The Matrix was a groundbreaking piece of cinema when it released all the way back in… let me check… 1999. Wow, I’m getting old. It was followed by a great sequel, before a less-than-great third movie finished off the trilogy.
Given the fact that no franchise is allowed to stay dead in Hollywood for long these days, it was probably always inevitable that The Matrix 4 would be announced sooner or later. Sure enough, we were recently treated to the news that a fourth Matrix flick is in the works.
Will it be any good? Who knows? I have my doubts, but the fact that Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss are set to reprise their roles as as Neo and Trinity is an encouraging start. It also helps that Lana Wachowski, who created the franchise with her sister Lilly, is set to return as director.
But while we wait to see whether or not The Matrix 4 (The Matrix Re-Reloaded?) will be a worthy addition to the canon, I’m left wondering whether this means we’ll finally get the big-budget game based on The Matrix that we deserve.
For a franchise as popular as The Matrix, it’s genuinely surprising to me that we actually only got three games in the span of two years before it went dark. The first of the trinity was Enter The Matrix, released in 2003 and developed by Shiny Entertainment (who also worked on Earthworm Jim and its sequel, funnily enough).
Intended as a tie-in to the second Matrix, it was produced alongside The Matrix Reloaded and the ill-fated animated series The Matrix Revolutions. Enter The Matrix hit PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, and PC and was, by all accounts, a pretty huge success in terms of sales.
Unfortunately, while sales were strong, the critics were less kind. Many accused the game of feeling “rushed to market”, and that the clunky gameplay fell far short of what players would’ve expected to be able to do in a Matrix game after having seen the seamless, fluid action of the films.
Shiny Entertainment had another stab at the franchise in 2005 with The Path Of Neo, which essentially served as a retelling of film trilogy with some added content, and even an alternate ending to the third film’s divisive final act.
While I personally have a genuine soft spot for the PS2 and Xbox sequel, it’s not hard to see its shortcomings with the benefit of hindsight. Like Enter The Matrix, Path of Neo is more than a little clunky, and doesn’t let fans of the franchise live out the film’s epic fight scenes in quite the same way as one might have hoped.
The two console games weren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination then, but they didn’t come close to the same giddy adrenaline fueled highs as the films.
I guess you could argue that the limited hardware of the time stopped us from getting a game that could really match what The Matrix films were doing, although movie tie-ins like Spider-Man 2 proved that with enough work, a developer could effectively craft an immersive experience for those looking to re-live big budget, big screen adventures in a more immersive fashion.
Also released in 2005 was The Matrix Online which, if I’m being completely honest, I’d kind of forgotten about until I started writing this. Originally developed by Monolith Software, the MMORPG struggled with low subscription numbers thanks to the lukewarm reception to the latter two movies and an overcrowded market of online games.
It officially shut down in 2009, and reportedly had less than 500 active players towards the end. Ouch. Clearly, people back in the mid-00’s had started to get pretty sick of The Matrix, but given the massively positive reaction the news of The Matrix 4, it’s clear that the franchise has been gone just long enough for people to really start giving a crap again.
Basically, what I’m saying is that The Matrix 4 marks the perfect time for the franchise to have another crack at making a truly great video game. You’ve probably noticed that gaming has come a long old way since 2005, and we’re at a point now where a current or next-gen Matrix game could finally match, or even exceed, the ambition of the movies.
Games like Marvel’s Spider-Man, Arkham Asylum, and Shadow of Mordor have proven that you can take established properties and create incredible video games that aren’t slavishly dedicated to recreating the films, and there are so many possibilities for an original video game that’s set in The Matrix universe, but one that’s also been written specifically for the medium.
In my ideal world, we’d have a next-gen Matrix game that looked and played incredibly (of course). It’d have a combat system inspired by the Arkham games, but it’d also build on those systems with some kind of bullet time ability, multiple upgradeable weapons, and – best of all – the ability to manipulate The Matrix itself.
Just imagine an original protagonist who wakes up in The Matrix and is straight away aware of exactly where he or she is. Maybe they even know that they’re in a video game? That might be a bit too much, that’s for the developers to decide. I’ll take Rocksteady or Respawn, if they’re free.
Said character would be able to travel between The Matrix and the “real world” at will, which could make for a cool “dual world” mechanic in which your actions in one realm have an impact on the other. While in The Matrix, you’d be able to change the shape of entire levels, stop bullets, create weapons, solve puzzles, and whatever else an actual developer could come up with.
Such a feature could be used for environmental puzzles, trippy Inception-style fights and platforming set pieces, and even combat that throws us into massive brawls with hundreds of enemies on screen at any one time. The possibilities are endless.
I could see the game having some RPG elements, but it’d be action first and foremost. I do like the idea of their being multiple endings based on various decisions you make across The Matrix and the real world, though – that’d be neat. Mostly though, I just want to fight 100 Agent Smiths at once in the rain, that’s the real dream.
We had a couple of pretty good Matrix games, but with video game tech where it is now, we have the chance to get something as groundbreaking and fresh as the The Matrix was when it landed in cinemas 20 years ago.
This is all a pipe dream of course, and likely entirely dependent on how well The Matrix 4 actually performs at the box office, but I feel like The Matrix is a film franchise uniquely suited to video games in a way that arguably no other is, and it’s high time we got a game that reflects that.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.