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Fans of The Matrix are more than familiar with the importance of choice. But as it turns out, fans themselves were given a pretty interesting choice back in 2005, when Shiny Entertainment released The Matrix: Path of Neo video game, as it allowed players to play and experience an alternate ending to the Wachowskis' genre-bending film trilogy — in case they were looking for something a little different than the conclusion of 2003's The Matrix Revolutions.
As Gabriel Rountree, the animation director on Path of Neo explains in Polygon's recent oral history of the game, part of the reason the game even came to be told from Neo's point of view was because of how the studio's previous Matrix game, Enter the Matrix, had been received.
"The number one complaint from the fans was that they wanted to be Neo," Roundtree explains. That's opposed to Enter the Matrix following the characters Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Ghost (Anthony Wong), from the film The Matrix Reloaded. "So that's why we went with Path of Neo. We really didn't want to disappoint those fans a second time. Plus, we wanted to be Superman, too. Who doesn't?"
And because the films had already wrapped and been released by the time the studio got to work on the game, the Wachowskis were able to become more involved in the creative process. In fact, as Chandana "Eka" Ekanayake, Path of Neo's art and cinematic director shares, the second game had been intended to follow Seraph, one of the side characters from the teahouse in Reloaded, before plans changed.
"At some point they wanted to retell Neo's story across all three films. And make it more of a video game story," explains Ekanayake of the Wachowskis-driven creative arc of the game. "They're like, 'We want to tell the story from Neo's perspective. We're gonna fill in some holes that we come up with. And then we're gonna change the ending.'"
Of course, video games being a different medium entirely meant that the developers of Path of Neo were free to play around, and both deepen the world's wider lore and build on the incredible fight sequences that had been featured in the second and third movies.
"We wanted a real boss fight — this was something we discussed with the Wachowskis," says Rountree. "It had to top the movie. 'It's a game; we can do anything we want.' We started brainstorming. Another big crowd fight? But we'd already done that."
That's what led to the creation of a unique megaboss that wouldn't have been as possible in terms of the movies, but which video game technology would allow for — even if it was something that had to be developed and created from scratch.
"They wanted to do this thing called MegaSmith, where all the thousands of Smiths formed into MegaSmith," explains Ekanayake of the final form of Agent Smith that players have to face as Neo in Path of Neo. "Taking the location from the last battle in the third movie, but bringing it almost into this Godzilla-like form. Because they thought that would be more fun in a video game, and it was."
He continues, "The game was almost like a reaction to how the movies were received. Because the general consensus was that the second film was not as good, and the third one was weird or whatever, but the first one was the perfect movie. Attitudes have changed since then, but I think people see the first movie as almost a standalone thing, whereas the second and third feel like one big movie cut up into two pieces. So the game was a creative reaction by the Wachowskis to the whole Matrix trilogy. But they were havin' a lot more fun with it, too."
Part of this fun was actually appearing in the game itself, which featured a scene where Lily and Lana Wachowski's tiny pixelated forms explained the Matrix to players.
"They wanted to finish with something the movie could never do; they wanted to break the fourth wall," says game director Saxs Persson. "They didn't want to be part of it in terms of their likeness, but they wanted to have their view heard directly. And so that's how the sequence ended up happening with the little talking heads. They wanted to send off The Matrix the right way."
Anyone who's actually played the game will probably note that the ending of Path of Neo is quite psychedelic, but that was actually part of the Watchowskis' intention for the game, especially since audiences would be familiar with the ending of the movie already. When asked by the president of Shiny Entertainment, David Perry, what they'd like the game's ending to be, they noted that Queen's "We Are the Champions" should be playing — even though getting the rights for it could be quite expensive.
"They thought that would be hilarious. Not hilarious as in making fun of the fans so much as the perfect movie ending," says Rountree. "They were trying to set a tone, maybe make it a little more lighthearted."
The Matrix Resurrections is currently available in theaters and on HBO Max.