The early to mid 2000s were a weird time in the shooter realm. Remedy gave us the wonderful classic Max Payne in 2001, the shooter that popularized bullet time and action movie stunts, a tribute to John Woo. Yet it wasn’t until 2003 when the sequels to The Matrix hit did it really kick off a brief “bullet time shooter” boom.
Remedy would return with a sequel that year with Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. Then two Matrix game tie-ins: Enter the Matrix that takes place inbetween The Matrix Reloaded, and Path of Neo, sort of a loose retelling of the film trilogy from Neo’s perspective. After that, Monolith’s classic F.E.A.R. in 2005. But then Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare happened and the trend died as quickly as it came.
Those are most well-known examples, though. A lot of Eastern European game developers took a crack at bullet time, including today’s entry.
El Matador was one of a handful of games that saw how big bullet time was and tried to make a decent Max Payne clone out of it. Developed by Plastic Reality Technologies and published by Cenega not long after 1C Company bought them, this game came and went, much akin to other budget games. Thrown into the pit of obscurity to be talked about from people like me.
I’ve owned this game for many years, even writing about grabbing it in an old I Bought Stuff entry from 2012, complete with an interesting story inside the box. In what is a trend I need to inevitably break, it took me a very, very long time to actually get around and write about El Matador. Better late than never, I suppose.
You play as Victor Corbett, a cop for the DEA who after their success solving a hostage situation gets called down to Colombia to help their police forces take down a drug empire. After defeating one of the drug lords, he eventually gets the title of “El Matador,” which is generally accepted among the squad for reasons not completely explained. Corbett eventually goes from place to place, killing drug barons and helping out his squad to end the drug threat.
El Matador falls into the standard third person shooter elements at the time. Hold a gun, left click fires, right click zooms in (or scopes in with the appropriate weapon). Shoot dudes until they die, try not to get shot too much yourself, and don’t die. Pretty simple stuff.
Victor gets a bunch of weapons throughout, which are common for a Max Payne clone. From the common pistols and submachine guns to gimmick weapons like sniper rifles and rocket launchers. Since he’s meant to be a cop, he’ll usually start missions with the assault rifle, which ended up being my preferred weapon throughout most of the game. It’s a shame, because in Max Payne he slowly built up his arsenal, forcing you to rely on pistols and shotguns until you get the bigger, better guns later on down the line. I rarely had to use my pistols or submachine guns unless I was completely out of ammo in those other weapons.
Since bullet time is a core mechanic, Tab activates the slow motion while Shift does a shootdodge. Killing enemies refills the bar even while in bullet time, and Victor reloads weapons instantaneously while in bullet time, meaning certain weapons become literal bullet hoses. This made certain parts of the game a bit easier, though not by much.