Matrix has always appreciated the power of video games

“They took my life and turned it into a video game,” says Keanu Reeves as Neo in Matrix resurrections. In the sequel to the sci-fi trilogy, Neo is once again trapped in the simulated world he fought so hard for. But this time he’s a game designer. Its epic fights are nothing more than half-memorized dreams, used as the inspiration for a hit game series. Decades after the success of these games, his studio is calling for a sequel.

As a meta-commentary, this turns out to be a bit tense, but incorporating the game into the plot is hardly arbitrary – since the first film in 1999, The matrix has built its success on a dialogue with video games. With a new movie and game released last month, The matrix once again pushes ideas about what games and cinema could offer as the lines between the two blur.

When I saw for the first time The matrix As a child, I understood the film’s vanity – humans trapped in a simulated machine-controlled universe – as an analog to a video game, even though gamers don’t know they are playing. The film has loadout sequences and workout schedules, while its action scenes were influenced by a visit directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski paid to the 1998 game’s Japanese developers. Tenchu: Stealth Assassins. The film popularized slow-motion “bullet time” which was quickly imitated in video games ranging from Max Payne at Very hot and Fall.

Back in the days of the original films, three Matrix video games are out. None of them were brilliant, but each pushed the boundaries of what a game could be, as games tied to big movie releases were usually little more than cynical cash grabbers. Enter the matrix was an action title at the same time as The Matrix Reloaded movie. You play as supporting characters Niobe and Ghost in a story that explains what happens offscreen in the film. The Wachowskis incorporated the game as an integral part of their storytelling, filming an additional hour of footage specifically for it. In a recent oral history, the game director said, “What we really liked was that the Wachowskis wanted to push the boundaries; they believed that games could be more than just a prop.

The next match, The matrix: Neo Path, was at first glance simpler. Players become Neo and play through the story of the original trilogy. Yet instead of the act of sacrifice in the trilogy finale, the siblings rewrote the ending to appease combat-hungry players, as they explain in a weird in-game voiceover. It culminates with a high-octane battle followed by a winning streak on Queen’s “We Are the Champions” soundtrack (apparently licensing that song was the game studio’s biggest expense).

In ‘The Matrix Awakens’, players are unleashed in a realistic open world © Epic Games

The most interesting of the Wachowski’s experiences in the game was The online matrix (MxO), a massively multiplayer online role-playing game released at the time World of warcraft was becoming a cultural phenomenon. After the trilogy ended, they wanted fans to “inherit the storyline” and collaboratively write a story that would become canon in the storyline. Matrix universe. For four years, the story of the game developed in sections, notably featuring the death of key character Morpheus. When Laurence Fishburne wasn’t asked to reprise her role in the recent film, fans wondered if it was because he was killed in MxO. The film doesn’t give a definitive answer, but this collaborative, cross-media storytelling space the Wachowskis created feels innovative even today, as we bend under the weight of Marvel’s extended cinematic universes and Star wars.

Just before the recent movie, a new playable game Matrix has been freed. The matrix awakens is not a full game but rather a tech demo meant to show off Unreal Engine 5, the latest iteration of Epic’s software engine that powers many contemporary games. It features Reeves reprising his role in scenes written by Lana Wachowski, including action and narrative sequences, before players are unleashed in an incredibly realistic open world. While you can hardly do more than play the tourist in this space, it’s a remarkable demonstration of the game worlds we can expect as the developers get to grips with the next generation of consoles. After a long period of silence, a return to Matrix in-game steers us once again to the future.

The Matrix Awakens is now available for free on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X / S

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