Anyone who was a child in the early 1980's who had even a slight interest in computers and sci-fi remembers when the film Tron hit the silver screen. The incredible visual effects of the computer animated worlds and characters, as well as the fast paced video game-like action screamed out to our pre-pubescent, video game loving psyches right from the start. So what if the movie tanked in the box office: the experience of seeing the film left a long lasting impression on many within my generation that was only surpassed by the phenomenon of Star Wars. 20 years since its release the film Tron still seems as brilliant and innovative as it was back in 1982, and remains a huge cult-classic hit. Capitalizing on this, the ingenious game designers at Monolith have attempted to capture the essence of the film for the PC gaming world: but does Tron 2.0 have what it takes to continue the digital legacy? Check out our full review right here at The Laser for the answer to this question…
Voted one of the hottest games the last two years in a row at the E3 computer gaming conference, Tron 2.0 finally has hit the shelves of retail stores everywhere. The big question now is whether or not this PC gaming title based off of a 20 year old cult classic film can withstand the scrutiny of two decades worth of progress in both the film and gaming industries. Not only that, but we all know the score when it comes to video games based off of movies, TV series, and other forms of popular media: they tend to suck the proverbial peanut. Being the intrepid gaming reviewers and players that we are, the gang here at The Laser tossed away any and all preconceptions of Tron 2.0 and gave the title a serious go on our PC rigs. To say we were impressed is a complete understatement. Tron 2.0 rocked our world.
Continuing the story where the film Tron left off, 20 years have passed since Alan Bradley's defense program (portrayed by Bruce Boxleitner in the film) defeated the evil Master Control Program's diabolical plans of worldwide computer corruption and control. The experimental digitalization process that allowed Flynn (portrayed by Jeff Bridges) to enter the surreal world of computers and their programs had been shutdown until now in order to perfect the technology and make it safe to use. Alan has finally achieved this lofty task with the help of Ma3a (pronounced 'mah-three-ah') and can now store the complete genetic makeup of a human being and deliver the subject back and forth safely between the real and digital words. Just as the finishes touches are being added to the new technology, a malicious virus is unleashed upon the mainframe of Alan's digitization server, while at the same time the Doctor is apparently abducted by unknown assailants. While Alan's 20 year old son computer genius progeny, Jethro Bradley (nicknamed Jet), investigates the disappearance of his father, he is inadvertently digitized by Ma3a as a safety measure to help secure 'her' from the virus infestation. Jet now finds himself in what he once thought was just a childhood tale, a digitized computer world that is as just as real and as dangerous as his own. Moving from computer server to server, Jet must defeat a plot from an evil corporation that threatens not only his father Alan's own well being, but also computers worldwide. If that doesn't' sound hard enough, Jet must also battle hordes of denizens residing within the digital world, including protection programs, virus infestations, and even a few mad artificial intelligences. Oh yeah….did we mention he has to take a few runs on the game grid, a la the virtual lightcycles as well?
A great story doesn't always lead to good gameplay, as we are all well aware. Not the case with Tron 2.0, thankfully. The story and the gaming go hand in hand in this particular title, giving us an exceptional FPS experience. Tron 2.0 is extremely fast paced shooter and very innovative with its use of weaponry (known as 'Primitives' in the game). Not only does the well known 'data disc' weapon make a triumphant return to the video game realm (last seen in the arcade classic Tron Deadly Discs), several new additions to the FPS realm also root their head to intensify the experience. These include a grenade-like ball device, a multipurpose rod that can be transformed into a close range shock weapon or long ranged sniper weapon, and a nifty little sub-machine gun styled mesh weapon that unleashes mid-ranged chaos on those trying to get in Jet's way.Combat isn't the only form of activity found in Tron 2.0. Players will also find themselves participating in a few contests of light cycle racing, forcing them to navigate maze-like corridors while traveling at break neck speeds. Adding to the intensity are specialized bike powerups that gives players such useful light cycle based weapons as missile launchers, wall-breakers, and even super speed. And I wonder where it is that my love for fast motorcycles came from.
Beyond the odd forms of weaponry used in the game, Tron 2.0 also sports an interesting form of RPG and powerup system that can called singularly unique in its design. Keeping in mind the 'digital computer world' theme of the game, the designers have incorporated a computer program like 'upgrade' system that allows players to build upon Jets' version number. Starting out at version 0.0, players can obtain points by searching out secret areas and completing levels of gameplay. After obtaining a certain amount of these build points, players can achieve the next 'version' of Jet (v1.0, v2.0, etc.) which in essence allows them to assign extra point values to their 5 core design abilities: Health, Energy, Weapon Proficiency, Transfer Rate, and Processor Speed. Depending on where you decide to lay your extra point can drastically change your methods and approach to the gameplay within Tron 2.0. The upgrade/RPG system also plays a significant part in the character design structure and powerup elements found in Tron 2.0. As players travel throughout the various levels found in the game, data clusters can be found nestled into corners and walls, as well as in data dumps left by defeated enemy programs. Downloading these little gems can give Jet vital sub-routines than can be used to enhance his abilities and skills. The combat subs can help enhance Jet's overall battle effectiveness, allowing him to upgrade his available Primitives into more effective versions (i.e. multiple disc throws, highly explosive multiple ball launchers, and long range weapon capabilities). The defense subs allow our hero to modify his armor capabilities in order to fend of standard attacks, or add to his virus repelling capabilities. The final subroutines, the Utilities, include every other modification that Jet can obtain, including heightened jump and speed abilities, optic zooms, power blocks, and even virus scans.
Each sub-routine found in the game can be classified into three levels of effectiveness from weakest to strongest: Alpha Release, Beta Release, and Gold Release (a homage to game developers, no doubt). As a sub is upgraded to its next level, it takes up less space in the outer ring of the sub-routine menu, which is the main character set-up interface. With that in mind, the more Gold subs you possess, the less space needed to utilize the ability, and the more you can use at one time. Other factors can mitigate your use of sub-routines as well, including viral infestation (which need to be cleansed quickly in order to prevent leakage to other subs) and server requirements that change as you progress through the separate in-game levels (which can actually place a limit on how many available spaces there are on the subroutine main menu).
Probably the most intriguing aspect of Tron 2.0 is the incredible visual elements that sweep through the game. Each and every level found throughout is rich in texture and extremely brilliant with the neon infused color schemes found in the Tron film. Not surprising, since the effects in the original film were computer created as well. The design team at Monolith Studios really went above and beyond with their vision of the digitized world, giving us a variety of new character designs (included a revamped ICP grid warrior and a nasty virus laden zealot), large and unique landscapes to battle in, and even a totally reworked version of the infamous light cycle model (known as the super light cycle).
Other in-game aesthetics also rate up rather high in their quality level. Not only did the designers of Tron 2.0 effectively re-create the sound effects featured in the classic film, they also enlisted the aid of the Wendy Carlos (the creator and composer of original film soundtrack) to once again work her magic with the musical score found in the game. Monolith was also able to recruit the voiceover talents of several well known Hollywood actors, including super-model Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, as well as Bruce Boxleitner and Cindy Morgan, two of the stars from the original motion picture. In wrapping things up, we just cannot stop raving about Tron 2.0. Every aspect of the game, from its high end graphics design, its well written storyline, and high intensity shooter styled gameplay, were all just phenomenal. Every example of a well thought out and produced FPS title can be found right here in this interesting update to a cult classic film. Not only was this game great, they even left in a little loophole that hopefully will spurn a follow up to this great game. If so, we'll be right there from the very start, throwing our discs and protecting our PC's from evil doers. So, do yourself a favor and check out Tron 2.0. I doubt that you'll be disappointed.