Decadent: Saints Row IV and Enter The Matrix

Virtual Reality: Enter The Matrix and Saints Row IV

Saints Row IV does the Matrix better than The Matrix.

By Drew Toal • October 29, 2013

In Decadent, we explore two games united by a common theme and separated by time—specifically, by a decade or so.

Saints Row IV is a strange animal. It’s a game at once unique and completely derivative, a post-Dadaist triumph of refashioned parts and random scraps of juvenilia. Nearly every piece of it was scavenged, quite intentionally, from a shard of pop culture detritus; Grand Theft Auto, Mass Effect 2, Leave It To Beaver, and They Live are equally integral parts of the structure and story. None of these touchstones figure in as heavily as the concept at the heart of The Matrix trilogy.

It’s a fitting tribute because The Matrix is itself a barely concealed assemblage of bad science fiction, a Philosophy 101 survey course from your local community college, and too many Sunday mornings sitting around watching badly dubbed kung fu films. The story goes something like this: In the future, robots are using humans as batteries but need a way to keep them permanently sedated. The machines create a virtual reality—called the Matrix—where humans continue their life functions but don’t realize they’re slaves. Some humans, when made aware of the situation, rebel. A singular hero emerges to lead humanity to salvation. There’s a lot of punching and kicking and whatnot, but the humans are ultimately put down, and the cycle repeats. It’s a story as old as time—an everyday Harry Potter figure plucked out of obscurity, thrust into a beleaguered fantasy world, and cast in the role of reluctant, doomed Messiah.

Enter The Matrix

Enter The Matrix

But really, there’s nothing so wrong with being derivative, provided you do it right. The problems start when the thing attempts to be more than it is; the seams holding together the whole flimsy tapestry unravel, and the lack of original ideas at the heart of the story are exposed. The creators of The Matrix, seemingly infatuated with the seriousness of their borrowed mythology, found it necessary to fashion a movie tie-in game that would function as an integral complement to their plodding and nonsensical followups. Enter The Matrix uses extended cinematic cut scenes with the voices of the movie’s actors to represent life outside the Matrix and fills in some minor plot holes, but the game does nothing to alleviate the world’s inherent shallowness.

Enter The Matrix puts you in control of either Ghost or Niobe, secondary characters pulled straight from the films. Ghost quotes David Hume on causality before plugging in to the virtual world, as it applies to loading his guns. (Because he’s one deep-thinking assassinator guy.) Things are a little less cerebral inside the machine construct. Within the Matrix, you run from place to place, wildly flapping your arms and karate chopping everyone in sight. Here you can also run along walls, slow down time, blast dudes with your gat, and do some pretty sick jump kicks. Occasionally, you’re forced to flee in a getaway car, with Niobe driving and Ghost riding machine gun, spraying bullets all over the synthetic cityscape.

Enter The Matrix

Enter The Matrix

In Saints Row IV, rather than being locked in an existential battle with self-aware automatic can openers, humans are banished to a digital world controlled by hyper-advanced aliens intent on running some kind of intergalactic zoo. But where those trapped in The Matrix’s Matrix are doomed to live in a stale and oppressive synthetic environment full of rain and office buildings, the Matrix of Saints Row is (at least at first) a happy place, like something out of My Three Sons, an idyllic suburb full of slow-moving cars and Andy Griffith-approved whistling. In the first Matrix film, we’re told that the machines once made a similar Mayberry habitat for humans to live in, but the organic ingrates were unable to accept a program that put them in a magical land of sunshine and rainbows. Things prove no different in Saints Row, and soon enough you’re laying waste to the local Barney Fife contingent in an effort to get free of the hellish tranquility.

The anti-Mayberry world of Enter The Matrix is a depressing place, filled with violence and square tires and darkness and superpowered enforcers known as Agents who are intent on your immediate murder. The basic rules governing this world remain fairly static throughout and your relationship vis a vis the machine overlords running the show never changes. In Saints Row, continual disruption of the alien system results in increased chaos, which conversely bestows more control and powers on your character. You’re practically a god by the end of the game, an apex predator with a love for dubstep and running super fast around the city shirtless and rocking a karate headband (at least in my case).

And it’s fun! Everyone in Enter The Matrix, it seems, adheres to the dark glasses and black trench coat style of complete sartorial autonomy. If I could construct a digital version of myself, it’d probably be something that better celebrates my illogical humanity. What’s wrong with giving yourself maybe a breathable Tommy Bahama button-up and some lightly stained Philadelphia Eagles Zubazz pants? That way, when you’re running up walls and kicking ass in slowmo, you’re totally adding insult to injury. This outfit says, “Yes, I’m an unstoppable martial arts master, but I’m also a totally unpredictable color-blind maniac.” Ghost and Niobe have a few things to learn about élan and psychological warfare.

