PC Review

Tron 2.0

Richard immerses himself in the alternate world of Monolith's creation.

include #reader.c
include #ferrago.c
include #thegame.c

Ferrago(return integer = "the_score")
set TITLE = Tron 2.0
set DEVELOPER = Monolith Productions { history_string = "NOLF 2, AvP2" }

BEGIN(); Tron 2.0

Greetings Programs. I'm a complete geek when it comes to movies and games. If you are as well you will already know the giddy excitement of watching the light cycle sequence in Disney's Tron. I still think that Tron has the most amazing visuals and is as striking today as it ever was. If you've never seen the film then may you be derezed a binary digit at a time because it's a veritable classic. It was also a technical triumph for its time, being one the first uses of computer-generated imagery in a motion picture. (Geek note: The first completely computer-generated sequence ever was the Genesis Effect for Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan) It is somewhat apt then that a sequel of sorts should arrive in the guise of a video game, another bold new medium.

After an utterly brilliant credits sequence you are introduced to the main story. The game takes place some twenty years after the original. Bruce Boxleitner returns to voice his original character Alan Bradley. Having successfully defeated the Master Control Program all those years ago with Tron, he has now managed to replicate the process required to digitise a human being. In keeping with the original's theme of corporate malpractice, this time it is a hostile takeover of the company that brings turmoil. You play as Alan's son, Jet, who inadvertently gets pulled into the computer world and like the film must find your way out and along the way save the computers and humanity of the world as we know it. As you play through the various levels further snippets of the story unfurl as you uncover rather dull emails as the odd cut-scene. The story is fairly un-interesting unfortunately (I might add with the crappiest, corniest end line) for the most part but it provides enough of an excuse to throw you around a number of computer systems, dodging data wraiths and reformat walls.

For whatever weaknesses the story has it is completely washed away by the mesmerising world you encounter. From the moment you enter the neon glow of the 'computer' you will be transfixed by the look and feel of the game. The team at Monolith are clearly fans of the film and have been careful to make the world seem true to its origins as well as making the technological metaphors suitable to the modern computing age and also playable. You might think that having to find your way through a bunch of glowing striped walls to be difficult or tedious. But thanks to some great texturing and canny level design each level has a certain distinct quality to separate itself whilst also remaining true to the overall look. One element though does permeate throughout, namely data blocks. These are essentially cubes that litter the game space either for a platform puzzle, for information or upgrades, and for simple aesthetic value. They can also contain parts of a file permission, so that in order to unlock some area you will need to download the right combination of permissions in order to progress. This, alongside the jumping puzzles, are obviously contrived game mechanics but thanks to the diversity and style of their presentation I never really minded falling off that platform or searching for that last key.

As well as bringing the world into a suitable game form they have also been very creative with the weapons. Disc combat, a particular highlight of the films, has been invigorated with a number of variations that diversify its basic form. You throw/fire it with the left mouse button and attempt to block using the right. Should you block an opponents shot their resulting disorientation gives you a window of opportunity. Later on however your disc can be upgraded so that it can fire explosive shards, multiple discs, and also return a block with a more powerful blast. This is in addition to a few other toys that are slightly less exciting variations on sniper rifles and grenades. As fun as the disc combat is, it would have been nice had they been able to develop it further with particular regard to bouncing shots off walls. Unfortunately while the disc does ricochet it is not feasible to use it in combating the enemies because it is so hard to predict and control the angle of deflection. I only mention this because during the later stages many of the enemies have shields of some type and such a bounce shot would have been highly useful and an even better game weapon.

If there is one thing that did not sit well with me it was the role-playing aspect that is present for your character. I found it largely unnecessary. As well as being able to boost your health and energy meters you can also configure your upgrades throughout the game. A large circle with various open segments outlines your current configuration and you must select and slot the various pieces you have acquired to suit your particular need. Each of the enhancements may be upgraded to take fewer slots: alpha takes three; beta takes two and gold requires only one. You must also strive to keep your upgrades free from corruption lest it is spread through your system and further weakens you. Though it is well implemented it is let down by the marginal effect it has on your characters resilience, because the game is viciously hard. The game is viciously hard on easy.

It is one thing to have a testing game, like Ikaruga, with a carefully considered difficulty. It is another thing entirely to have a game that throws pinpoint accuracy and lethal strikes unfairly against you with only a quick-save to ease your troubles. It almost seems like they balanced the game equipped with a fully upgraded character from the outset only to then remove the upgrades for the unsuspecting consumer. This difficulty also arises in the light cycle sequences which sport a newly designed light bike from the original artists Syd Mead. Yes you can ride around in your very own light cycle and yes it looks and sounds cool. But aside from an all too brief escape sequence on one of them you must spend the other times competing against the lightning quick reflexes of the computer. The best strategy it seems is to simply go back and forth for a while until the computer catches itself in trouble. Hardly the most satisfying way to win.

So, though the game has a few problems, mainly relating to the difficulty, it more than compensates for them with a game world that fully conjures up the marvel of the original film. Being immersed in Tron 2.0, especially for fans of the film, is a mesmerising experience. The blending of the original film's look and computing jargon into the modern gaming era has been handled professionally and in many aspects expertly. While I don't think the game would have such an impact were it not for the shoulders it stands on, I can hardly imagine a more fitting tribute to such a great film.

return = ();

"That's Tron. He fights for the Users"

E3 Trailer