You have to wonder what a publisher is thinking when they release a game that they must know is a “double-A” in the middle of a flood of “triple-A” titles. Such is the case with Tron 2.0: Killer App for Xbox, an arguably enjoyable game that can’t hope to garner any gamer love at a time when Half-Life 2 and Halo 2 are dominating the PC and console markets, respectively. Tron 2.0 is a good game, but it will probably languish on store shelves, which is too bad for the publisher but means it’ll probably hit the bargain rack soon, which is a perfect chance for gamers to pick it up at a more appropriate price.
Tron 2.0 turns gamers into Jet, a cooler-than-you programmer who gets digitized and sucked into the computer universe. In this hidden universe, an evil computer program is running around corrupting good programs and making them his servants. As you progress through the levels, you’ll pick up new weapons, defeat new bad guys and solve some pretty basic puzzles. In sum, you’ve got a fairly standard FPS set “inside” a computer. While that might make it sound like a big old yawn, you’d be surprised at how they goosed things up.
For starters, there’s the classic Tron disk weapon, which is the world’s deadliest Frisbee disk. You can fling it at targets to take them down, smash objects with it or use it to block incoming attacks. To block takes solid timing but is worth learning if you want to spice the action up a bit. Along with the disk, there are plenty of other weapons; especially useful are the ranged guns, which make the game a little more enjoyable than just flinging a pie tin at bad guys all day.
The game also uses a memory allocation system, where you collect power ups then plug them into your “memory.” The trick is, you have only so many slots, with each power up taking a certain number of them up. As the game progresses, you’ll find yourself spending a good bit of time in the memory screen shuffling around upgrades to fit them all in. The upgrades are a little unusual (but cool) for an FPS, such as the “false signature,” which makes your motions around the world much quieter, thus allowing you to sneak up on baddies before blasting them to bits (pardon the pun).
The game offers plenty from the original world of the Tron movie, such as light cycle races and disk-throwing showdowns. Both of these activities are fun, though they can get frustrating, especially the light cycle races. If you have no idea what a light cycle is, think of computerized motorbikes racing on a grid. There are no gradual turns, as everything is 90 degrees left or right. While this style of gameplay was awesome 10 years ago, now it just gets frustrating, since it’s had no significant upgrade. Frankly, if you just wanted to play light cycles, you could download one of the many, and I mean many, freeware light cycle games on the ‘net.
The basic light cycle gameplay does get a boost from the fact that you can take your races online and show people how great you are at turning left and right faster than them, but it’s something you’ll probably tire of after a short time. Speaking of taking the game online, there are plenty of online options in Tron 2.0 for Xbox Live gamers, which should hopefully extend the replay value of the game.
Graphically, Tron 2.0 won’t blow your mind, but it does have plenty of “wow” moments. Since you’re trapped in the computer universe, a lot of the graphics come off as blocky and chunky, which can be off-putting at first. However, weapon and character models have a nice bit of detail to them, and some environmental elements (power beams, corrupted segments of memory and a few others) really shine.
The music in Tron 2.0 is straight out of the original Tron film, and as such, fails to impress. It’s cool to hear at first, but it leaves you wishing they’d have picked up a techno or electronic band to help out with the rest of the soundtrack. Voice work is good, with some of the original film’s actors popping in for moments, though the dialog won’t win any awards. Overall, it’s about average.
Tron 2.0: Killer App isn’t the “killer app” the name proclaims it to be, but as a whole, it’s a respectable game. I’d suggest either renting it first or waiting for it to go on sale. It’s not the mind-blowing cultural phenomenon of a game experience that Halo 2, Half-Life 2 and DOOM III are (or at least promised to be, as the case may be), but it’s a decent game that offers some fresh changes to the FPS genre.
- Gameplay: 7.7
- The platforming and power ups nudge the gameplay just above average.
- Graphics: 7.5
- Some real shining moments,but most of the visuals are pretty bland.
- Sound: 6.5
- Good voicework, but weapon effects and music are just so-so.
- Replay: 7
- Basic online multiplayer gameplay gives the game a chance at a longer life.
- Overall: 7.5
- A solid rental or a good discount purchase.