Who Needs the next big thing? We've only scratched the surface of most genres, because the focus is always bigger, better, and more. There's a constant need to reinvent the wheel, and it's a bore. Look to Hollywood for guidance - this year of glorious, stupefying, high-tech rubbish should be a warning to all. I'll go with picking a story and telling it well anytime. Which brings me to Tron 2.0, which has a beautifully unified design, a decent storyline and the humour and good sense to carry it all off.
Little By Little
The hero is punk programmer Jet Bradley. His father (film hero Alan One) has been kidnapped while working on matter digitising algorithms, and before long, Jet finds himself doing the binary bop, ie he gets digitised into a computer.
Suddenly, he's battling against system resources and corrosive green viral agents, leading to deadly crossfires and plot twists galore. The storyline is superbly acted and well scripted, and tackles both the mystery behind Jet's father's kidnapping, and Jet's own unravelling conflict within the computer system.
The graphics are some of the most attention grabbing in memory. It's one thing to throw together a bunch of neon lines and geometric surfaces, but quite another to create a believable world out of it all. The use of light and negative space has never been used to such great effect. Soaring vistas have become almost cliche in the FPS genre, but Tron 2.0 manages to approach these in an all-new way. Just when you think you're going to get bored of the visuals, something new surprises you.
The film Tron had incredible geek appeal, and fans will find a lot to like here. The ICP Kernel deadpans, "Broaden the search criteria," while you pull off core dumps, permission sets and I/O protocol. Viral attacks corrupt your weapon and defence subroutines, adding another level to combat. Every traditional element of the FPS works perfectly without breaking character. Meanwhile, memorable film elements are seamlessly blended in every frame. Are the Wachowski brothers listening?
Getting Into It
Granted, Tron's influences are obvious. Derived from Deus Ex, the character/inventory screen is a treat, allowing you to view and upgrade stats, manage skills via subroutine installation and even defrag corrupted storage blocks. It's quite elegant, with a lot of very approachable info. This feature also allows you to tackle levels in slightly different ways, as you can improve your stats in all kinds of ways, ranging from stealth to combat. Meanwhile, the archive bins dotted around each level are full of downloadable pickups and are reminiscent of Tribes, but securely tethered to Tron's basic premise. Regardless, it feels like an original setup, even if it's not.
Jet's game disc is stunning. For those that don't know, this is the primary weapon from the movie, a Frisbee-like weapon which can both kill and deflect enemy attacks. Upgrades allow it to amplify attacks, snipe and fire multi-disc volleys. And the pace at which it moves is simply phenomenal. Blocking shots requires snap timing, and the zoom mode can be difficult to escape. Apart from these minor niggles though, there's little else to complain about. There are also a host of more conventional, yet still upgradeable FPS weapons to use. but I'd have been more impressed if Jet had only the disc to rely upon. There's little need for anything else.
Your deadly Frisbee isn't the only one. Individually, ICP enforcers are easy targets. But three or more produce a swarm of disc fire able to take you out in seconds. Bomb-toting viral agents are equally relentless. Luckily, friendly fire really is your ally, and with half a dozen discs bouncing through a room, enemies inevitably take each other out.
One downside is the relatively small crew of enemies. ICP redshirts, viral loonies and an occasional airborne patrol drone are your primary foes. Tron embraces the notion that throwing new bad guys into the mix every other level isn't necessary. It's a nice idea, but more character models, even driven by the same Al, would have been welcome.
Meanwhile, despite the seemingly flat textures, extensive geometry makes Tron 2.0 a bit of a resource hog, so don't even think about running it on a minimum spec system.
The framerate issues are a shame, because in every other respect Tron 2.0 is a neat piece of work. Nearly everything the game tries is accomplished with style and apparent ease, and quality and originality is evident throughout. Once public servers are running, we'll be first in line to try the disc tournaments and light-cycle grids which come as their very own sub-games. Until then, we'll stay busy burning our retinas with gorgeous neon geometry in the single-player campaign.
Download Tron 2.0
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
I'm not the type to get sentimental, but during my childhood, I must've watched Tron at least 20 times. Its mesmerizing visual effects, and entertaining, epic quest-style story were very compelling to my young mind. Entertaining the prospect of playing the video game was hard enough, as there was so much built up in my mind about how the Tron universe worked, its look, feel, sound, and if they managed to screw up one of my childhood favorites, I didn't plan on being amicable about it. While I was relieved to see that there was so much that they did right, I'm dismayed that so much of this game went wrong. It's hard to categorize it, so expect this to read more like a checklist of the good, the bad, and the ugly, with a little bit of order thrown in.
Far and away, the visuals in Tron 2.0 are gorgeous. I've heard some people argue that for such a simplistic, black lit setting, Tron 2.0 could've been done with yesterday's technology. I'll say that they're outright wrong, as the scope of some of these visual effects should convince anyone that they deserve a good, high-end graphics engine. While they do not dominate the game, some of the level designs in this title show off the amazing capabilities that the Lithtech engine possesses.
Second, this game features excellent character design. With the ability to load and upgrade various pieces of software that you gain throughout the game, you can redesign your character on the fly. The better the upgrade, the smaller the amount of memory it consumes.
By far, Tron 2.0's greatest weakness is it's lack of good sound design. Watch Tron the movie, and you'll hear ambient noise that is unique to the computer generated universe, noise that isn't replicated in the game. Just as with playing a Star Wars title, ambient noise should've been one of the higher priorities, as it just isn't convincing when I don't hear the beeps and bleats that I remember from the movie.
Tron 2.0 is also filled with boring, stale, static environments. You don't get to see a great deal of movement or activity going on, and with tight camera angles in narrow canyon-like levels, you don't get to see the wide, strange scope of terrain that Tron engenders.
Now, I'm not one to flinch at the sight of a tough game, however, Tron 2.0 is extraordinarily difficult. While it isn't impossible it does require saving every few seconds, for fear of getting my ass so badly kicked that I couldn't hope to continue.
Once you get far enough through the game, you may also be disappointed by the storyline, which practically duplicates any number of other games, including offering up four boss battles, as if FPS games even needed such a thing anymore.
Finishing out my review is a brief nod to the multiplayer portions of Tron 2.0. Just as in the single player campaign, you may find the design of Light Cycle combat to be aggravating in the extreme. Hard to control, and not easy to learn, it wasn't something that I'd like to repeat, and given how long I've been waiting to play a new Light Cycle game, that says a lot. Combat is intriguing and with the disc arena offering tournament style combat, this can be fun. Now, if theyd only made a tank and jai-alai mini-game, like from the film'
When it comes down to it, I'd play this again if only for the fact that it was Tron, but aside from that (and in some cases, not even) it's on the low, low end of my FPS scale, right there alongside Undying and sitting on top of Daikatana. Lot's o' fluff, no polish.