The Game: By passing up a lucrative programming job within ENCOM, Alan “Jet” Bradley Jr. has earned the disdain of his father, the creator of the Tron security program. But when Jet’s father disappears under mysterious circumstances, Jet goes to the lab and discovers that his father’s most trusted program, Ma3a, has instructions to digitize Jet into ENCOM’s mainframe – a process not unlike the one Kevin Flynn endured 20 years before. Once inside the computer world, Jet trains for a mission to free the system from the spreading corruption of Thorne, another digitized user whose botched entry into the computer world left him twisted and evil – and along the way, Jet hopes to discover how he can help free his father as well. (Buena Vista Interactive, 2003)
Memories: For anyone who’s ever dreamed of being zapped into the computer by the MCP, this is as close as you’re going to get. I don’t have a problem with that, though: Tron 2.0 is a gorgeous game, capturing the feel of the pioneering 1982 computer-animated movie better than I would’ve thought possible. The look and the sounds of the game go a long way toward immersing you in that world. Normally I’m not big on first-person explore-and-fight games, but this one I’ll make an exception for.
It’s hard not to just go straight to the graphics on this one. The game is simply eye-popping, perfectly capturing that diffused neon glow that was practically a character unto itself in the movie. Granted, you’ve got to have quite the computer setup just to play this one, but the sheer spectacle is worth it.
For the first-person parts of the game, the action is fast and furious, but always engrossing. I found some parts of the movement system to be a little counterintuitive, but that may just as easily be a byproduct of usually sweatin’ to the oldies, video-game-wise. Disc combat is actually pretty exciting (provided I’m not getting disced to death) – though you’ll find that a lot of that time is spent defending and not attacking. In non-combat situations, though, again I find myself exploring the world and looking in every direction at every opportunity. It’d be a great place to explore if not for all those yellow guys who keep sneaking up on me.
My favorite part of the game – even though I still routinely get pounded – has to be the light cycle duels, however. (No big surprise, really – that’s also possibly my favorite part of the original Tron arcade game.) This time, it’s in 3-D, and it’s just as unforgiving as its coin-op forebear, if not even more so: the computer opponents are vicious, pulling quick trapping maneuvers that it takes a while to get used to. It’s easy to make a snafu and get surrounded, especially when the light cycle mode allows you to pick your own camera angles, some of which are wildly impractical if you’re trying to keep an eye on the big picture. Not surprisingly, your best bet is the default almost-straight-overhead-view that comes closest to the arcade game. Designer Syd Mead, who sketched out the movie’s original electronic world, returns with a brand new design for a tricked-up super light cycle. Again, as simple as it probably sounds, the graphics are amazing, with environmental details above, around and even below the game grid providing a great distraction. With an appropriately fast network connection, the light cycle game can be played against others online.
For fans of the movie, there are some cute touches in the game, ranging from voice work by Bruce Boxleitner and Cindy Morgan to a little fourth-wall-busting bit of self-reference to the arcade game in the opening CG cutscene. The plot has been thought out nicely, and it proves what I’ve been saying for quite a while: as opposed to 1982 when it was strictly geek fare, the world’s actually ready – and computer-savvy enough – for a sequel to Tron (and face it, could such a flick really fare that much worse than the Matrix sequels?). Sadly, it’s taken long enough for me to review Tron 2.0 that history seems to have borne the game out as a mild success at best, and other things have happened as well that make a revisitation of the electronic world unlikely on film. Countering that, however, are somewhat eagerly awaited versions of this game coming soon (as of this writing) for the Xbox and – especially – the Game Boy Advance. The latter version gets the special mention because that somewhat simplified version of Tron 2.0 is slated to include the first-ever home versions of the Tron and Discs Of Tron arcade games. When the GBA version hits the stores, I’ll be plunking down my hard-earned money gladly for yet another piece of Tron product.
On the flipside, there are a few drawbacks – as I mentioned before, it takes quite a computer setup just to play this one. And a few extra fingers don’t hurt either – the control layout can be quite confusing at times, and it’s not as if I haven’t played anything between Tron Deadly Discs and Tron 2.0. Even compared to other modern games I’ve played recently, this one can be quite complex, which may not be to everyone’s taste.
In the end, Tron 2.0 may be nothing terribly new, but then again, neither was Dark Forces. What sets both of them apart from the already crowded gallery of first-person shooters, however, is the very cool environment, and I’d say it’s worth trying out Tron 2.0 at least once or twice just to experience that. If only all those yellow guys would stop shooting at me while I’m trying to look around…