Jet is a 21-year-old game programmer who comes from a family of scientists. Jet?s mother passed away a while before the story in the game begins, so Jet and his father have had to make do with each other?s company for a while. Jet?s father, Alan, wants his son to follow his path in life, but a conflict arises when Jet turns down a high-profile programming offer that didn?t interest him the way game development does. At the end of the conversation a virus attacks the ENCOM servers at Alan?s lab, and almost simultaneously Alan seems to be attacked by some strangers. These guys are from a company named Future Control, or fCon for short, and they are prepared to do whatever it takes to get some algorithms that Alan made. Jet doesn?t like the sound of this at all, but just as he?s about to head over to his father, an AI by the name of Ma3a digitizes Jet, putting him inside the ENCOM servers. Jet needs to figure out what?s going on, stop the virus attack, escape those who think HE?s a virus, and hopefully even make it out of here.
Tron 2.0 is a reasonably normal first-person shooter that borrows some good game mechanics from other games, adds some of its own, and places the player in an artistically VERY alternative world. During the game you learn about your abilities, install sub-routines to enhance yourself, and acquire some fairly interesting weapons.
During the game you?ll keep a keen eye on Jet?s health and energy meter. The first one is obvious, but energy has several uses. Some of your weapons use energy to operate, much like spells require mana to work in role-playing games. Secondly, during the game you need to pick up new sub-routines, permissions (equivalent of keys, but one door may require several permissions.), and e-mails. Each of these uses a certain number of energy points, but luckily energy can be replenished at energy stations, which are placed on certain locations throughout the levels ? just like health stations.
At the start of the game Jet isn?t very powerful, but on certain occasions you get to upgrade Jet?s stats in Health, Energy, Weapon Efficiency (reduces the energy cost of firing a weapon), Transfer Rate (increases the speed of uploads and downloads), Processor (increases the speed of certain procedures, which will be explained soon). You see, when Jet got digitized and became a program he also got a version number: 1.0.0. When you do important things in the game, or pick up a bonus ?coin-like? thingy, your version number increases. First you go from 1.0.0 to 1.0.9, then 1.1.0, and when you reach 2.0.0, 3.0.0 etc you get to upgrade Jet?s statistics. This is a decent mechanic, because it lets you decide pretty much what you want Jet to excel in, but at least in my experience the last three statistics can be avoided entirely, since they aren?t really useful in battle.
And then there are the sub-routines, which play an important role in the game. Throughout the game you stumble across small crates of sorts, where sub-routines are stored, and these can be picked up, or downloaded to use the appropriate term. For instance, early in the game you get the Y-Amp, which increases your jump height. When you first download it you only get the alpha version, which only adds a limited bonus, but later you may find an optimizer bot, which lets you optimize the sub-routine, and get it to beta, or even gold. Optimizing sub-routines not only increases the effect, but also reduces the size of the program. You see, Jet only has a specific number of slots available for sub-routines, so to install one you need to drag it from the inventory, and drop it where there?s enough space. Alpha sub-routines use three slots, beta sub-routines use two, and gold sub-routines use only one. The trick is to figure out what you need the most, and which sub-routine gains the most from being optimized. Some of the ones you pick up add armor to Jet, or increases the damage of certain weapons, whereas others may actually be weapons.
Instead of having for instance eight weapons, that?d normally be mapped on the 1 to 8 keys, things are done a bit differently. During the game Jet gets a number of weapon primitives, such as a disc, a rod, a ball (grenade), and a blaster. One sub-routine named LOL is actually a long ranged sniper rifle, which builds upon the rod primitive. Actually being able to zoom requires another sub-routine by the name of Triangulate. As you can see, Jet is pretty much a prime example of modularity, but at least in my opinion having to shift between sub-routines at certain times slows down the gameplay, although it?s at least nice to be able to upgrade weapons and such.
And still, handling sub-routines properly also requires you to handle viruses, unknown code, and bad memory blocks. Some enemies throw grenades at you, and if you?re unlucky enough to be caught by one you?re likely to also catch a virus. If that happens the functionality of the program decreases, meaning you won?t be able to jump quite as high, or maybe do as much damage as you normally would. To disinfect a program you just drag it from the slot it resides in, into the anti-virus procedure, and wait until it?s clean. Unknown code requires you to drag it into the port procedure, and then wait some more. This is another reasonably interesting mechanic, but to me that?s just another way of slowing down the gameplay.
