If you never saw Tron as a kid, then you were really missing out. It may be a Disney movie with a paper thin plot and outdated special effects, but when youíre young itís pure magic. For those of you unaware, Tron was about a computer geek who gets ďdigitizedĒ and must survive inside a computer. Thereís a memorable scene involving some cool lightcycles, and thereís also an awesome disc (think of it as a lethal Frisbee) thatís used to take out enemy programs. It was also one of the first movies to really utilize computer-generated effects. Tron 2.0 was originally designed as a movie sequel, but instead was turned into a first-person shooter. Fortunately, it turns out that this new medium suits the Tron franchise perfectly, whether youíve seen the original or not.
Taking place 20 years after the movie, Tron 2.0 has you playing as Jet Bradley, son of programmer Alan. Jet is always getting in trouble with his penchant for computer hacking, but his dad is also facing some problems. The company heís been working at for years has been bought out by a shady corporation in search of a powerful program written by Alan. The corporation violently takes over, kidnapping Alan in the process. Similar to the premise of the film, Jet just happens to be transported into the computer world by a digitizing beam in order to save the day.
The inside of a computer isnít really a bunch of circuits and components in Tron 2.0. Itís a living world full of programs (whom serve as civilians), infection-spreading scripts (that resemble zombies) and the militaristic ICPs(soldiers) of The Kernel. Playing as Jet, you must search for your father and recover a potentially dangerous program, all while fighting various opposing forces.
Much like the movie, the plot is full of cheese, but it works in the gameís favor. The many cutscenes and campy lines are amusing, and itís also great to see what happened to the characters of Tron. However, it still feels like there is something missing. Characters seem to pop up with little or no introduction, and then leave with hardly any notice. Things needed to be fleshed out a little more since the interesting narrative would have benefited greatly.
At least Tron 2.0 got the unique look of the film perfectly. The many neon lights, the intricate glowing body armor and the impressive backdrops make the transition from movie to game flawlessly. In fact, the special effects look much better than they did in the film. For example, just look at the city level. This stage is full of impressive buildings, eye-catching lights and a truly incredible aura of various colors.
Another beautiful level is in the corrupted area. Everything is neon green and full of decay and destruction. The background is a foreboding black abyss, and thereís an occasional flash of light resembling lightning that ads to the brilliant atmosphere.
Of course, making a game play differently instead of just making it look different is a whole other thing. While the gameplay is far from revolutionary, things remain different enough to make for an occasionally fresh experience. First, there is the awesome disc weapon (affectionately nicknamed the Frisbee/boomerang of death by myself). Although Tron 2.0 features of a bunch of different weapons that have been seen in every other FPS, you probably wonít bother using them. What makes the disc so fun to use is not the fact that itís extremely powerful at the expense of having a slow rate of fire. Itís just that it requires some actual strategy to be effective. The alt-fire uses the disc as a shield, so deflecting an enemyís shot is a great way to dish out some damage. It makes playing through the game a distinctive experience due the weaponís uniqueness.
Sure, thereís plenty of shooting and even some occasional platform jumping, but the uniqueness of Tron 2.0 lies in a few computer-related situations. Configuring a firewall and formatting a hard-drive are simple tasks when youíre on a computer, but itís a whole different story inside a computer. The firewall portion actually consists of fire, so dodging the bursts of flame makes for an exciting time. The most memorable portion of the game is where the hard-drive youíre on is in the process of being formatted. Naturally, you have to get the hell out of there as dozens of infected scripts attack you. A huge laser wall slowly approaches as you make your escape, deleting everything that touches it. You wonít find exciting stages like this in any other game.
Another successful aspect of Tron 2.0 is the unique skills system. Scattered throughout the many stages are skills ranging from increased defense, powered up weapons, a higher jump, and so on. Youíre only given a limited amount of space to equip the skills, and the lower the level, the more room it takes up. However, you can increase the effectiveness of the special move and decrease the space it takes up. This system provides a satisfying amount of planning, and hunting for new skills makes for an addictive time.
Of course, Tron 2.0 wouldnít be worth its license without some fast-paced light cycle action, and thereís plenty of it here. If youíve never seen the movie, then hereís a brief description. A group of futuristic motorcycles zip around a large grid, and a solid wall is placed behind them as they drive. The object is to force your opponent into the wall and be the last one surviving. It works very well in the context of the game, but it tends to slow down the plot due to the fairly high difficulty level. Apparently the developers realized this and made a patch in which you can skip these portions entirely. Fortunately, thereís a rather extensive amount of different matches available that can be played on their own at any time.
Fans of the movie will no doubt have a blast with Tron 2.0 since all the best things about the movie made it into the game. Those who havenít seen the movie will still have an enjoyable time, despite not becomes nostalgic. While itís not a landmark title by any means, Tron 2.0 is the textbook example of a good FPS. And it has the disc. The disc is awesome.
Eight out of ten