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Tron 2.0 Review

By Jeff Buckland, 9/10/2003

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The idea of a new Tron game that acts as a sequel to the cult 80s movie is just plain cool. Of course, plenty of movie-derived games wind up terrible in practice, but luckily, Monolith has done a great job with Tron 2.0. The game delivers a great Tron atmosphere, excellent visuals, and lots of light cycles & disc throwing.

The newest version of LithTech's Triton engine is used in Tron 2.0, and the game looks just plain wonderful. Much of this, of course, is due to the excellent design and art done by Monolith. Still, the frame rates are very consistent even with full screen antialiasing turned up, and many of the levels are large and open.

Since the game's art is made up of many straight lines in what in some area looks almost cel-shaded, FSAA really makes it look great. For this reason, it's probably worth it to turn it on for this game, even if there is a significant performance hit on your video card. This is one of those games that, in my opinion, would look better at 800x600 with 4X FSAA than it does at 1280x1024 with FSAA off.

For those running closer to the minimum specs than they would like, Tron 2.0 offers quite a few options for turning down the detail. The art style is quite forgiving of this as well; any one texture may not look so hot, but it's the overlapping of them and the overall effect that are what really impressed me.

Note that even though the game's system requirements show "Nvidia GeForce FX" as a recommended video card, the game works and plays perfectly on my Radeon 9500 Pro. The game also has one of those "Nvidia / The Way It's Meant to Be Played" logos upon the game's startup. Coincidence? - probably not. I can't really say I like it when the marketing actually leaks into the official system requirements, especially when the game runs great at 1280x1024 on a $130 ATI video card.

Tron 2.0 includes several very unique additions to its standard gameplay, all of which are controlled by a very intuitive, rounded interface. The controls are just fine; they basically feel like most Lithtech-engine games. As before, turning down the mouse smoothing will make the game feel more like's running on the more familiar Quake engine.

Weapon switching is a bit tricky in Tron 2.0; as you might expect, your disc is your primary weapon, but if you throw it and then decide to switch weapons, you're out of luck - you are pretty much helpless (save dodging enemy attacks) until the disc returns.

Monolith has done an admirable job in taking the classic Tron visuals, updating them for the modern day, and then presenting it all with such an authentic feel. This really feels like a great extension to the movie, complete with the black-and-white faces and that overglow that bleeds into other things onscreen.

I can't really say that there are a whole lot of different enemies to fight; the game does rotate them out every level or two, but you'll have seen most of the game's enemies (in one form or another) after only a few hours of play. Weapon effects are particularly cool to check out, as some weapons actually construct themselves when you select them. Others have some decent effects when you fire them; overall, they fit in very well with the rest of the game's atmosphere.

It's the levels that are the most visually impressive in Tron 2.0; they're large, very imaginative, and span the whole range of colors. Of course, many of these levels will focus around one specific color, but Monolith still managed to make it a very unique experience for gamers.

Visually, Tron 2.0 delivers an excellent, unique style, but the gameplay is very similar to other FPS games you've likely already played. Aside from the disc, you get a selection of weapons that usually translate to the usual shotgun / machinegun / grenade / sniper repertoire seen in so many other action titles.

The actual plot for Tron 2.0 moves along at a brisk pace. Alan Bradley, one of the original movie's characters, gets kidnapped after making a huge discovery; you play as his rebellious son, Jet, who gets "digitized" into the computer world to figure out from the inside how to save him. The story is much better than your average shooter plot, even if it is farfetched. Then again, it's obvious right from the start that this is a farfetched sci-fi game, so it's not really a big deal.

Tron 2.0 also includes plenty of little touches that the movie fans will love; as you go, you can download emails sent back and forth between key movie and game characters. Even though you are stuck in the computer world, these emails (along with cutscenes in the "real" world) help you understand what's going on outside the computer. Many of the game's made-up computer terms stem from real technologies; in one section, you even get to overclock a computer's CPU - from the inside.

Combat is usually made exciting by the environments you're in rather than by the enemies themselves. Aside from a few bosses, your opponents aren't particularly smart or intriguing to fight - especially since you'll mainly be using the disc as your primary weapon. Still, the plot and cool levels kept me hooked to the single player game.

Tron 2.0 allows you to use stealth if you like, but rarely does it totally force you to sneak around if you don't want to. The game also includes some RPG-like qualities where you can level up to gain health or "download" new programs (which come in the form of armor, weapons, static abilities, and more) and even upgrade them as you go. These programs fit into an interface which changes for each new area you enter; some levels will allow plenty of combat programs, or maybe none at all. It's all set up very well and really adds to the game's overall atmosphere.

Tron 2.0 also includes a few simple puzzles, but the biggest problem with the game will likely come from the game's large number of jumping puzzles. Many have a major problem with any form of a difficult jump in a first-person game, although I have to say that I actually didn't mind them at all. Still, if you are a person that hates falling to your death in these games, you might want to avoid Tron 2.0. At least you can save your game as often as you want.

Throughout the game, you'll also be doing a few lightcycle races that look like they came right out of the movie (and even better than that in some cases). In the most recent patch for the game you are allowed to skip them - I imagine that this is because people would buy this for the FPS part, and they might not be as good at a twitch racing mode. It's probably a good move; Illusion Softworks waited roughly a year before fixing Mafia's highly difficult racing mission that was only a few hours into the game.

The Tron 2.0 multiplayer mode includes both lightcycle matches as well as a disc arena; Monolith only suggests doing the cycle races over a LAN, as the lag over the internet would make such a twitch game less fun. You can still try it if you want, and I found that over the internet it wound up being a decent gameplay mode. It was fun for a short while, but I can't see myself playing it for that long.

The disc arena modes were better suited for internet play, and they generally were also quite a blast for the first hour or two. You really need more than a couple of players to make it interesting, though, and to be honest, I found this one boring after a couple of hours of gameplay. Overall, these modes weren't terrible, but they probably won't be summoning me back for weeks of gameplay.

Monolith did a great job with Tron 2.0's sound, and it really adds to the game's overall production quality. The sounds are quite well done considering the in-the-computer setting, and the EAX support was also used to full effect. Rebecca Romjin Stamos does some voice work, and the original actor for Alan Bradley, Bruce Boxleitner, reprises his role for Tron 2.0.

The music is a diverse mix of strange ambient tunes and bits of electronica. It does a great job of setting the mood without taking it over. While none of this stuff will fall into the game music hall of fame, I found it fit in well with the rest of the game's excellent visuals and sounds.

Tron 2.0 is a great example of a well executed movie-based game that exploits our nostalgia in all the right ways. The visuals are breathtaking, and while the gameplay is pretty standard fare for the FPS genre, the plot is great. The jumping puzzles might infuriate some people, but if you're a Tron fan or even just a shooter fan, you should definitely check this game out.

Overall: 87%



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