Great game, but so Nerd it hurts!
Seems nostalgia works much better than originality these days to sell games, but that's ok, as I have no problem revisiting any of the coolest stuff from our childhood updated for the current times. Tron escaped me however, as I think I was a couple of years too late to catch on the Tron craze (actually... was there ever a Tron "craze"?) anyway, the point is that while interested I wasn't exactly weak at the knees when I heard about Tron 2.0, however the end result by far exceeded my expectations providing one of the more enjoyable fps experiences I've had in recent memory.
The concept is based as a sequel of sorts to the movie, with the action taking place years after the events of Tron. You take the role of the son of Tron's protagonist (I'll be damned if I remember his name) as he annoys his father (now a big-ass technician in the company) by being a "cool-nerd" videogame posterboy just like you saw in magazines like PCXL... Anyway, this wouldn't be a Tron game unless you didn't get zapped into a computer, and that's exactly what happens. Suddenly you become a digital rambo (just look at the box cover) and have to fight your way in the trippy neon world of Tron.
However Tron isn't your average generic fps, a lot of thought was placed in the development of a substantially engrossing rpg angle which governs your abilities and skills in the game. Basically you are a program, right? So you can upgrade yourself and manage your resources to fit every situation. Collect build notes scattered around the levels and eventually you'll upgrade your program version (aka: level up) which allows you to add points to your base abilities that control your speed, damage, energy storage, etc. Equipment and weaponry are (with some exceptions) actually program sub-routines, which you must load up in your assigned memory in order to use, however the memory available for you to use (represented as a series of equipment slots) varies with each level, with the ones staged in giant mainframes offering ample room for you to load up everything you desire and the ones in a PDA for instance leaving you with just a few cramped slots to load basic features like armor or special equipment. The sub-routines are also upgradable (from alpha, to beta to gold) and thus you can enhance their performance as well as decrease the slots of memory they consume. Obviously all of these options are not infinite in the sense that you can't just upgrade everything, so choosing the right options isn't always a straightforward choice which, of course, only adds to the tremendous gameplay depth.
As the game progresses you'll fight your way through a series of exciting levels based around the magic "computer-universe" of Tron, updated to include much more widespread elements from today's technology such as the internet and virus threats (which can infect you and severely cripple your abilities). Your enemies include the classic "controller" programs that compose the systems security and operational forces (those funky red guys) as well as virus-infected programs (mutated "green" monsters) and even other digitized users out to hunt you down. While the gameplay includes a lot of varied objectives and sneaking, this is an fps, so you'll eventually have to dish it out with an array of weapons that include the classic disc as well as other "Tron-ized" versions of classic fps weapons, such as the sniper rifle (called the "LOL" :)), also making a return from the movie you have the light-cycle races, which are basically "nibbles" sequences sprinkled all over the game, but exceptionally well done and quite challenging with multiple opponents, obstacles and power-ups (in fact it's available as a stand-alone game mode).
The real deal-breaker for fans of the movie however, was the replication of the Tron universe and the results were great there too. Monolith perfectly nailed the "vibe" of the movie, first by using the latest iteration of their LithTech engine to craft a near identical representation of the Tron look, complete with one of the earliest implementations of the glow technology (now seen in practically every DX9 game) that gave the game that hazy neon glow just like in the movie. Furthermore since the gameworld is mostly composed of flat textures (with some transparencies at worst) you'll be able to run it in basically any graphic board out there, with only the "glow" option being a feature better suited for newer cards.
Sound-wise the game is also a winner, with sfx ripped right from the movie and a music score that takes the original themes and runs with them crafting a dynamic soundtrack that defines what a dynamic soundtrack should be. Plus, Disney secured most of the original cast for voiceovers and even included the totally gratuitous appearance of Rebecca Rom... uh.. Romjin? eh.. you know, Mystique!.
For as good as it is I can't help bitching about a few things in Tron 2.0. First of all while the story promised a lot initially, in the final quarter of the game it just all comes apart at the seams, it doesn't amaze me that the game was based on a never-produced movie deal, as the story combines the potential and inconsistencies of an incomplete script draft. This is evident in some of the lesser subplots, but most evidently in the final parts of the game, as the story is rapidly wrapped up in the classic "damn man, we gotta finish this quick coz we ran out of ideas!" manner and quickly boils down everything so as to solve most of the main plotlines and give you the Happy Ending(tm) a Disney product demands. Interesting characters like Rebecca's are so underdeveloped that they end up being nothing but cardboard cutouts, and I think Tron himself should have at least made a cameo... worst of all.... SUPER SOLDIERS AGAIN????? What the hell is wrong with the guys at Monolith?? It seems that every game they make is based on the same storyline!! Man.. I swear if I play another fps where the plot revolves around supersoldiers I'm going to throw up.... (update: I played another one, but no, I couldn't barf... damn you bastards!)
Finally the game has the serious downside of making the player feel like the fucking king nerd of dorkiness. Really, enemies shout out stuff like "in your interface" and you have to battle data fragmentation and viral contamination, indestructible enemies are labeled "read-only" and teleportation includes stuff like url and ip addresses. Mission objectives include overclocking cpus, escaping from formatting and compiling source code, etc. etc. etc... I mean, my friends and I just laughed our asses off, but it's the nerdiest game I've ever played, better hide it if some jocks come to your house, because they are gonna beat the crap out of you harder than if you were wearing a custom made Star Trek uniform.
The Bottom Line
Despite a substantial generic quality in the story and making you feel as the dorkiest geek in the universe Tron 2.0 is a fantastically deep and engrossing fps that adds just the right amount of rpg gameplay to enrich the fps experience without taking away the focus from an excellent action game. Truly recommended, specially for nerds.