A new installment of the Matrix movie franchise is due to hit soon but it reminded us of the utterly MAD ending to ‘The Matrix: Path Of Neo’. This author was really into the Matrix multimedia experience in the early 2000’s. Most people remember just the movie sequels which are, admittedly, confusing & in many ways, unsatisfying.
People often forget though that the Wachowski sisters didn’t just plan two films. They tied the narrative and even what happened AFTER the movies in different media formats. Before ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ released, there were the animated short films, collectively titled ‘The Animatrix’.
They also released ‘Enter The Matrix’, a multiformat video game that ran in parallel to the events of ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ – to the extent that characters in the final two films refer to events from the video game – confusing right? The cut scenes for that game were shot with the actors of the franchise during the filming of the movies.
A multimedia extravaganza!
That’s not all – there was a webcomic series and a spin off MMO, ‘The Matrix Online’ that dealt with the aftermath of ‘The Matrix Revolutions’ – including the planned death of a major character.
Critical (and public) opinion was mixed on these various outputs but I particularly loved the breadth of scope and world building.. So it was, with some excitement, that I eagerly picked up a new game in the franchise, ‘The Matrix: Path of Neo’ for my Playstation 2 in late 2005.
This game, developed by the now defunct Shiny, was a game that gave you control of Neo as it recreated key scenes from the movie trilogy. It also boasted, on the front cover no less, a revised ending from the Wachowski sisters. As someone that was deeply conflicted by the ending of the final film, I was in.
The game itself was fairly fun, slightly unmemorable as a gameplay experience but easily playable. Then I got to the end.
So, firstly, SPOILERS. I am going to totally spoil the end of this 17 yr old game. If you haven’t played it… well… Now is the time.
As Neo, you get to the end showdown with Agent Smith(s) in ‘The Matrix Revolutions’ and you go through those motions until the climatic moment to be met with… two virtual avatars of the series creators, the Wachowski sisters.
They explain, direct to camera, that the thematic ending of the Matrix series, doesn’t translate well to a video game. Sacrifice doesn’t make a cool video game ending. In the exchange, they poke fun at both the complexity and pseudo philosophy of what they were trying to convey while simultaneously lampooning the expectation of gamers for a cool boss fight.
What transpires, instead, is that Agent Smith forms a mecha version of himself and Neo has to smash him to pieces until defeated, when ‘We are the champions’ by Queen plays over the end scene and credits.
If you are wondering if we are making that up… er no, we aren’t. Check out the video below.
At the time, I found it rather irritating. Sold as a new ending, I was expecting something… through provoking. I walked away thinking I had been cheesed, a real fan having been expertly trolled. I mean, what a MAD ending to ‘The Matrix: Path of Neo’.
Now though, having matured and played A LOT more video games, I think the ending was ahead of its time. Certainly at that point, video games rarely managed to deal with the nuance of narrative storytelling versus the needs of gameplay. Even today, many games fail to make this delicate balance.
The end also gave a very astute assessment of the expectations of many gamers. ‘Entitled gamers’ wasn’t a meme then but I was one of those gamers. I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I had come to expect SOMETHING satisfying.
Ultimately, this MAD ending to ‘The Matrix: Path of Neo’ was possibly more clever than satisfying – a charge you could level at the Matrix franchise as a whole. Still, it was memorable. How many other games from that era could I recount the ending to after one solid playthrough?
It also makes me wonder about the upcoming sequel, ‘The Matrix Resurrections’. Can we expect another subversion from Lana Wachoswki? Something that does for movie sequel expectations what ‘The Matrix: Path of Neo’ did for the video game sequel? Personally, in a world or inane reboots and reimagining cash grabs, I hope so.
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