Like in the 1982 movie the infamous disc plays an important role in ridding the servers of nasty port_guard.exe (that?s one of their names actually) villains, and such. The disc is thrown at your target, and with some practice you?ll be able to steer its direction to some extent. You can also block enemy fire using the disc?s alternative attack, which is useful because it gives you a good opportunity to attack. When the disc is in the air you?re very vulnerable, so you always need to aim properly, and in given situations also hide for cover. The rest of the weapons aren?t really that much fun to use, although the sniper rifle isn?t as half-bad. Also, the monsters (my term for just about any enemy, regardless of appearance) do show some sign of intelligence, but because of the level design they never really get to show off as much as in, for instance, Halo.
Light cycle racing is probably the biggest gameplay innovation in this first-person shooter. At some points in the game you need to compete in races against other people, or programs, but the rules are quite simple. The levels are normally large rectangles or squares, filled with obstacles, speed boost / slow down zones, and power-ups (think Wipeout). Normal matches have four competitors racing against each other, but in order to win the opponents need to crash into your trail, or a solid object. Light cycle racing could be described as multiplayer Snake, only with neat features, and a whole lot nicer graphics. Steering is a bit odd, because you increase or decrease the speed using the forward and back arrow keys, but turning is always done in 90 degrees, so the trick is to be faster than your opponents, block them inside their own trail, or just have them run into a wall. Adding this mini-game was a wise decision in my opinion, since it adds some variation to the regular shooter package, but I would be lying if I said that the racing will keep you entertained for hours on end.
It would be enough to just look at one screenshot to see that this game doesn?t look much like any other shooter to date. The game uses the Lithtech Triton engine, with certain additions to make the game seem more like the movie ? like the cool and subtle glow effect. Shader programs are what made the effects possible, so as long as you have a Geforce 3 or better you?re in for some sweet eye-candy. What really makes the game different in appearance is the texturing, because this is one game that didn?t need realistic building textures or whatever you usually find in other first-person shooters, so as you may have seen in screenshots most of the textures are based upon one or two colors ? like black, with a pink?ish border. The modeling and level design are also quite ?experimental? if you will, but by all means good looking. I?ll actually have to say that this is probably the second weirdest shooter I?ve played, just behind the black and white cartoon shooter from a year or two ago. Tron 2.0?s graphics score high both technically and artistically, but it?s not until you?ve played for a few hours that you get to see some of the really good looking special effects, and the really interesting locations. The developers chose different color schemes for the various missions, so you normally don?t feel like you?re going through the same thing again and again. Since all the action is happening inside a computer you don?t have light as you?d normally imagine it, and as a result the engine didn?t have to worry about shadows. You can configure the game to run on a large variety of computers, but I do recommend a reasonably good video card to run it with the highest settings enabled. I recommend using either anti-aliasing or a fairly high resolution to get rid of the jaggies, and if you do so then you?re likely to get even more immersed into this strange ?world?.
Sound-wise the game stays true to the movie it originated from, with the theme song, appropriate sound effects, etc. The rest of the music is mainly techno / electronica, but it normally doesn?t get repetitive. Bruce Boxleitner, who played as Alan in the original movie, does the voice for Jet?s father. Cindy Morgan, who played as Lora/Yori in the movie does the voice of Ma3a. There?s also Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, who you may?ve seen in X-Men 1 and 2 as Mystique, who here does the voice-over for Mercury ? one of Jet?s more attractive acquaintances.
If you want to play against real-life opponents, you have a number of options available to you. First off you have Disc-Arena, where you can choose between five maps, and duke it out on a number of platforms. Then you have Disc-Tournament, where teams compete in a (you guessed it) tournament. Finally you have Light Cycles, where you play the mini-game I talked about earlier. You can customize surprisingly many things in the multiplayer matches, ranging from the max trail length on the light cycles, to the max ping on clients. However I do wish there were more deathmatch modes available, where you could use the rest of the weaponry. A multiplayer demo of the game is already available, if you want to try these modes yourself.
At the end of the day one thing?s for certain: this is a game unlike most shooters as of now. Graphically it looks very different, but stays true to the movie in terms of graphics, audio, and to some extent gameplay. The game seems to borrow some story elements from Half-Life, and game mechanics from Deus Ex, but it works out relatively well. I do think the fun factor suffers a bit from the sub-routine juggling and all that, but I guess it could?ve been a lot worse in that regard too.
Tron 2.0 isn?t really groundbreaking in terms of gameplay and depth, but those looking for a nice shooter for those late autumn evenings might get some fun hours out of this title.