Do you have to play the video game in order to see the movies. No, just like The Animatrix, you don't have to have played the game in order to enjoy the movie. Yet, there are some very interesting story lines and back stories that you miss if you haven't played it. This content enriches your movie experience. I equate it to watching your favorite television show. Take "Friends" for example. You can sit down and watch any episode of Friends and know what's going on and have a good time watching it. Yet a lot of the enjoyment of the show is the fact that you know about Ross and Rachel's past, or the fact that Monica used to be fat. When you know these back stories, things that happen in current episodes are more enjoyable. "We were on a break!" doesn't mean anything to you if you haven't seen the previous episodes.
The first segment involves going to the post office to collect the package. The second segment involves going to the airport to call all the other captains for the meeting that appears at the start of The Matrix Reloaded. I was very surprised to learn how the captains use the Matrix to leave messages for each other and there is some very funny dialog. While at the airport, you are called upon to save a fellow crew, which greatly expands the level. The third segment involves the meeting of the captains and the subsequent escape after the agents show up. In The Matrix Reloaded, we see Neo fight the agents, but we don't see what happens with the rest of the characters. It's a bit more expanded in the video game. After this third segment, I would recommend that you stop here and watch The Matrix Reloaded. Or at a minimum, watch The Matrix Reloaded, then play the game and then watch The Matrix Revolutions
Throughout the game you're presented with the following elements:
1. Cinematics - through the use of DVD quality video, you see the story unfold with all the main characters from the Matrix Trilogy. They take a few short cuts with the special effects in places, but otherwise it's the same quality of footage as the movies.
2. Animatics - to help transition you from the movie to the game, often times a cinematic with change into an animatic. This simply means that the story unfolds in an animated version using the game engine to render the characters. These cut scenes are just as engaging as the video because they use the actual actor's voices.
3. Game Play - you do actually get to play the game as well. As either Niobe, or Ghost, you navigate your way through the game unfolding the story as you play.
It was no surprise to learn that the game play sucks. As a game, Enter The Matrix is dead on arrival. No matter how powerful your computer is, the game play is going to bog down to a crawl whenever there are a lot of enemies on the screen. The limited ability to save your games is going to cause you to scream more than once. Last but not least, the game play is simply not that engaging. It's very linear and thus you're really only going from point A to point B, press a button, or open a door and the level is over. I'll be honest, as a game, it's a turd.
But that's not the point. The reason for this game is not for you to play it over and over like Quake III, or Medal Of Honor Allied Assault. The purpose for this game is to tell a story. I don't know that a video game is the best medium for telling a story, but I have to give the Wachowski brothers credit for the attempt. To show you that the Brothers simply want you to get to the end, if you get to a point where you can rest, your health will automatically increase. Not just a little at a time, but in 20 seconds you can go from 2% to 100% if you simply stand still (and no one is shooting at you).
Other than the 1 hour of DVD quality video (have I said that enough yet?), the only saving grace is the audio in the game. Dane Davis, the sound designer for the Matrix Trilogies used the exact sounds from the movies. So when you're in bullet time and hearing the guns go off, it's just like you're there. It's weird when the sound effects are the most notable aspects of a game, but they are that good.
The music is also excellent. Don Davis, the composer for the Matrix Trilogies, composed music for the game as well. In addition, there are tracks from Juno Reactor, Chris Vrenna, Fluke, Rob D and others, that add a certain bit of adrenaline to the game play. Great songs to kick butt to.
If you're a die-hard Matrix fan, then I'd recommend buying the game if you can find it on sale. However, you don't have to be a gamer to play this game. Simple button mashing will get you through the game and through all of the stories - which is the point of the whole game anyway. Even if you're not a die-hard fan, the story arcs are good and worth slugging through the game to watch them.