To some, "Tron" is more than a guy in glowing pajamas. It was an imaginative adventure inside the world of a computer, cherished by geeks of the information age the world over. I know because I am one of them. Now developer Climax (the original PC team was Monolith -Ed.) has attempted to extend that experience into an interactive adventure with mixed results.
Set years after the end of the movie, Tron 2.0 is the story of Jet, son of Tron's user "Alan One," who gets digitized into the computer world right after his father goes missing. While the real world cut-scenes are behind the visual curve of the current consoles, the world inside the computer is richly detailed and illuminated, mimicking the style of the movie, right down to the grey-faced programs. Outside of the surplus of boxes that litter these virtual sets, the world of Tron 2.0 is sure to bring a smile to even the most bitter computer nerd. If this had been a first person adventure game, along the lines of the Myst series, all would have been well. Instead, the focus was on creating a first person shooter and that's where it goes haywire.
The controls are what have become the standard for console shooters, though movement is loose and slippery as if the character were standing on ice. This combined with the lack of any indication of where a character is standing and the instant deaths caused by falling relatively short distances will make the minor platforming elements a chore. Disc combat, which you'll be using for most fights, allows you to toss your glowing circle of doom at foes and block incoming attacks with ease. Other weapons are alternate takes on familiar FPS themes such as shotgun, sniper rifle, and machinegun. While these weapons work well overall, the switching animation is overly long and they all draw ammo from a common energy pool, which you'll also need for non-combat functions, forcing them to go underused.
The majority of Tron's hostile programs have auto-targeting, which means as long as you're in sight they'll never miss, so the technique of strafing that's been around since the original Wolfenstien 3D goes out the window. Now it's duck and cover and hope another program doesn't sneak up behind you, because they often make no sound and are usually busy drilling a hole in you before you'll spot them. Most enemies in action games have a "cone of vision" which determines when they can see the player, most obvious in a game like Metal Gear Solid. The cone of vision in Tron 2.0 is infinite, meaning if they're looking in your direction, and they will be 95% of the time, they're already shooting at you. It doesn't matter if they're not more than a few pixels on the horizon, blended into a glowing background that matches their color. Because enemies tend to change positions between reloads, passing through an area safely normally amounts to luck more than any real skill.
The adventure game elements are well done, and while none of the puzzles are particularly difficult, they really do give the feeling that you're actually an intricate part of progressing through the story as it unfolds. Stats are leveled via build points gained from accomplishing objectives and finding points scattered over the map, though I wish experience was gained via combat instead to make that a little less pointless. Subroutines are a combination of skills and equipment, which can either enhance Jet by making him jump higher, protect him with various armor-based routines, or provide him with additional firepower. All come in three versions and can be upgraded or replaced with ones found in various data bins on every map. Managing these subroutines is a bit awkward due to the nature of a PC port. Another thing the game suffers from its computer roots is the small text size that leaves me squinting at the screen, though this is a small price to pay for being able to save wherever and whenever I want.
Ah, sweet lightcycles. Not only has this imaginative version of the classic game Snake been faithfully recreated, it's been improved upon with the addition of power ups that will surprise your opponent, while speed up and slow down zones combined with diverse arenas keep the thrill of racing alive and interesting. The camera control here is also excellent, allowing you to get any view you want of the action, from in the cockpit to a digital bird's eye view. The only problem with lightcycles is that the AI has reflexes too quick for any player to match and can cut you off before you can blink, but on multiplayer the playing field is leveled off and winning becomes a test of skill.
With the unique and diverse weapon selection, along with the fantastic world Climax have managed to recreate, multiplayer shines as something that's not only fun to play on it's own, but a welcome diversion from more vanilla FPS games. Not only is four player splitscreen supported, but those four can all be brought onto Xbox live, where lobby functions are quick and easy. While derez is your standard deathmatch, disc tournaments and lightcycle races are something you won't find anywhere else. OverRIDE combines the best of both shooting and racing, allowing you to switch from lightcycle to on foot travel at any time. Outside of the occasional jittering opponent caused by the game not handling lag very well, the biggest problem for online matches is simply the lack of players. Games are rare, even at peak hours, likely due to the overwhelming popularity of a certain other not so angelic FPS.
In the end, Tron 2.0 feels as if the developers were so focused on recreating the world of the movie that they forgot to make the single player experience fun. If you're a Tron fan with friends, Tron 2.0 is the ideal place for your dream disc and lightcycle tournaments, though single player might make you want to use the game disc as a frisbee instead.