Games time forgot: Tron 2.0

With all this hubbub about the teaser trailer for Tr2n, the official sequel to Tron and winner of the “insert a number in the most random place ever just to show it’s a sequel” award, I’m surprised more people haven’t mentioned the sequel to Tron that already exists.

It’s clever, exciting and true to the original whilst also updating the graphics and ideas for a new age.

It’s Tron 2.0, and, as good as 2 Tr2n 2 Furious might be, I honestly dunno if it’ll surpass Monolith’s incredible FPS.

If you haven’t played it, then you really need to hit the jump. If you have, then you’ll understand why more people need to play this wonderful FPS.

Story:

Billed as a direct, canon sequel to Tron (though that’ll probably be overturned once Tr2n comes out), Tron 2.0 follows Jet Bradley, son of Alan Bradley (played by Bruce Boxleitner), who is digitized into an ENCOM computer in order to combat a spreading virus. While he fights off the virus inside the computer, employees from fCon, a rival computer company, break into ENCOM and hold all the employees hostage, including Alan.

While Boxleitner and Cindy Morgan return as voice actors (Morgan plays Ma3a, the benevolent AI who digitizes Jet), there is, unfortunately, no trace of Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn. Admittedly, that is one advantage Tr2n has over Tron 2.0. Still, Flynn is at least mentioned a couple of times, ostensibly having retired after making a metric asston of money.

So, that’s pretty cool.

In fact, the game is full of little nods to the original flick: a co-worker asks Jet if he can borrow his popcorn (the same question asked of Alan Bradley in the beginning of Tron), Jet strikes the exact same pose when he’s hit by the digitizing beam that Flynn does in the first film, the player is helped by an upgraded version of Bit, and an entire world near the end of the game is comprised solely of ships and low-res sprites from the original film.

The game is essentially a wet dream for any fan of Tron. Hell, I only moderately enjoyed the movie, but I still experience a great rush of glee at every little reference if only because they’re presented so damn well. It took me a good few hours to realize the transport ships I was taking were modified versions of those big evil-looking seeker ship things from the movie (you know, the one Flynn tries to pilot).

The original Tron was awfully pretty, and still stands up today as one of the most visually interesting films around. It is all the more impressive, then, that Monolith managed to make Tron 2.0 even more interesting. Rather than just directly mimicking the style of the film, the designers updated all the visuals to reflect the more complex digital age we live in: if the world of the computers looked like that in 1980, they asked, then how would it look today? As a result, the worlds are much more complex and vibrant, and it’s honestly a joy just to run around in some of the larger areas (especially once your character connects to the Internet).

Gameplay:

Tron 2.0 is an FPS with RPG elements and a recurring lightcycle minigame. Were any company other than Monolith handling the game, the above gameplay summary would sound like the typical recipe for disaster upon which innumerable, horrendous licensed games are created from. It sounds unfocused, and awful.

It isn’t.

Jet has something like a dozen different abilities and just as many weapons, all of which can be upgraded by downloading new versions from item boxes or the corpses of derezzed AIs. Jet has a limited number of data slots he can use, so the player gets to engage in some fun character management: your weapons (apart from the Death Frisbee, basically computer-y versions of grenades, sniper rifles, shotguns, etc) and your physical skills occupy the same spaces, so you more or less have to decide which weapons to focus on, and which skills are most important to you. The mechanic has been implemented in many games, admittedly, but Tron 2.0 is one of the only games I can think of where you actually need to think very, very hard about which skills and weapons you choose.

And the reason you have to think very, very hard is because Tron 2.0 is goddamn hard. Even on normal difficulty, infected AI will kill you in one or two hits and if you don’t learn how to block with your Death Frisbee, you’ll get deleted almost instantly. I actually ended up relying on all my weapons throughout the course of the game: though the Disc is a very fun, very deep weapon which remains surprisingly useful throughout the entirety of the gam, the game still forces you to take advantage of every skill and weapon you have in order to progress.

Speaking of the Disc: it’s badass. Remember watching Tron and wishing you could engage in the sort of Frisbee Deathmatch Tron is so good at? Tron 2.0 actually lives up to those wishes. The Disc Frisbee Thing of Death controls very simply: left click to throw, right click to block or recall the disc, and hold the left mouse button while steering to curve the disc. Since many of your enemies have Death Frisbees as well, you’ll often get into very, very satisfying duels with the AI.

W.hat might have otherwise been a pretty boring ranged weapon (throw, kill, recall, repeat) actually becomes as deep and versatile a weapon as, say, the lightsaber in Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy. The baddies will block your hits, throw their Discs at you, and you’ll try to recall the disc when it’s directly behind them so it’ll smack them in their unprotected backs. I distinctly remember having very long, very challenging Disc duels online with complete strangers, and enjoying myself just as much as I did during the lightsaber duels in Outcast. Well, almost as much.

The light cycle racing only occurs a few times in the game (thankfully, as it’s also pretty hard), but it’s fun for what it is. Again feeling the need to update the mechanics and ideas behind the light cycle races, Monolith introduced powerups and different classes of light cycles. The cycle racing lacks the beautiful simplicity of that found in, say, Armagetron, but it’s pretty fun and breaks up the gameplay reasonably well.

Why you’re probably not playing it:

It’s five years old, only on PC or Xbox (and it’s not backwards compatible in the 360), and sequelizes a movie many modern gamers probably have not seen.

Still, though, it’s only 100 friggin’ Goozex points, and only about $10-15 on eBay. It’s one of Monolith’s best games (admittedly not saying much considering how good their others have been, but I still prefer it over No One Lives Forever 2 or FEAR), one of the greatest licensed games ever made, and it’ll probably kick the crap out of Tr2n, unless the entire film consists of cyberclones of Jeff Bridges hitting people in the face with Death Frisbees.

Go play it. Now.

Anthony Burch