TRON 2.0 is a first-person action RPG developed by Monolith Productions and published by Buena Vista Interactive in 2003. It is a sequel to the 1982 film, TRON, but is based in an alternate ‘reality’ due to the de-canonisation of the first film by the 2010 re-boot, Tron: Legacy.
You play the son of a research scientist, called Jethro “Jet” Bradley, and are digitised into the TRON world by a computer called Ma3a and must navigate through a hostile digital world, making allies with friendly (blue) Users (or Programs) and defeating hostile (red) and corrupt (green) ones. A floating blue Program, called Byte, acts as a guide throughout the game.
The on-screen status display shows your health and energy levels and pressing Tab will bring up your objectives. By performing tasks, or collecting Build Notes (glowing, rotating orange things that you can find within levels), you earn ‘Build Points‘ that can be used to upgrade your Performance Ratings. Your Build number is shown in the top left-hand corner of the screen and when you’ve collected enough points to reach the next Build level you effectively go up a level. Pressing the F1 key brings up your Performance Ratings where you can distribute your Build Points among health, energy, weapon efficiency, transfer rate, and processor power.
The circular Performance Ratings screen shows your main skills in the middle and additional skills (called “Subroutines“) around the outside. These Subroutines can be picked-up and placed in slots, pertaining to Combat, Defence, and Utility skills, and need to be active for them to work. These Subroutines can become infected by combat with corrupted programs, or can be acquired in an infected state, in which case they need to be dis-infected to make them work properly again. They can also be optimised to make them more effective and require fewer slots to activate. Some Subroutines are also unknown to the system and must first be identified before you can use them.
Permissions are an important feature of TRON 2.0. You need specific Permissions to do certain things, like open doors or activate elevators, and these Permissions can be found in different places. Sometimes they can be found inside Archive Bins (boxes with floating lights inside them), and sometimes an enemy might be holding one, in which case you’ll need to defeat that particular enemy to acquire it.
You fight hostile programs using a thrown disc (left-click to throw; right-click to use the disc to deflect enemy discs thrown at you), although as you get further into the game a selection of different weapons become available, including a pair of electro sticks, a sniper rifle, and a grenade-like explosive ball.
When an enemy is defeated they will ‘de-rez’ and drop a glowing capsule (called a Core Dump), that can contain health, energy, Permissions, or Subroutines, and can be collected. These Core Dumps disappear after a short while, though, so should be picked-up quickly.
Red enemies can call for backup if they reach alarm panels (called ‘Sec Rezzers‘), so it’s worth destroying them before they can activate them. With the right Permissions you can deactivate Sec Rezzers so that no more enemies will spawn from them. You can top up your health and energy from coloured spheres, called Patch Routines. These will usually stop working after a while, but there are unlimited Patch Routines available too, which offer never-ending top-ups. Energy is needed to transfer (ie. pick up) items from Archive Bins found scattered around the levels, for activating Binary Bits (switches), and for other uses, so is just as important as health to keep topped-up.
The graphics in TRON 2.0 are really good, with excellent use of colour and that trademarked TRON glow effect that pervades throughout. Sound and music are excellent too, echoing those heard in the films. Most importantly, though, the gameplay is well thought-out and realised, and playing TRON 2.0 is an absorbing and rewarding experience. There’s even a Light Cycles minigame that pops up in the story occasionally and can also be played from the main menu. The new Light Cycles game was designed by Syd Mead and can also be played multiplayer (although I did read that that isn’t advised as the lag can make it unplayable).
TRON 2.0 does have a few small niggles, although nothing really serious. It’s a very linear game, and you can’t go backwards at certain points, which means that it’s possible to miss some items unless you scour everywhere. There’s also a bit of platforming, which might irk some people. But in general the difficulty curve is reasonably gradual. Some areas are pretty challenging, which is good in general, although if you enter certain sections of the game and are low on health then that can make them very difficult (but not impossible).
TRON 2.0 is an excellent game overall and is well worth buying and playing, whether you like the TRON films or not.
Note: to all the people who think that “Program” should be written as “Programme“… In the context of computing – you’re wrong. So stop doing it. The word “Program” (as in “computer program“) is technical jargon that should always be written as “Program” (the Americanised spelling), and this has been the case – even on British computers – since the dawn of computing. A “computer program” is not the same as a “TV programme” so should NEVER be written as “computer programme”. Every time I see someone write “computer programme” I think: “they don’t know what they’re talking about“. I’m English and know the difference between “program” and “programme” and know why they’re different in the context of computing. If you’re one of those people who insists that it should written as “computer programme” then you’re naive and misinformed, and have probably never used computers from the early days of home computing. Even the Sinclair ZX81 and ZX Spectrum used the word “program” in their Operating System. So, honestly, if you’re one of those annoying “programme” people: stop it, and get with the PROGRAM!