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The Matrix Online

Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment
Developer: Monolith
Media: CD/4
Players: MMO

Graphics & Sound:

The concept behind “The Matrix” seems tailor-made for an MMO. Millions of minds trapped in a virtual world, fighting for control. This foundation helps to make The Matrix Online a nice entry into the difficult world of MMOs – at least as far as presentation and the concept of a constantly evolving world. Execution, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired, leading what is a promising concept into a repetitive, and bug filled, experience.

Even on most high-end machines, The Matrix Online will chug and stutter. At its best, the game looks good and features nice special effects, lighting, and other pyrotechnics. However, in order to get the game to run even marginally well, you’ll have to turn some of those effects off. Even then, you’ll still see frame-rate issues and even some nasty texture pop-in or “blank” textures. The latter problem could very well be an issue with my video card, yet considering it was able to handle many of last year’s graphical heavy-hitters without a hitch, I’m comfortable in dismissing it as just a hardware problem.

Variety is also a problem. The game leans heavily on its palette of dark green and black shades. As a result, even areas that are completely different from one another end up looking alike. Clothing and other character creation accessories also feel far too similar. Far too many characters, especially NPCs, look the same. Sure it fits the movie’s style, but if I have to see one more leather-clad guy in sunglasses and a cowboy hat...

While exploring the game, you also have to put up with several well-placed ads (mostly for upcoming Warner Brothers productions). These are nothing to frown on since ads have, and will always be, a part of games; just don’t be surprised if you hyper jump into Adrian Brody’s mug on a billboard.

I really enjoyed the game’s audio department, if only for the built-in media player that let me play whatever I wanted during the game. This becomes more of a side perk rather than a necessity since the in-game soundtrack works well and features many of the movies’ key themes. Gunfire is the weakest of the game’s sound elements, but all other sounds are passable and help to make combat feel that much more like the movies’ famous fight sequences.


Presentation, at least in terms of storytelling, is the best thing The Matrix Online has going for it. Building off the movie’s premise, you are one of the new souls awakened in the aftermath of Neo’s sacrifice at the end of “Revolutions.” During this time, an uneasy truce has been called between Zion and the Machines. To further complicate things, the self-aware programs under control of the Merovingian are looking to claim their piece of the Matrix, proving to be a thorn in the side of both groups.

As a newly awakened “red pill,” you’re given the choice of which side of the conflict you stand on. Initially, you begin in service to Zion – the ones who freed your mind in the first place. While in their service, you’ll be trained to survive in the Matrix. Once you’re done with your training you can repay Zion and sign on as a permanent operative, or stab them in the back and join one of the other two groups. Player choices, at least in theory, will eventually influence the game’s overarching story arch.

As far as joining factions go, there really isn’t much difference between the three. For the most part, you run similar sets of missions, each with a slightly different adversary or goal. For example, as a Zion operative, you may want to find a newcomer to the Matrix and introduce him to the new world. However, if you’re working for the Machines, your mission may be to find the newcomer and make sure Zion doesn’t find him. Eventually greater scenarios are put into place that give the game more life, but exactly how these stories affect longevity is anyone’s guess. If you remember, SOE tried the same thing with Galaxies and that quickly fell to the wayside. Judging from early planning, it looks like Monolith has a slight edge on what SOE was planning, so things look promising.

Ultimately, missions boil down to the same repetitive actions found in nearly every other MMO. Some missions are multi-tiered and require you to travel to multiple locations to complete. At times, you even have to adjust your tactics to meet changing parameters, adding just a little more of a twist. In the end, you’re still grinding away, doing the same old things over and over again.

Missions also present some headache-inducing moments. While running missions, I ran into several little glitches that completely ruined my experience. Instances like doors not opening or objectives failing to materialize were not uncommon, and I ran into one or two every time I sat down to play. I also ran into issues where my operator wouldn’t update my mission goals or someone I was escorting wouldn’t do what they were supposed to, such as using a hard-line to escape. These are little things I’m sure will eventually be ironed out, but they hamper play and could ruin the experience for some players.


