As anyone who has seen any of The Matrix movies knows, martial arts play a huge role in the story of human beings trapped in the virtual prison known as The Matrix. As such, any Matrix game needs to capture the hand-to-hand (and occasional boot-to-head) combat of the movies. The Matrix Online, the online role-playing game that will launch next week, is no exception. Even though you'll play online with thousands of other players at the same time, you'll still be able to engage in elaborate martial arts duels while you explore the world and undergo quests.
To nail down the look and feel of hand-to-hand combat, the developer turned to ZeroGravity, a martial arts stunt team that does work for motion pictures and television. The ZeroGravity team helped choose the martial arts styles that would be included in the game and then assisted the animation team to ensure the animation was smoothly executed. Its first goal was to choose three styles that looked very different from one another visually, while the second goal was to make sure the styles chosen were expandable in the future, to perhaps support the addition of martial arts weapons. As a result, the team chose kung fu, karate, and aikido as the three primary martial arts styles for the game.
According to ZeroGravity founder Kerry Wong, all martial arts styles have a balance of hard and soft techniques, which means they lend themselves to different styles of gameplay. An aggressive player may like karate because it employs a hard technique. "Karate is known to have not only more hard techniques than soft, but the hard movements in karate are distinct to other styles that have hard techniques, using a more linear, hard-hitting, no-nonsense approach," he said.
Aikido, on the other hand, is mainly a soft-style combat system compared to karate. "[It's] a very defensive martial art, [but] it can still deal a great amount of damage by countering attacks thrown by opponents," said Wong. However, The Matrix Online team has balanced Aikido with some specific attack moves, for balance purposes, to keep it from being a purely defensive style.
Between the soft style of aikido and the hard style of karate is kung fu, which uses both hard and soft techniques. Though it shares similar techniques to karate, kung fu employs a more circular pattern, according to Wong. "Even though the attacks and defenses are circular, they are not necessarily soft, as some of those techniques are considered to be quite powerful in the game," Wong said.
While these represent the three main styles of martial arts used in the game, the ZeroGravity team did incorporate snippets of other styles here and there. The team also used aspects of capoeira, tae kwon do, and muay Thai, among others, for their unique contributions to various attacks and moves. "With capoeira, movements flow with efficiency and grace. Tae kwon do incorporates kicking combinations and aerial techniques that offer a different 'snap' to their attacks. And muay Thai offers similar movements from other martial arts styles, as it is a form of kickboxing itself, yet the emphasis on power, speed, and other fighting techniques sets it apart," said Wong.
Of course, martial arts aren't the only combat style in the game, as anyone who has seen the movies knows that gunplay also plays an important role in The Matrix. The Matrix Online will also feature ranged combat so that players can run around with guns. However, it's always good to know that their characters can fall back on their martial arts skills, assuming they have them. After all, karate chops don't run ever run out of bullets.