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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Beuna Vista

 

Developer

Monolith

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q3 2003

 

 

- Good storyline

- Striking visuals

- Excellent soundtrack and sound effects

- Variety of gameplay

- Excellent integration of gameplay elements

 

 

- Anticlimactic ending

- Repetitive boss enemies

 

 

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TRON 2.0

Score: 8.9 / 10

 

Itís been a long time since I first watched Tron, and to tell you honestly, I really donít remember too much of the movie save for the main gist of the plot.  As such, I had my reservations about playing a game that was based on a franchise that I have very little interest in.  If you have any of those reservations as well, do yourself a favor and ignore any doubts you may have and at least play the demo and give this game a chance.  Tron 2.0 is very creative, full of good ideas, and combines elements of different types of games.  The overall result is a great looking game that is a joy to play and you donít have to know about the movie to enjoy the storyline. 

 

tron 2 pc review          tron 2 pc review

 

The Tron movie and game is based in a reality where the technology to transfer a human being into a computer has just been discovered.  Through a process called digitizing, a human can be converted into a binary script that is inserted into a computer.  Once inside the computer, that world is represented by glowing colored floors and walls with raw data streaming overhead like a floating river of numbers.  Programs look and speak like humans, and physical actions like destroying a program can cause the system to crash.

 

The story begins by following Alan Bradley, one of the main characters in the movie.  Twenty years after the events in the movie, Alan Bradley now has a son named Jet who doesnít want to accept the responsibility of becoming an adult.  Quite quickly, he is forced to confront that reluctance as he is digitized into the computer in his fatherís lab.  Jet soon discovers that his father has been kidnapped by a company called fCon that wants to use his fatherís digitizing technology for military purposes.  As Jet, you will find a way to rescue your father and stop fCon.

 

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The visuals representing the digitized computer world in Tron the movie were way ahead of their time when the movie first came out, and now Tron 2.0 continues that tradition with stunning visuals of its own.  In short, the gameís graphics are breathtakingly beautiful.  There is a muted, soft, pleasing coloured glow outlining most objects in the game, and the simple geometry of the environment is very convincing in its representation of the internal world of a computer.

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The soundtrack and the sound effects of the game complement the visuals in creating a totally immersive experience.  The different sounds of your weapons is even convincing as each has their own unique electronic sound when fired.  The voices of other programs are digitized and even the environment has its own unique sounds.  The creative electronica soundtrack is also fitting and is somehow perfectly suited to the gameplay.  Itís never annoying and I actually found myself grooving to it during some of the slower adventure portions of the game. 

 

One of the things that impressed me most was how creatively the digitized world was represented.  Everyday programs, and tasks are represented in the digitized world by physical objects and specific actions that can be seen visually.  The terrain has ďdata blocksĒ scattered throughout that are shown as actual cubes.  Viruses are represented by humanoids in green glowing light suits, and corruption is shown in the terrain as massive cracks with a soft sickly green glowing from the seams.  In one scenario, you find yourself in a PDA having to drain as much power from the battery as possible.  Turning on power-consuming processes like the LCD backlight, and games, helps you to accomplish your goal.  All actions and interactions in the digitized world have a real world effect that we the audience can relate to. 

 

There are two resources required for Jet to stay alive and accomplish tasks in the digitized world.  They are health and energy, and both are downloaded at different stations scattered the levels.  The number of stations is enough to provide an adequate challenge, but each station does only hold a finite amount of resources. 

 

The purpose of health is straightforward, but the use of energy is more creative.  Not only does energy serve as the ammunition for Jetís weapons, but it is also used to download other items from data blocks such as powerups, electronic keys known as permissions, new weapons and email messages.  The email messages are random email messages that pertain to the lives of the real world characters.  They reveal details about events in the game and key facts about Jetís relationship with his father.  Each item requires a certain amount of energy to download so players will have to balance whether or not to download an unidentified subroutine, or keep the extra energy for ammunition and come back for the subroutine later when there are no more enemies and their energy stores are restocked.

 

Just like any other computer or program, Jet has a system memory as well.  This is represented as three rings in a menu screen that is very reminiscent of an RPG.  The outer ring shows all the powerups, armour, and weapons that Jet has acquired so far.  Powerups, weapons, and armour are known as subroutines and can be upgraded up to two times to improve their efficiency via little upgrade stations scattered throughout the game.  These upgrade stations are quite rare, and can only be used once.  The style of game that you will play out will depend on which subroutines you choose to upgrade.  The only annoying thing about these upgrade stations is that it is possible sometimes to download a better version of a subroutine that you already have from a data block.  This happened to me once where I chose to upgrade my viral shield at an upgrade station, only to find that subroutine already in its upgraded state in a data block just ahead. 

 

The middle ring shows the spaces that Jet has to place his subroutines in.  The number of spaces and the placement of the slots changes with each level.  Subroutines when in their initial alpha state take up three slots, two when upgraded once to their beta state, and finally one slot when upgraded to their gold state.  As the game progresses you will be able to use more of your subroutines at one time as you upgrade them to their gold state. 

