As an influential sci-fi franchise, The Matrix has always been about pushing boundaries. In its heyday, the series's use of ambitious computer-generated cinematography and stylized action sequences set the precedent for action movies as we know them today. The Matrix has never been afraid to innovate storytelling in all of its forms, and that artistic vision continues even in the world of video games. Enter The Matrix Awakens.
The Matrix series follows Neo (Keanu Reeves), a hacker who discovers that the reality in which he lives is a virtual simulation created by malevolent machines that use humans as a power source. Once he learns the truth, he teams up with rebels like Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) as they fight to reclaim humanity's freedom. With a new sequel on the way after more than 18 years, the world of the Matrix lives on, especially in The Matrix Awakens.
What is 'The Matrix Awakens'?
Announced in early December 2021 and officially unveiled at the 2021 Game Awards, The Matrix Awakens is a unique oddity in the world of video games. It's not exactly a full game, though it is free to download on next-gen consoles. It's also not a spin-off or continuation of the Matrix films. As soon as you start up the game, Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss recount the events of The Matrix and its innovations in filmmaking before plopping you into a car chase as you run from Agents.
Assuming control of an unnamed character, you're tasked with taking down the Agents using whatever weapons are at your disposal. After outrunning them, you're then free to explore the city in which your chase just took place. That's where the real fun of The Matrix Awakens begins.
The full title for the "game" is The Matrix Awakens: An Unreal Engine 5 Experience. As the name suggests, it is an enormous, Matrix-themed tech demo for one of the latest game design engines for the next generation, Unreal Engine 5. The vibrant and bustling city boasts an incredibly realistic look and loads of explorability, allowing players to fly across skyscrapers to appreciate the impeccably detailed city from every possible angle.
Awakens allows players to adjust a vast amount of settings in the game, from its lighting, to its barebones design skeletons, to even the density of the in-game vehicular traffic. You can even drive one of more than 30,000 cars to take in the city or test out the physics. While there are no achievements or objectives, there are plenty of Easter eggs to uncover. Various landmarks are scattered throughout the city that inform you of the specs and scale of the gaming experience.
It is currently only available on next-gen consoles. If you're lucky enough to have gotten your hands on one during the ongoing pandemic, you'll be able to experience the potential of next-gen gaming through the lens of The Matrix.
The Matrix Awakens is available for free on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.