Who’d have known that back in 1982 when Disney studios created a movie about what it was like to be trapped inside a computer ruled by a pirate hacker that 20 years later an all-out sequel would be created specifically for the computer? That such a being known as Tron would inspire so many and be so ahead of the curve? That no matter how you sliced it, the part of Kevin Flynn/Clu was the coolest role Jeff Bridges would play until The Dude rolled around in The Big Lebowski? And finally that Cindy Morgan as Yori will always look fine in her lovely neon costume?
Tron was indeed ahead of its time by exploring a landscape in film that hadn’t really been tackled to the extent that Disney had allotted. Nowadays we have the Matrix trilogy, but Tron is where it all started on the grand scale.
When Tron first appeared, it was not the most well-received movie, but as time passed, a loyal and large fan base sprouted up. Now, 20 years later, Buna Vista Interactive and Monolith have teamed up to bring the gaming universe the brilliant and amazing Tron 2.0. You don’t even have to have been a fan of the first Tron to be instantly wowed by the game’s beautiful graphics, outstanding musical score, and a gameplay system that revolutionizes the whole FPS (first-person shooter) genre.
But to step back for a moment in time to begin, Tron has always had its share of video game spin-offs. Perhaps the most-famous is the Tron arcade game which found the player running through four different missions, ranging from light cycle races to destroying tanks and blasting into the heart of the Master Control. With Tron 2.0 a new legacy is born.
This time around, the player takes on the role of Jet Bradley, son of Alan Bradley (voiced by Bruce Boxleitner; Tron in the movie). During a cell phone conversation in which Alan is bemoaning Jet’s turning down of a highly lucrative job, something goes awry. Alan is interrupted and the conversation goes dead. Jet rushes to see what has happened to his father but finds his lab empty. Only Ma3a, ENCOM’s main computer system (voiced by Cindy Morgan), greets Jet. Before you know it, Ma3a aims the infamous laser at Jet and digitizes him into the computer universe just like Flynn so many years prior.
Thus a new adventure begins.
For those familiar with the whole FPS genre, Tron 2.0 will undoubtedly be a most refreshing update. For those not in the know, this genre has been built upon the likes of classics such as Castle Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake, Half-Life, and Unreal. All games that so many groups have pointed fingers at and blame for violent tendencies in youth, but in the end these accusations have faded and the games remain.
Tron 2.0 is perhaps the ultimate FPS experience in that it is set within the computer universe. It just makes more sense, really. Instead of blowing the bejeezus out of aliens, monsters, and fellow humans, this time the player is duking it out with everything from protective programs to data corruption. The scope of the whole project is literally breathtaking. When we use computers daily and encounter such things as viruses, lost files, bad sectors and fragmented hard drives, this is something the human populace at large can relate to. So when we as users are placed into this vast computerized universe and actually have to deal with each of these problems head to head from the inside... well, it’s a geek’s dream come true. But on top of that, it makes for a highly original story and something beyond the usual shoot first/ask questions later structure that is the basic build for so many FPS games.
Then of course there are the light cycles. Beautiful beyond anyone’s expectations, these moments in the game are as vast and thrilling as the rest of the game play. There’s full-on camera control that lets players zoom in as close to or as far away from the cycles as they like. And, just like the movie and original coin-op, the thrill remains the same: attempt to “de-rez” your opponents by having them either slam into the light stream emanating behind your cycle, or into a wall.
However, what really makes this game is its beautiful landscapes. Tron 2.0 has the patented “glow” that distinguished the original Tron universe. Everything has a crisp look to it, and the environments are simply stunning. Looking into the “sky” often reveals large moving grids and data streams flying by. Data blocks are scattered about everywhere, allowing Jet to access new weapons, system upgrades, and most importantly, email that reveals much of the story and what is happening back in the real world as the game progresses.
Jet will make his way through all sorts of places, ranging from an outdated section of the system dating back to the original Tron and into the Internet itself. This is perhaps one of the most entertaining places in the game, as it includes a disco and a bar where bored programs hang out and try to get files compiled. Yes, nothing is overlooked in this game. Even the dreaded tanks are back. And when Jet isn’t using an array of weapons to defeat the evil programs, he’ll be knee-deep in challenging puzzles and exploration modes that offer well-balanced breaks in between the action.
Tron 2.0 is indeed a fascinating work of computer gaming art. That such a title could come around and revolutionize the entire FPS genre is noteworthy itself. For once here is a title that does not rely on an online player experience to be great (though players can indeed play light cycle or disc arena battles online). Too often, other titles in the past have sought the fortunes reaped by Quake, forsaking a good story and one-player game to just offer up a $50 mindless online experience. Tron 2.0 bolts in the other direction, taking the player into a fascinating universe that can certainly be an outstanding personal experience. From here, it’s anyone’s game.