January 27, 2022

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How Matrix: Resurrections Could Be Shaped By Video Game Lore

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Early on in The Matrix Online, Morpheus plays a major role in the quest to try and retrieve Neo’s physical form. He also assisted players in recovering fragments of Neo’s “Residual Self Image,” or RSI (the term for the digital avatar a human inhabits within the Matrix), so they could be reforged and bring the fabled “One” back to the digital reality. Morpheus eventually went rogue from all three faction bases, however, and in a bid to force the Machine City into returning Neo’s body, began planting “code bombs” across the Matrix. While harmless to the digital forms of redpilled players, the bombs would expose the code of the Matrix itself to bluepills, in an attempt to awaken them to the faux-reality and destabilize Machine control even further, and perhaps disable it altogether.

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All three factions sought to either stop Morpheus from ending the Truce Neo had fought for with his actions or protect the code bombs as they went off in the hopes it would create more redpills. Then came a major twist. A mysterious masked program known only as the Assassin appeared and seemingly killed Morpheus. Each faction denied playing a part in the hit, but they all briefly united in an attempt to figure out who exactly had killed him—it didn’t last long, of course. As relations broke down, the game introduced even more extreme factions players could align with as the conflict between Zion and the Machine redpills became even more heated. There was the Zion-adjacent “E Pluribus Neo,” or EPN, who believed in exposing the truth of the Matrix simulation to every human being, and the Cypherites, Machine-aligned redpills who wanted to have their knowledge erased and be returned to the Matrix.

Eventually, the game’s storyline drew towards the path of open conflict between Zion and the Machines once more, when the latter discovered the existence of a new human city built in secret, aptly named New Zion, that Zion generals considered a home for the ever-growing number of humans freed from the Matrix. But whatever was meant to come of the battle was never seen. Low subscriber counts lead to Sony Online Entertainment shutting down The Matrix Online at the beginning of August 2009. The move saw remaining players prompted with the message “Wake up!,” only for their avatars to suddenly begin screaming and convulsing, contorted into broken forms before the game’s service officially disconnected forever.

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What would’ve happened between the various factions as the conflict became open and Neo’s truce broke down, as well as what really became of either Neo or Morpheus, was still the subject of intense speculation. Some players believed certain quests in The Matrix Online suggested that Neo had re-incarnated in a new form, a woman named Sarah Edmontons—an anagram of Thomas Anderson, Neo’s Matrix name—briefly mentioned as having miraculously awoken from a coma before disappearing. Another subplot in the wake of Morpheus’ assassination saw EPN operatives seemingly attempt to reveal a heavily damaged fragment of Morpheus’ own RSI, but The Matrix Online’s paring back of features meant that these threads were ultimately never expounded upon.


How Does The Matrix Online Tie Into Matrix: Resurrections?

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Screenshot: Warner Bros.

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Right now, it’s hard to really say. We know that Keanu Reeves and Carrie Ann-Moss’ returns as potentially new versions of Neo and Trinity (especially the latter’s case, considering we saw Trinity die in the climax of Revolutions) already seems to suggest that a new cycle of conflict between Machine City and humanity has begun, with a rebooted Matrix as well. Many have also already speculated that Yahya Abdul-Mateen II playing a new version of Morpheus in Resurrections—original actor Laurence Fishburne is, as far as we know, not returning for the film—suggests that the events established in The Matrix Online are considered to have actually happened, and that the version of Morpheus we knew in the past cycle really did perish. On top of killing Morpheus, the game also established that player characters themselves could die (unlike in the films), without their human selves in the “real world” being threatened by their avatar’s death in the Matrix. Perhaps then, Morpheus’ “death” is potentially less of a total thing and the version we meet in Resurrections could just simply be the latest RSI of the real Morpheus.


Just who this new version is, and if they really are Morpheus as they claim to be, remains to be seen—we’ll have to wait for Resurrections to release on December 22 to see just how much of The Matrix Online’s code lives on in it.

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