Saints Row IV

Saints Row IV

Saints Row IV gives you that freedom to be yourself. You can put women’s clothes on men or men’s clothes on women. Swinging around a lightsaber has equal effect as swinging around a giant dildo. In a world where anything goes, why the hell not? During some challenges, you’re actually forced to throw yourself around like a rag doll in traffic for several minutes because this somehow disrupts the system’s internal logic. Does this make a lot of sense? No, it doesn’t. Does Saints Row care? Not even a little bit.

As President Of The United States and part-time superhero, your character in Saints Row whoops and hollers and cracks wise no matter the situation, not once giving in to the despair permeating the world of Enter The Matrix. If humanity is going out, it’s doing so on its own terms. Instead of quoting William James, as Ghost does at one juncture, your indefatigable Commander-in-Chief might reference some insane, homicidal mantra from their mentor, Johnny Gat. In Saints Row, you can call up your homies any time and have them fight by your side or just hang out in full superhero regalia and crack wise. In Enter The Matrix, Ghost and Niobe barely crack a combined half smile the whole time. What this tells me is that no matter how their mission turns out, the machines have already won.

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108 Responses to “Virtual Reality: Enter The Matrix and Saints Row IV

  1. Citric says:

    They’re also both “14 year old boys, the game”, except Enter the Matrix is the 14 year old who writes bad poetry, while Saints Row IV is the 14 year old who convinces you to steal the “Slow Children Crossing” sign from the alleyway behind the school.

    It’s way more fun to hang out with the wacky vandal.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Having been both those 14-year-old boys and still having some vestigial nubbin of them left dangling off the end of my psyche, I enjoy both. In doses. Small ones. Being the destructive spazz in games is fun due to no longer being an element of my life, but I won’t lie; it’s still often fun to think big thoughts, not for the thoughts themselves (which are actually quite small), but enjoying thinking them.

      • Morning_Wodehouse says:

        Post some of your 14-year-old bad poetry so we can laugh at it.

      • Citric says:

        I find the Matrix and it’s various derivations kind of insufferable now, probably because I’d find that 14 year old kid who thought those sunglasses and slow motion were cool and could get sucked in by the whole “the world is all a (badly conceived and written, in hindsight) lie but you’re smarter than everyone and everything and have magical kung fu superpowers and stuff because you’e the best” narrative.

        Then again I’ve started writing myself a YA novel that will probably never get published so I guess some part of me still likes that nonsense.

        • NakedSnake says:

          A lot of the initial appeal of the Matrix at the time was, I think, its highly effective marketing campaign. I remember ready billboards and seeing commercials and thinking “yes, what is The Matrix that everyone keeps talking about?” Having no idea what to expect going into the movie, I was blown away. By contrast, I walked into the 2nd and 3rd movies badly wanting to like them, and totally failing. It’s all about the expectations game.

          • JokersNuts says:

            Wow there is even a backlash on the FIRST Matrix movie now?

          • JamesJournal says:

            Weird. The first movie is great. The sequels suck. We need to be clear and consistent on this guys!

          • Enkidum says:

            Yeah, I remember going to see the first one not knowing the deal, and as soon as they were in the interrogation room and Keanu’s mouth disappears I was just like… WHAT??? One of the few twists like that that actually surprised me – I thought I was watching Hackers.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          If we were to remove all fiction that could act as an affirmation for an adolescent’s belief of their undeniable, god-given uniqueness and superiority, the only two pieces remaining would be Anna Karenina and McCabe and Mrs. Miller.
          Though it might be worth it to see Ayn Rand abolished forever.

        • Bisyss says:

          I think I was the 14 year-old who thought the sunglasses and slow-mo was cool. I remember enjoying the sequels too, though that might be a case of rose-tinted glasses. I keep meaning to go back to them – considering the first film sets up Neo as a gun-flippin’, high-kickin’ Übermensch, having the sequels deflate that notion is kind of audacious. Mind you, I liked Equilibrium too, so my taste could just be completely out of whack. (Come to think of it, I like speedcore – I know my taste is out of whack.)

        • Sanford Abernethy says:

          The source material for The Matrix is The Invisibles, which is a much better take on the subject matter if only because the audience surrogate/messiah is a teenager from a broken home who basically shits his pants at the prospect of how horrible everything is.

    • Girard says:

      As the 14-year-old-boy who spent countless SURGE-fueled nights drawing weird comic books, coding MegaMan fansites, and reading Terry Pratchett books, I found both of those kinds of 14-year-olds kind of annoying. Which is probably why I found The Matrix pretentious and dumb from the get-go, and never really got in one the ground level with open-world crime games.