 

When fighting viruses, their weapons not only do their regular damage but can also cause your subroutines to become infected, reducing their efficiency.  If not disinfected, the infection can spread to other subroutines in adjacent slots.  Disinfection is accomplished in Jetís system memory interface screen and takes time (real time) in the game to complete.  This provides an extra challenge to fighting viruses as infection can greatly reduce Jetís abilities while his subroutines are waiting to become disinfected.  This serves as a slow moment in the game, but forces the gamer to either wait for their subroutines to become disinfected before continuing or continuing with much greater challenge ahead.

 

Jet can also upgrade his inherent abilities.  These include how much health, and energy over the normal 100 points he can carry, how much energy his weapons use up, how long it takes to download items from data blocks, and how long it takes to disinfect his subroutines.  Version build points are scattered throughout the game, and are also awarded for completing critical tasks.  Jet begins at version 1.0.0.  When he reaches version 2.0.0, you have the opportunity to increase any and all of his inherent abilities in any combination with the ten build points you have acquired. 

 

The only ability that is somewhat wasted is processor power which dictates how long it takes Jet to download items from data blocks.  Youíre never under fire when having to download items from data blocks, so upgrading this stat seems to be really only for the gamerís sanity as she or he waits for Jet to finish getting that critical permission or a new subroutine.  It would have been much more interesting if this ability was more important with situations where Jet would have to download a required permission key while under heavy fire.

 

All of these upgrade options were delightful in creating a truly unique and immersive gaming experience above the normal run and gun game.  While not being so vital to the game as to be a detriment to the playing experience should you upgrade the wrong subroutine, the sweet spot is found in combining these basic RPG elements into the game.

 

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As if that werenít enough for originality, the game is also broken up by light cycle races.  For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, lightcycles are a form of gladiatorial racing entertainment.  Programs ride on futuristic motorcycles glowing with light called lightcycles on ďgame grids.Ē  Lightcycles leave a long trail of solid light (much like a wall) behind them and the objective of the game is to cause your opponent to crash by cutting them off or boxing them in with your light cycle trail.  Itís kind of like that worm game on cel phones except way cooler and against somebody else.  Jet will need to win light cycle races at key points in the game.  While not super impressive on its own, the light cycle portion of the game is functionally simple, seamlessly blended into the rest of the game and is quite fun.

 

The majority of the game though is much like a regular first person shooter with some basic puzzles and some jumping obstacles thrown in.  These do serve the game very well though and really does add to the immersive experience by breaking up the monotony that some games fall into.  At times, with very few enemies around, and an interesting puzzle to solve, the game is still just as involving as when you are battling a host of viruses. 

 

The game does have its tense moments though and the action can become quite frantic.  Depending on which weapons and powerups you use, you can choose to fight run and gun, snipe from a distance or have a plain stand-up fight behind cover.  Most gamers will find themselves using all of these tactics as the game has a variety of combat situations that can be surmounted in more than one way. 

 

All of the weapons in Tron 2.0 are based on four basic shapes.  These are the disc, the rod, the ball and the mesh.  The rod gives you your requisite sniper rifle, as well as a low power melee weapon, the ball your grenade type weapon, and the mesh a high level melee weapon as well as your high damage weapon. 

 

The weapons are all fairly interesting but I think that most gamers, Tron and non-Tron fans alike will find themselves returning to the disc.  The disc is like the light saber of the Tron world.  It can be used to block and redirect other attacks, thrown and somewhat guided in mid-path like a sort of spinning razor blade disc rail gun.  Blocking with the disc can be a bit tricky and takes some time and skill to master.  There other forms of the disc weapon, including multiple discs, and exploding discs. 

 

The enemies in the game are all represented by real computer scripts in the digitized world.  Among them there are ICPís which defend the system against unauthorized access (they report to the Kernel), infected programs or viruses called Z-lots, and resource hogs.  The biggest letdown of the game has to be the bosses that you will have to face.  Two of the bosses faced are the same, and the main bosses, are basically the same enemy three times.  The rest of the enemies do provide enough variety in their fighting style, and the enemy AI is decent.   For the most part, they provide just enough of a challenge so that your quickload key doesnít become worn down.

 

The online component game of the game consists primarily of the disc arena and light cycles.  The online cycles can be quite entertaining as can the disc arena especially when there are quite a few people letting their discs fly.  In the online light cycle portion of the game an increase in the number and variety of powerups really adds to the strategy and can make for some fairly hectic and tense races. 

 

The Tron world was the ultimate cool back in the day, but today, without any running updates until now, the substance of the old movie feels decidedly dated.  Tron 2.0 reinvigorates the material and delivers an excellent gaming experience.  The story is okay, definitely not classic material, but the ending of the game is so anticlimactic that I had to downgrade the score from 9.0 down to a still very respectable 8.9.  Aside from a few very minor complaints, the game is very balanced in its delivery and variety.  Unfortunately, Tron 2.0 will probably suffer given the season that it is being released in as well as the age of the target audience that remembers the movie, but for those lucky enough to be able to fit in Tron 2.0 along with Max Payne 2, Half Life 2, Deus Ex 2, Chrome, Painkiller, and Freedom Fighters, they will be rewarded with a  totally immersive and fun gaming experience.

 

- Mark Leung

(September 28, 2003)

 

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