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Sofware in Review → Games → First person shooters →

Tron 2.0 review

By Sergio Magdaleno

Many computer gamers weren't even born yet when the original Tron hit movie theaters in 1982, followed a short time later by a hit video game that offered a glimpse of an oddly prophetic computer-dominated future. On the other hand, maybe you're old enough to remember but at the time couldn't understand the high tech concepts used in the movie to fully appreciate the imagination of the creators.Now, twenty-two years later, Tron 2.0 gives us a second opportunity to immerse ourselves in a brand new adventure in a world that exists inside of a computer.

The Story

Your character's name is Jet Bradley, a talented but rebellious young programmer and son of the creator of the original Tron program, Alan Bradley.

One day you receive a call that your father has disappeared, and while investigating his disappearance you get digitized and sucked inside of your computer, and that's where the real fun starts.

Once inside you are greeted by Byte, a small tri-dimensional star shaped helper that will guide you through the first steps inside the computer, thanks to him and some email you find lying around, you learn that your father was able to reproduce the original Tron code and the Correction algorithms necessary to restore a User to the real world.

Screenshot: "Ma3a what did you do...?" welcome to your PC.

The emails you find at different stages during the game help you understand the problems that the company faces as well as the estrangement between Jet and his father.

Other than Byte you have some other allies inside the computer, the most important being an AI program named Ma3a (who is voiced by the actress who played Lora/Yori in the original Tron movie, Cindy Morgan). Essential for the Tron project, Ma3a is able to hold the complete genetic makeup of a digitized user, and in this case she has all of Jet's information. Without her, Jet is not able to go back to the real world.

Screenshot: The great Ma3a floating around.

The plot unfolds in two worlds; outside, the Fcon company is trying to take over your fathers company as well as the Tron code, with evil intentions. Inside of the computer you are aware of all of these problems thanks to email and video captures from the security cameras, but you have your hands full with the ICPs (Intrusion Countermeasure Programs) and a virus spreading through the system.

The ICP Kernel (which the game refers to in a Colonel-like way) believes that you are the reason for the spreading virus, and thus attempts to eliminate you. The real virus is a bunch of slimy programs that are determined to destroy everything in their path.

Ma3a guides you through each level -- and this is where the game really shines -- taking you to complex worlds with spectacular graphics where you must escape a complete system format due to the virus and get a transport to other devices like a laptop, an Internet hub, and an old computer with old but friendly software.

The guys at Buena Vista Entertainment (a Disney division) really combined their computer knowledge with a high degree of imagination to make this story work. Tron 2.0's game engine is excellent, the action is intense, the graphics are stunning and the dialogue between the programs is a lot of fun.

Game play

This is primarily a first person shooter, so you use the normal WASD keyboard controls in combination with your mouse. The in-game menu seems strange at first, but is really easy to use after a little practice.

Screenshot: In-game Menu.

You have the capabilities of doing three functions that will help you during the game:

  • Defrag Procedural
  • Disinfect Procedural
  • Port Procedural

The defrag will prepare spaces for you to place weapons, armor or functions that you acquire during the game. If the function you get is not compatible with your system you will need to place it in your Port Procedural to make it work. The Disinfect Procedural is needed after fighting against the virus, and if you don't use it you will become infected as well.

On the other hand, there are certain levels that you must choose to improve on, according to what is important to you, they are:

  • Health: Increases your Max health level, so you can download even more from the globes (see the section below on globes for more information).
  • Energy: Increases your Max Energy level, also allows you to download more from the globes.
  • Weapon efficiency: Makes the weapons you use draw less energy and become more efficient.
  • Transfer rate: You need to download everything in this game, from Health to email to permissions; with this option you will do it faster.
  • Processor: All three basic functions (Defrag, Disinfect and Port) get done faster.

You will need to collect build notes in order to improve your level, and you must choose wisely how you want to spend it, because you don't get enough to improve on everything at the same time.

Screenshot: Health and Energy globes

There are two main factors that you'll need to take care of during the game: your health (the red status bar), which you can download using the beautifully designed red globes; and your energy level (the green status bar). You can acquire energy by downloading it from blue globes.

The functions or weapons you choose to use will consume energy. Some weapons are more powerful and they will, of course, require more energy which sometimes is not easy to come by.

All of the functions, weapons and armor you collect can be found at one of three build state levels: Alpha, Beta and Gold. The differences between each level are the energy efficiency, space occupied in your inventory (Alpha requires 3 spaces, Beta 2 and Gold only 1 space) and the amount of protection that your armor provides. Because they need less space you can carry more Gold functions, weapons, armor and it will give you a lot more options during combat. Some programs can help you upgrade from one build state to the next.

Your main weapon is the disc, but with the correct functions you can have different flavors of it and make it faster or more powerful. You will need to aim it correctly before you let it go, and sometimes it takes a while to come back and you'll need to start running.

Screenshot: ICP in Action trying to destroy me.

The ICPs also use the disc as their main weapon. You can block an attack with your own disc by right clicking the mouse, but it's quite tricky and you have to be fast to block properly.

Some of the funniest dialogs come from the ICPs, specially when they come after you. I found it particularly funny when one asked me to "stop executing the escape command."

It's all of the details and oddities that make Tron 2.0 enjoyable, and the game designers took great care in adding a wealth of little things that add up to a lot of fun.

After you destroy one of the ICPs they normally leave behind energy you can use. In some instances a small pyramid appears, representing a weapon or a permission you have to download. Permissions are needed at all levels; they allow you to open doors, remove or activate force fields and other things of that nature.

Highlights

Stunning, beautiful graphics: You'll wish you had more time to stop and admire the graphics; some scenes are so well done that you just want to get close to them and admire the work. It's hard to compare Tron 2.0 with other FPS games like Deus Ex : Invisible War or even Max Payne 2 because Tron is not trying to show you the real world. The neon colors against the black background is different from any other game I've seen, and the strange tones of color and "data rivers" with geometric figures flowing in them are truly an amazing sight.

In-game menu: The fact that you have to defrag or disinfect your inventory helps the gameplay experience and immerses you in the plot. When you are in combat against the virus you have to already be trying to disinfect your weapons to have everything clean for the next battle.

For the nostalgic ones: In case you do remember the original Tron, you will be happy to know that the light cycles are back, and part of the plot of the game. The red square tanks are also in the combat arena in a way that makes them part of the game rather than just scenery.

Great fun: But the real factor in this game is that you have fun playing it and simply being amused by the imagination of the creators stretching the computer concepts that we all now are familiar with.

Good music: Disney went out and got Wendy Carlos (the original composer for the Tron movie score) to create all of the music for this game. It really sets the tone of the game to have Tron-like music in the background while you play.

Great bargain: Tron 2.0 is only US$19.99 -- a very reasonable price for an FPS these days.

Negative Points

Linear story: I had to look hard at this game to find something I didn't like, but in this day and age of open-ended games, Tron 2.0 seems a little to linear. There is only one way of doing things and I felt I needed a little more freedom to find other more creative solutions.

Conclusion

Overall Tron 2.0 delivered, it was clear why Gamespy voted it one of the Top 10 Games of 2003. I really hope you have an opportunity to play it and enjoy it as much as I did.