feature, is the Interlock combat feature (also known as Close Combat) – the screen lets you pick from one of three attacks, a defense and escape option. The three attacks are Power, Speed and Grab, and appear to work on a “Paper Scissors Stone” formula – it can be fun to work out an opponents weakness, then you’re able to use additional moves to really pile on the hurt to your opponents – the fighting animations are smooth and fluid, and just feel right at home within the game – its extremely satisfying to kick a guy in the nuts before putting your gun to his head and sending him into next week. Occasionally it feels a little random, but when the animations look this cool, you hardly notice!

Character customisation is pretty good too, with literally hundereds of different pieces of clothing to collect in the game, finding someone dressed exactly like you is diifficult, however – base models are very similar and there probably should be more ways to customise your base avatar.

Finally there is not a lot of post 50 content in the game, which lets it down somewhat, and many people are worried that SOE are not going to continue the games Live Events (which normally featured charcters from the movie, and were a LOT of fun) -hopefully Sony will address this issue, and that of the netcode which really needs some work – however, right now it is too early to say, and it rests on SOE’s shoulders to whether the game will grow stronger or sink without a trace. Hopefully they will do the right thing.

Overall, the game is quite fun to play, and with a couple of friends even better as you kick Agent ass and find all the little hidden touches the developers have put into the game – I believe the game did get a bit of a harsh review when it came out – it has improved considerably since its Launch, and it now falls to SOE to improve the game some more…

So, if kicking people’s ass while looking good is your thing and you’ve exhausted the other main MMORPGs, The Matrix Online is worth a try. It’s not as good as World of Warcraft or City Of Heroes, but it is a good laugh nonetheless.

Final Score: 70%

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