      Of the two properties, though, as an adult, the Saints’ Row series, with its polymorphous perversity, sense of freedom, and lack of pretenstion, totally seems more interesting to me. I’ll probably never ever watch the Matrix III, but there’s a good chance I’ll eventually boot up my Humble Bundle copy of Saints’ Row III.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        “What’s this?”
        “It’s Saints Row IV. It’s supposed to be an irreverent deconstruction of conventional game design and popular media tropes.”
        “Well I’m not playing it. Lets give it to Girard, he hates everything!
        “He’s playing it! He likes it!”

    • Newton Gimmick says:

      Remember when we were all obsessed over the Niobe-Persephone kiss in Enter the Matrix?

      Dark times, dark times.

    • Fluka says:

      Hey, I’m a nearly-30 year old married woman with a job, and I still enjoyed the fuck out of Saints Row IV!

      *Jump cut to Fluka going “WHOOOOOO!” during a screening of Pacific Rim.*

      Hmm. Point taken.

      Someone elsewhere (I think John Walker at RPS) made a nice comparison of the Saints Row series to the jock who sits at the back of the classroom goofing off. Everyone thinks he’s an idiot, but he actually says some surprisingly cogent things sometimes. Whereas GTA is the smirky guy who just discovered Howard Zinn. Um, to tie it back to the topic of the article, I guess that makes Enter the Matrix the guy who fancies himself a budding philosopher and loves to start “serious” debates at awkward times and GOD do we have to do this again I just want to eat my lunch.

      • Enkidum says:

        Fuck, I’m both GTA and Enter the Matrix, then.

        And give me your lunch if you’re not going to eat it.

        • Fluka says:

          FINE. I lost my appetite anyway. Just stop talking about Kant, for god’s sake!

          • Oren Leifer says:

            Seriously, I Kant take anymore of that. Just give me something good to Sartre, or this won’t go Velleman.

  2. Tyrannorabbit says:

    Dubstep gun makes dubstep fun.

  3. rvb1023 says:

    Having not played Saints Row IV yet I can’t really comment on it’s comparison to the Matrix (similar as they are), but most open world games tend to be better representations of the Matrix, if just less literal than SR4.

    Games like Just Cause 2, InFamous, Prototype, and Spiderman 2 are just better realizations of what I would do if put into a world where I could be anything I wanted. And while I realize open world games hadn’t quite caught on around the time of Enter the Matrix’s release it seems like such an obvious design choice in the wake of GTA that it’s odd they didn’t go that route. That Hulk game came out a year or two later and that was way more fun too.

    The only time I remember having fun with Enter the Matrix, which was a rental for me at the time, was hacking the game from the main menu and giving myself unlimited slow-mo, which allowed me to appropriately live out those 12-year-old boy fantasies.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      There was a Matrix MMO released in 2004. So someone agreed with you on the open-world aspect. But apparently they disagreed with you about the ‘fun’ aspect, because by all accounts it was terrible and had less than 500 players when the servers were shut down in 2009.

      • dreadguacamole says:

        I played it for a while after finding out that they got Paul Chadwick to write for it. It had some interesting ideas, but I left shortly afterwards after finding that about 60% of the missions were to escort brain-dead, death-seeking NPCs.

        And like nearly every MMO out there, it was obviously half-baked even a few months after release.

      • Bisyss says:

        Man, I haven’t heard about The Matrix MMO in ages. I still have the same question I did back then, though: How did the developers decide to handle the slow-mo powers? That must have been a nightmare to try and accommodate.

      • stuporfluous says:

        MXO!!! man. i loved that stuff. i thought it was crazy fun and initially when there was a heavy emphasis on storyline events it was great. and when the storyline event stuff died down (because Sony, realizing so few people were playing, started slashing the budget for live event team stuff) it was still fun PVP. and then they rebalanced the combat system and i left.

    • Oren Leifer says:

      Saints Row IV is very similar to Prototype in terms of gameplay, police and movement, except that unlike Prototype and Saints Row III (with the vampire DLC) there’s no eating people, which in turn is very similar to Spiderman 2

  4. Morning_Wodehouse says:

    Did anyone else make the mistake of playing this and GTA5 back to back? I found Saints Row 4 so much more lighthearted and fun then GTA5. The whole time I was playing GTA5 I just wanted to stop driving the stupid cars and dash around the map with the freedom I had in SR4. I really think SR4 has ruined sandbox driving games for me. Driving cars in an open world might have been inventive at one time, but I think we are past that stage. I find the whole thing so boring now.

    • Sanford Abernethy says:

      Super Powers have always owned in open world games, whether it’s matrix bullshit like in SR4, Rico’s hookshot nonsense in JC2, or proper super powers like in Prototype. GTA5 is a good enough game, but it’s stale in a lot of ways and the world feels a lot less explorable despite its greater size and density of content.

      • Boonehams says:

        Ripping a car in two and using each half as boxing gloves in Hulk: Ultimate Destruction opened my eyes, and I was never able to play any of the Grand Theft Autos again.

        • ka1iban says:

          Yes. They need to do another one of those, even though they’ve moved on to the greener (redder?) pastures of their own Prototype IP

        • djsubversive says:

          Hulk: Ultimate Destruction was a very fun game. You can pat citizens on the head after stranding them on top of a building. It has a stealth mission where Hulk disguises himself as a truck. And there may have been taxi/ambulance missions, but with Hulk. “Where cab want go?” *picks up car, leaps around city with it* (that last one may have just been something I did)

    • TaumpyTearrs says:

      That’s what happened to me with Just Cause 2/Saints Row 2 and GTA4. After grappling and flying everywhere and destroying everything or having a custom character in SR2, GTA 4 pissed me off every time I had to run back to the road after flipping a car or other bullshit like that.
      I actually enjoyed GTA 5 after SR4 though, because I went in expecting to be more impressed by the city and the world than the crazy gameplay. ALso, as much as I enjoy running around all super-powered in SR4 and clearing enemy bases, doing missions, etc., actually just running around the world and causing destruction or dicking around is more empty and less satisfying than in previous games. Dicking around in GTA 5 is pretty fun, with it’s sweet explosions and persistent police offices.

      • JamesJournal says:

        GTA 5 and Saints Row are too different. It’s like saying you can’t enjoy Die Hard because you’ve watched NTSF

    • HobbesMkii says:

      Unrelated, I wanted to say that this is why I hate downvotes and think there should be some way to ban people who utilize them–or at least let us see who’s done it so we can publicly shame them–and why NuDisqus is a blight upon Gameological’s society. There’s nothing wrong with the statement by @Morning_Wodehouse:disqus except for the “controversial” statement that they enjoy SR4 more than GTA5. It’s an opinion, supported by some explication of why Wodehouse feels that way. Unless someone wants to come in here and break their anonymity by explaining their downvote, I have to assume it’s nothing more than a kneejerk reaction to seeing GTA5 (an admittedly great game) criticized or unfavorably compared to its former genre-clone.

      Anyhow, I gave this (and the post by @sanfordabernethy:disqus ) an upvote on principle, not because I agree with the contentions made within, merely because it doesn’t deserve a downvote.

      • PhonyPope says:

        Well, a downvote isn’t a flag – it could be something as simple as someone disagreeing with the post. I don’t think that’s necessarily an invalid use of a downvote.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          That would be fine–if that were the way Disqus treats them. But it’s not. A post with 10 upvotes and 2 downvotes doesn’t get ranked higher on the “best” list than a post a with just 5 upvotes. It gets buried underneath. Disqus defaults to sorting the list by “Best” instead of “Oldest” like it used to, so this is a great way to ensure only the stuff everyone agrees with appears above the fold (by which I mean, the “Load More Comments” bar). Should the thread off that run long enough, all other comments and their accompanying threads become invisible unless people want to click through. Considering that data shows readers often won’t even bother with the second page of a 2 page article on the web, I doubt they’ll be flipping through each page of the comments. I know I don’t do it very often.

          Also, collect enough downvotes and Disqus will actually hide the post. So, conceivably, enough people who disagree with the concept of “SR4 > GTA5 and here’s why I think so” could censor the conversation.

          I don’t think downvoting is a proper way to show that you disagree with a thread. For the reasons I’ve explained, it actually stifles discourse, rather than adds support or disagreement to particular arguments. This is clearly a result of Disqus trying to use some of Reddit’s karma is king strategy, but the drawback of Reddit is that only the popular rises to the top–which is not necessarily the best.

          I would suggest that, instead of downvoting a comment you disagree with, you upvote a response you do agree with, or post one yourself if none are available.

          • PhonyPope says:

            Disqus doesn’t default to sorting by Best, it defaults to sorting by whatever you’ve chosen to sort by.

            If you choose to sort by Best, then I suppose downvotes are going to affect your viewing experience more than other people, but that’s your choice.

            Btw, I didn’t downvote Wodehouse’s post, but I did downvote yours, because I don’t like people who call for bans just because everyone isn’t adhering to your particular arbitrary set of rules.

          • HobbesMkii says:

            I’ve had to change the sorting a number of times to get back to oldest. But I do know that the first time I visited a site using the current iteration of Disqus, it was set to Best. And Best is the first choice on the drop-down. Anyone who has designed a UI or a survey or a poll can tell you that’s not accidental and that what comes first influences users (or respondents) towards choosing that option.

            I admit that my call for banning was an over-reaction. I’ll edit it.

          • PhonyPope says:

            I changed mine to Oldest and it has fortunately stuck, but knowing Disqus, I’m not at all surprised that other people have had problems with it.

          • Sanford Abernethy says:

            Downvoting is one of those fundamentally toxic moderation strategies like “disemvoweling” that essentially produce circle jerks.

    • duwease says:

      Definitely. Now, about 40 hours into GTAV though, I think they’re pretty different experiences. SR4 is more of an unrestrained-id booze-and-coke high-energy endless rampage and dance party. GTAV is more of a visit to a new place, with low-key exploration and getting a kick out of little details and finding new places.

      It does feel weird calling a Grand Theft Auto game “restrained”, but compared to SR4 even Nicki Minaj seems low-key.

    • Fluka says:

      I haven’t played (and probably won’t play) GTA5, but I fully agree on getting addicted to the movement of SR4. Walking and driving are for chumps. Why would I want to do that when I can jump over tall buildings, glide over half the city, and slam down back to earth in a small nuclear explosion? All while wearing high heels? I actually ended up taking a month-long break from gaming after I finished and figuratively crashed down to earth, burnt out on so much open-world sugar.

      • Oren Leifer says:

        It’s the descendant of Prototype and Spiderman 2. I just wish that they had brought back the Vampire DLC from Saints Row III, then it really would have been Prototype-like in a great way. As it is, I still sometimes die because I forget you can’t eat people.
        …IN GAME! I meant in IN GAME!

    • JamesJournal says:

      errrr playing Saints Row 4 and GTA 5 back to back is like watching an NTSF:SD:SUV marathon, then flipping the channel to Die Hard. Both different kinds of dumb fun.

  5. Sanford Abernethy says:

    What really makes them stand out, to me, is that when you’ve flying
    your ship around to avoid enemies in Saints Row 4, you kinda bounce
    around to Haddaway’s What is Love? while in The Matrix they kinda fire
    off an EMP in a derivative sci-fi way,

  6. Pgoodso says:

    It’s touched on in the piece, but it is worth reiterating how absolutely uninspired Neo’s “mastery” of the Matrix is. Supposedly able to bend the rules of reality in the Matrix, Neo could be the Matrix’s Green Lantern or Scarlet Witch (literally if he liked the comics enough). But he’s still limited to classical Superman powers. I mean, hell, there’s been teleportation, invulnerability and wall hack cheats in games since DOOM, and he chooses to FLY non-instantaneously to save Trinity?

    Not to mention the “arsenal” provided by the Matrix pre-rooms seen in the first film. The “real” world of Zion actually has energy weapons and EMPs that can disrupt AI circuits, so, by the film’s narrative logic, energy weapons of that nature are perfectly physically possible. At least they have those walking mech defense units. As such, why in the WORLD are they using 90’s era weaponry in the Matrix? To blend in better while they dodge bullets and suspend themselves in midair? You can bring in an Uzi, but you can’t bring in, say, that energy weapon that gets used to kill Joe Pantoliano? Or at least an Apache helicopter?

    At the very least Neo should have turned on Big Head mode and turned himself into a velociraptor. Then he would have at least been as creative a messiah as the programmers of Turok.

    • Nudeviking says:

      Hold on a second. That guy’s name was Neo? I’ve been calling him Neil this whole time.

      • GaryX says:

        God, I really hate that. Whenever I introduce myself, half of almost everyone goes “Wait, Neo? Like in the Matrix?”

    • Girard says:

      He also could have opened up a hex editor, and set all the Agents’ health stats to zero. Or given them some weird chromosomal disorder.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      Thank you! I always thought the same thing…okay, flying is cool I guess, but all he can do is fly and punch hard?

    • Dijonase says:

      I still really love the original, and I enjoyed parts of the second, and less of the third, but you make an excellent point. Neo can do ANYTHING, right?

      I’m going from memory here and it’s been a while, but doesn’t Morpheus tell Neo about a man born inside the Matrix who could remake the world as he saw fit? And he was the “original” The One? They could have taken those sequels to some really strange places, but they basically just made it so that Neo could fly and stop bullets. There was infinite potential there and they really didn’t do enough with it, even if it was cool to see Neo fly.

      • Shain Eighmey says:

        Honestly, the first film hinted at this so much at the end, and then they just got really lazy with the next two.

    • hcduvall says:

      If he doesn’t use powers in a coincidental way relatable to consensual reality, paradox would bite him in the ass. No? No one else played Mage? Awww.

    • a_scintillating_comment says:

      holy crap, I’ve finally found someone else who has played a Turok game! I’m booting one up later to celebrate.

  7. Mistah Chrysoprase says:

    “There’s a lot of punching and kicking and whatnot, but the humans are
    ultimately put down, and the cycle repeats.”
    Wait, THAT was the ending? I admit, I was pretty fucking stoned at the time, but I thought humans and machines were supposed to have sort of reconciled, or like at least transcended the old cycle of OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW MUCH I DON’T CARE.

    Son of a syphilitic whore, what a massive waste of time that turned out to be

    • ZTO says:

      I don’t know that that was the ending shown in the movie, but I guess the idea is that there were a lot of people like Neo before Neo. Every so many years, a new “the one” pops up and gets killed. Neo is a “the one” and I think the only reason he does any better is that he gets Agent Smith so messed up that he kind of breaks everything. If you can understand anything past the first movie, however, you deserve some kind of trophy.

      • droopymcjackass says:

        All the other “ones” before Neo chose to continue the cycle after entering the Architect’s chamber (leading to the destruction of the current New Zion, the ability to hand-choose unaware humans from the Matrix to found & repopulate a new New Zion, and [presumably] the inability to ever enter the real world again). His refusal granted Neo unexpected real-world robot/EMP powers & that, coupled with Agent Smith’s unexpected Matrix godhood & reality infiltration, led to a tentative truce between human & robot. Because they’re becoming more like each other. Or something.

        Note: all applicable instances are pronounced “ro-butt”

    • Fluka says:

      I caught the end of the first Matrix on cable about a year or so ago. During the last shot, when Neo zooms off all super-hero-like, I thought to myself “Hey, it’ll be cool to see where this goes when they finally make a sequel.” Then I remembered the truth and shed a tiny tear.

  8. TaumpyTearrs says:

    They learned their lesson (some what) when they made the second Matrix game (Path of Neo I think?). WHile its still has its problems and lacks the freedom of SR4, it was atleast smart enough to let you play as Neo and use a bunch of his cool moves. The combat was janky, but not garbage like the previous game, and it actually did a decent job of recreating some of the fights from the movies. It also had terrible and frustrating 3D puzzle type levels where you had to leap between platforms and floating portals or some shit like that. The concept was neat, but the execution was awful. Path of Neo was an almost perfect weekend rental except for those levels stopping my friend and I dead in our tracks the first time, just like the nightmare levels in the original Max Payne.

  9. CNightwing says:

    Hey everyone. I spent the weekend in Essen! I already wrote a report on the tournament I took part in here. I thought I’d share some of my experiences at the fair itself and tell you about the games I saw.

    First of all, it’s important to understand just how busy Spiel Essen is. Hotels nearer to the convention centre are booked out about a month in advance, but thankfully the city has pretty good transport links so you can stay just about anywhere for a reasonable price. There are a lot of people that attend, and you will often proceed through the corridors between stands at a snail’s pace – especially on Saturday I noticed. In general though, the crowds are quite varied, lots of families, a range of ages and nationalities and everyone’s very friendly. Whatever hotel or restaurant you end up in in the evening, you’ll find people with games, and I found that a great way to check out things you hadn’t had time to see, or to read through some rules if you were curious about the mechanics of a particular game.

    The fair is split roughly into three sections. The largest hall contains mostly publishers, who will sell you everything they can at a relatively good discount – even for new games you’ll get about 10% off the planned retail price. The next largest has smaller publishers and a lot of sellers – not just of current games, but quite a few with old stock or second-hand games. If you ever wanted the original Game of Life or some once-printed expansion, you’ll find it. I did find it hard to get English copies of quite language-dependent games though. Finally the third hall is in conjunction with a comics convention, and contains a vast array of more typical geek fare such as larp gear, costumery, a wonderful British ale and mead stand, roleplaying games, miniatures and so on.

    I arrived Friday afternoon and with a friend mostly wandered the main two halls. The majority of stands have games setup to play, and people on standby to teach you how to play them – especially new games. To highlight the friendliness, the first thing we played was a 5+ player party game, because three guys asked us if we would make up numbers. You might have to wait a while for the popular new games though, hovering by the table until the previous people finish, so I usually only tried things out opportunistically.

    Saturday I was busy at the tournament, so Sunday was reserved for shopping and trying out things I’d spotted before. Sunday is the best day to buy as people are often keen to get rid of stuff rather than ship it back home, so expect maybe another 5-10% discount and the occasional promotional freebie. A tactic I saw many times was to create a list of games you wanted to buy and then note down prices at each stall, then go on a spree at the last minute – but that can be tricky when there are limited copies of certain games.

    So what did I play and buy? Well the party game was called Wooolf! I think, and was one of those mafia-style games where players have a role and it becomes an information game – it was fun, and would definitely be good with lots of people. I also played a card/dice game called CV, in which you tried to navigate your way through various stages of life, getting a job, buying things, trying to achieve points from personal goals. It was simple, but fun, and the art was really nice – I would have liked more cards though, the range seemed limited. I also played Suburbia, in which you construct a city with hexes, trying to attract populus without running a deficit and achieve endgame points/population. It had a neat mechanic that as you scored points during the game, your income and repuation would fall, so you couldn’t race too far ahead without self-limitation.

    So I bought Suburbia – it was both pretty and fun. I also got hold of Nations – I allowed myself to do so without playing it because it looked like an excellent evolution of Through the Ages, but with worker placement and less awkwardly random military options. Plus two chaps at the hotel were playing it and gave a glowing review. I got hold of a copy of the Iello version of Innovation: Echoes of the Past, immediately found a printing error, reported it to them, they found it in another unopened copy and looked very sad (but I’ll get replacement cards by post). On the older games front, I picked up Hive in a pocket edition, the Struggle for Catan because I do not have enough short 2-player games at home, and the Mayfair people were lovely when I complained about the rival Kosmos version of the original game (it’s all plastic, no wood >_<), and finally a Call of Cthulhu campaign book, Terror from the Skies, because I'll never find that in English in Switzerland.

    So, overall, a totally awesome experience – but do set yourself a games budget and stick to it or it'll add up quickly! Pictures to come this afternoon for those *really* interested.

    • boardgameguy says:

      So glad you came back and reported about your trip! How did the actual tournament go? Did you and your games group do well?

      Did you view any of the buzzed about games like Amerigo, Legacy, or Tash Kalar?

      • Jesse Fuchs says:

        Ooh, Tash Kalar! I read through the sample game in the rulebook and am really looking forward to this one. Looks like a typical Chvatil design, in that it’s totally unlike anything he’s done before and somehow manages to be both absurdly baroque and absurdly elegant.

      • CNightwing says:

        Thanks! There’s a link to my tournament experience at the top of the comment. We did pretty badly :p
        I saw Amerigo and Tash Kalar, but didn’t play them. Amerigo looked very nice, I could see all sorts of fun coming from just the random map setup alone. Tash Kalar seemed pretty cool too – I was put off by the card-driven parts, but that’s just my taste, I could see plenty of room for expansions in that one, so it could be a good pick.

        • boardgameguy says:

          Thanks for that. In the new Disqus I am scanning right over the links.

          From everything I’ve read, Tash Kalar seems to be Vlaada’s take on an abstract game. I’m definitely curious.

  10. Roswulf says:

    So….anyone played Enter the Dominatrix yet? Should I swallow my aversion to full-price DLC to experience another round of candy-coated SR IV madness, or hold off?

    I’ve already come to terms with the fact that I won’t be able to resist the upcoming Christmas DLC.

    • duwease says:

      There’s DLC out?!?!

      *Drops GTAV*
      *Runs out the door*

    • Fluka says:

      I haven’t played it yet either. The meta-ness sounds pretty neat, though the return to the sex worker humor leaves me skittish. Waiting to hear what others think (also, lack of time!). I’m damn well going to be there to find out how the Saints Save Christmas, though!

      • djsubversive says:

        it’ll probably involve blowing shit up, a rock/pop song from the 80s or 90s that’s used in a hilarious way, and swearing. lots of swearing.

  11. Cheese says:

    I picked this up during the half-off Steam sale this past weekend, and I have DEVOURED it. It’s embarrassing how little I’ve done in the past 96 hours or so besides play Saints Row IV. It really is a fantastic Matrix game.

    • djsubversive says:

      I got it on Monday as a birthday gift (and Effigy Power got me Spec Ops: the Line because she’s the bestest). I’ve spent waaay too much time leaping around virtual Steelport punching and kicking and shooting things.

      It’s making it difficult to want to work on my Arma mission. I’m missing the 80s music and superpowers every time I test something out. Oh, also, Mad Decent radio. It brought me back to my rave-days of the late 90s: Vietnam-style flashbacks to glowsticks, gigantic pants, and dim smoky venues of questionable legality.

  12. Boonehams says:

    At least Enter the Matrix gave us Jada Pinkett Smith kissing Monica Bellucci…
    …which is, admittedly, not as enjoyable to watch as it sounds because this whole game is pretty damn dour. But hey, it’s something.

  13. Chum Joely says:

    It’s that time again… the Gameological “Game Revue Club” on Steam is now voting on the game we’ll be playing for our 7th edition, so I’ll be spamming various threads here with invitations to come and vote!

    The vote thread is here, and voting is open until midnight EDT on Thursday:

    Saints Row IV isn’t on the list this time out, but here are the 13 candidates (spoooooky) that are up for a vote:
    – Alpha Protocol
    – Antichamber
    – Bastion
    – Bientôt l’été
    – Cabela Big Game Hunter Trophy Bucks
    – Dark Souls
    – Euro Truck Simulator
    – Godus
    – Gone Home
    – Hotline Miami
    – Papers Please
    – Sir, You Are Being Hunted
    – Thomas Was Alone

    The current top 3 are Papers Please, Alpha Protocol, and Cabela/Trophy Bucks (!!!), but the whole field is still close enough that a few votes one way or another could totally change the game. Join us, won’t you?

  14. Kyle O'Reilly says:

    I thought that the reason I had Adobe After Effects on my computer was for work purposes but now I realize it is to paste Tommy Bahama shirts over every human character in the Matrix sequels. My mission is clear.

  15. Mike Mariano says:

    “Zubaz” only has one “z” at the end.

    (Why do I know this?)

  16. robmoden says:

    Since I only got around to playing Saint’s Row IV around the time of GTA V (I’m one of the last people in the world renting games), I haven’t had the chance to ask about this and Google turned up nothing.

    So, the game turns off open-world/repeatable events once you get to right before the final story mission, correct? That’s what happened to me. The game alerted me that I was about to play the final mission and should save, and I did. Little did I know that from here on, all the once-repeatable races or Virus (Horde) events or what have you were gone from the streets. All that was available was increasing your wanted level until one of the giant boss alien creatures showed up, repeat ad infinitum. And I only ever kept the one save file, because Saint’s Row IV isn’t exactly the kind of game you’re paranoid you’ll make the wrong choice in and have to revert to a specific earlier point.

    It was kind of a bummer that the game was essentially forcing me to start over entirely just to get back the once-replayable activities – and presumably would make me start at level 0 with my character all over again.

    • Dariusz G. Jagielski says:

      I’ve just started to play SRIV. Thanks for the warning. Will keep it in mind to make separate save.

  17. Matthew Burke says:

    I’m sure that Saints Row is the much better game, but Enter the Matrix will always have a special place in my heart for allowing me to play as a car and beat up my friends;
    Best cheat ever, or bestest cheat ever?

  18. Kevin Johnson says:

    I just did a little piece on the Matrix, and how basically this movie and this series began the whole idea of bloated movie franchises (in a more modern context, unlike Star Wars, which really was an anomaly, a perfect storm of timing, effort, and luck.)

    I mean, this idea was always a thing, but The Matrix changed franchise filming from diminishing, obvious cash-grabs to giant, worldwide, huge-event-causing cash-grabs. It started, for better or for worse, the use of other media to explore terrible stories and ideas, far past their expiration dates. The Matrix and its followups are why we have 4 Pirates of the Caribbeans, 2 more Avatars coming, a shit-load of superhero movies, etc.

  19. JamesJournal says:

    The only part of Enter the Matrix that was kind of cool, was when you had to fight the Merovingian’s goons. Those were the only cool “evenly matched” fights in the game. Plus the slo-mo vampire staking animations were cool. I remember thinking, “why not take this whole system and make a blade game instead?”

    • Dariusz G. Jagielski says:

      Yeah, I think author did poor choice of a game and should compare SRIV with Path Of Neo.

  20. ka1iban says:

    Oh, thank God. I thought I was crazy for loving SRIV’s bombastic, kinetic (if paper-thin) aesthetic and being bored to tears by GTAV

  21. beema says:

    Posting here because it’s recent. The Steam and GOG Halloween sales are now on. Discounts on all horror-themed games! (also some non horror ones like F:NV and Borderlands 2, for whatever reason)

    If anyone likes the genre, I highly recommend Condemned: Criminal Origins. It’s super cheap and well worth it.

    • Fluka says:

      I guess there are zombie-like ghouls in New Vegas? And, um, monsters in Borderlands? *Looks at list, sees that it has Sleeping Dogs, too.* Okay, I got nothin’.

      (EDIT: Maybe it’s stuff that has Halloween or Horror DLC?)

      • Zach Raymond says:

        Yes, Sleeping Dogs has horror DLC.

      • djsubversive says:

        Deathclaws are monster-y. They’re even modeled after the old version of the terrasque from D&D.

        Dead Money is sort of survival-horror-y. It’s also my absolute favorite of the 4 NV story DLCs (although Old World Blues is pretty great, too).

  22. losthero47 says:

    I use to love Enter the Matrix, haven’t played it since I was like 13 but I still remember some of those levels fondly.