Matrix Online

Format: PC
(+£8.49 per month)
5 060004 764174
Age Restrictions: 12+
15 April 2005

Following the close of the third
Matrix film, a truce now exists between the machines and the citizens of Zion. True to the conditions the machines allow the humans to awaken others. But where is Neo's body and why do the machines not return it...

Matrix Online is one of those things, which normally I wouldn't touch with a barge poll. If I can't kill something in the first five minutes, then I start loosing the will to live. Add to that my experience of online games as one where the more experienced gamers take great delight in killing you as soon as possible, this then was going to be a hard sell.

As the name suggests, Matrix is purely an online game that requires the payment of a subscription to play. There is unfortunately no single player game, which might help to decide whether or not you want shell out your hard earned cash on a monthly basis.

Setting up your character is a fairly long process, but this turns out to be an advantage, as it allows you to control many aspects of your character's personality and abilities. You also can choose which faction to join; you can work for the humans, machines or the exiles. Once you have worked through all the different parameters of the set-up you are ready for the tutorial, here it's worth taking your time to familiarise yourself with combat and movement within the matrix, here you can explore and practice.

The initial user interface can be a bit daunting at first but as you get used to your most commonly used weapons, tools and actions these can be placed in a special hot bar for quick and easy access. Once you're settled into using the interface your ready to take on a mission. Missions come in two types - Critical and general - the general missions will be your bread and butter in the game, as the critical missions forward the Meta story and so will be rarer beasts. Of course, with the open ended nature of the program there is nothing stopping you going off and killing a major character, though the chances of success are limited, if you succeed then that becomes part of the overall Meta story, so in a real sense it's possible to influence the direction of the Meta story, and these changes will be incorporated into any further Matrix products.

An online game wouldn't be worth its salt, these days without the ability to band together with other real players, so of course Matrix has the ability to create factions and crews, so that players can work together to fulfil a mission or increase their own abilities or just to divvy up any loot that you may have acquired. One little thing I did like was the incorporation of AOL's AIM program allowing you to PM people who are not even jacked into the game, thereby allowing you to keep up with your online social life while you play till the wee small hours of the morning.

The playing zone is huge, with many specialist areas, one of which is the Archive. It is not allowed within the game for Red pills to attack each other, except after a formal challenge, so the best place to discover ancient secrets about the Matrix and to battle people of the same organisation is in the Archive.

I have to admit that I did enjoy Matrix Online; the world that has been created is huge and engrossing. The continuing Meta story, keeps the interest going throughout the experience. The combat mode also seems fairer than a lot of other games giving you the feeling that you really have kicked arse because you are a better fighter than your opponent. It's just a shame there isn't a single player mode which would allow you to practice as well as giving you the chance to see if you want to shell out your hard earned cash.

If online games are your bag then I don't think that the Matrix is going to disappoint you.

Charles Packer

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