Death penalties aren’t that much of a punishment. Unlike other MMOs where it can be a big hit to your character, death within the Matrix comes only with a short ability penalty and the chance of losing an item. Death also brings with it the punishment of having to look at the game’s annoying load-up sequence that build the world around you from the familiar lines of green code into a tangible reality. I’ll admit, the first few times I saw this effect, I thought it was pretty cool. However, after multiple crashes, lag-induced deaths, or having to log out to fix a buggy mission, I really began to dislike it.

Game Mechanics:

The job system is perhaps the most interesting trait in The Matrix Online. The typical classes found in other MMOs can be found here, only with context-appropriate names. Hackers and Coders are the equivalent of magic-users and priests, while Operatives serve as a catch-all class for all combat-oriented abilities. Where the game differs from most games is that you’re not limited to just one class for the remainder of your character’s life. Classes are instead umbrella terms for abilities that you can gain either by looting corpses, creation, or by purchasing them. So, if you’ve been playing as a combat-focused character and one day decide to play as a “magic” character, all you have to do is find those skills and load them up. Or, at least that’s the concept behind the scheme.

The system does have limitations. Any character can conceivably learn to use any skill in the game, but what they can use is limited by their “Awakened” state – or in more MMO terms, their level. How awake your character is of the Matrix directly influences your power and skills. For example, at lower levels, a character can only use normal jumps and slight speed increases. Once they level up, they’re able to perform hyper-jumps, dodge bullets, and even learn kung-fu.

Character traits, which include things like belief and perception, also have an influence on skills. Some traits lend themselves better to certain skills, so even though you can technically learn anything, your character may not have the traits needed to really make that skill work for them.

The system is deep and rather complicated, but ultimately doesn’t quite give you the freedom that is advertised. You character’s innate traits will, of course, predispose them to being better at one role than another, essentially locking them into a role.

Combat, like other elements in The Matrix Online, is unique, but feigns just how complex it is. At its core, combat is really little more than a game of paper-rock-scissors with a random die-roll thrown in. The idea behind the system is to set up a more dynamic combat engine that gets away from the “click and go make a sandwich” systems found in other MMOs. To this extent, the system is much more interactive, and at the same time, all that is really being done is adding a few more clicks to the mix. For what it’s worth, combat is an interesting enough guessing game, but is really more fun to watch than to participate in. There’s also the aforementioned frame-rate issues, which slow down combat even when it’s not intentional.

At this point, The Matrix Online is more about potential than product. Obviously, fans of “The Matrix” will probably be able to overlook most of the game’s flaws and somewhere beneath it all is a very unique experience that can only get better as Monolith irons out some of the more glaring flaws. Of course, this is what makes MMOs so hard to review – since what you’re playing one month could possibly be better or worse the next. As it stands now, The Matrix Online doesn’t really stand out as one of the better MMOs out there. Just as some “Star Wars” fans have stuck to Galaxies, Matrix fans will probably be more willing to take the red pill now and wade through the flaws. Those looking for a new MMO may want to wait until some of the dust settles before seeing how far the rabbit hole goes.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 2000/XP, 1.4 GHz CPU or equivalent, 512 MB RAM, 64 MB VRAM, 7000 MB HDD Space, DirectX 9.0c, Internet Connection

Recommended Specs:

Windows 2000/XP, 1.4 GHz CPU or equivalent, 1024 MB RAM, 128 MB VRAM, 10000 MB HDD Space, DirectX 9.0c, Internet Connection


Test System:

Windows XP, Pentium 4 1.7 GHz, Radeon 9100 128 MB, 40 Gig HD, 640 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0c, Broadband Connection

Microsoft Xbox Rugby 2005 Microsoft Xbox Phantom Dust

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated