the Junkyard: The Rebirth of Tron

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The Rebirth of Tron
The Rebirth of Tron
Posted by: Charles 'grey wolf' Banas on Mon Sep 1st, 2003 at 10:37 PM
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Genre: FPS
PublisherBuena Vista Interactive
DeveloperMonolith
Release Date: 08-26-2003
Score9.3/10.0
GalleryClick here (6).

Jet Bradley, son of Alan Bradley, is a game programmer at Encom, a rather futuristic and advanced software firm. Alan has redeveloped the digitization technology that once trapped Kevin Flynn in the mainframe, and has developed a powerful AI to control it: Ma3a (Mah-THREE-ah). However, a man named Thorne, head of security for fCon, was digitized to infiltrate Encom's network to steal data and to help facilitate the hostile takeover fCon was planning against Encom. But he was corrupted during the digitization...

You play Jet, whose task is to find and rescue Ma3a and try to contain the source of the corruption. Ma3a has digitized you to this end. Now, as a program, you have the ability to adapt and integrate software into your own active system memory to help you with this task.

When you first pop onto the game, probably the first thing you'll notice is how bright and blurry outlines and details are. If you've never seen Disney's Tron, then the entire idea behind the look of the game will be lost on you. Yet, you can't help but be amazed at how well these features fit together in the game. It's a rather remarkable achievement.

The Tron universe is an expansive realm where programs, systems, and hardware become tangible objects that you can interact with directly. It brings to life aspects of the computer you may not have thought about. One could easily turn a discussion about this game into a discussion about Operating Systems design. But I won't. I promise. :)

The first thing that struck me about this game was exactly how intensive it is on its "high" setting. Although the base system requirements for it are as low as an Athlon 500MHz with a GeForce 2, you won't like it. You have to turn all they eye candy off to get it running smooth on a system like that. And don't be surprised if it doesn't perform as well on your new Radeon as on your friend's aging GeForce 2. The game's development was greatly assisted by nVidia, and so, the engine was geared for it. That said, all recent GeForces, Radeons, and even Matrox's Parahelia is supported.

As far as the graphics go, though, this game won't be beat for quite a while. The look is consistent with the Tron movie, the feel is "just right", and the females are oh-so-nice. Most of its beauty comes from the sheer simplicity of the look. Most objects look like solid wireframes, and the characters are almost shapeless, save for their glowing highlights.

This leads me to my next point: All of the surfaces have detail textures (you turned them on, right?) that give them some solidity, albeit very subtly. If you have a dark monitor, you probably won't notice them, and you might accidentally fall into holes here and there. Never fear, though, there are easy ways to detect dropoffs. Just pay attention to the wireframes. :)

The single player campaign is expansive and deep, with a lot of extra places to explore. Each time you play through, you might find a new passage or a hidden chamber you never noticed before. Or you might find that one last build note on the level after a bit of a search. :)

Gameplay isn't too terribly complex, but I was struck by how much it seemed to focus on strategy. It isn't a typical FPS, by any means. Each weapon has its own characteristics, shared to some extent by its upgrades.

You have four basic weapons: The Disc, Rod, Ball, and Mesh primitives. Each of them have two upgrades that change they way they behave and how hard they hit. You can send off one disc after another, throw exploding discs, gun them down with the equivalent of a shotgun and gatling gun, snipe their heads off, suck energy, send them through a vortex, or corrupt them, just like a virus.

With such a fun set of weapons, it's hard not to have fun killing Intrusion Countermeasure Programs (ICPs) and corrupted programs. Gotta love being the only decent antivirus software. :) Hell, I even got to kill Norton Disk Doctor. (Quite viciously, I might add.)

All of the ICPs in the game have been given amusing names - like NDD as I mentioned, but also such programs as "spooler.exe". There are even great tributes to the movie ("ROMie", who you rescue no less than twice), and rather amusing uses of Operating System objects. ("Halt, Program! The Kernel wants a word with you!") The Operating System's core is addressed as if he had the rank of Colonel - quite literally.

All of your upgrades and feats come in the form of software upgrades - subroutines. The subroutines you acquire give you the defensive, offensive, and operational capabilities you will need to carry out your final objective. Along the way, you are given the opportunity to upgrade them from Alpha to Beta to Gold builds, further increasing the abilities you're afforded.

Some of the enhancements you'll find along the way include the aptly-named "Y-boost", which increases your jump capability. There are also utility subroutines for preventing corruption, increasing your damage, to corrode opponents, or even for gathering vital stats such as health and inventory. But even that's neglecting to mention your armor upgrades, which all together can boost your defense to the point that you take only 13% of the normal damage. A necessary thing, in my opinion.

Subroutines introduce the concept of System Memory Management. You'll end up sometimes rearranging your subroutines to make room for more to be placed in active memory. This isn't nearly as bad as it might sound. It adds to the strategy of it.

Each subroutine takes up memory, obviously. But here's the kicker: Alpha routines are big, buggy, and inefficient. They take up 3 blocks. Beta routines are smaller and more optimizaed, but are still buggy. They take 2 blocks. Gold routines are the final build, and take up the least space and are the most optimized and have the fewest bugs. They take only one block and are the best you'll get of any particular routine. Weapons hit harder and are more precise, and your other skills are greatly enhanced (or otherwise optimized).

Along the way, though, you'll also find yourself defragmenting, disinfecting, and porting quite often, as you will find incompatible routines, and get hit quite often by the corrupted programs.

The game has a lot of complexities that make it quite enjoyable. Surprisingly, I haven't personally found any of these complexities to get in the way.

However, I haven't even mentioned the other major part of the game: Lightcycles.

If you've played GLTron or one of the other variants you've seen Lightcycles on the game grid. But until you've seen Tron 2.0's Lightcycles, you're missing something special.

The Super Lightcycle (as it is called) is the original lightcycle design as intended by the movie's creators. The only thing that stopped them from using it was its sheer complexity. As a result, you'll probably find that it is the most complex object in the game, aside from the main characters.

The entire Lightcycle game has been revamped. Not only with the new cycle, but with 9 powerups that could make you the champion, or break you faster than the fatal wall can be redered. There are also two new speed zones that override any speed powerups you use.

The powerups include such goodies as speed, "shield break", trail spike, trail reset, and even a missile. All of these powerups can be used strategically to catch another player off guard and send them slamming into a wall or just simply derez them. :)

Unfortunately, multiplayer games are sub-optimal. They require low-latency connections, and in fact, "Lightcycle is only supported on LAN", although you can easily play online if you latency is low enough. One sever, for example, required a ping of 80 or less to play.

Otherwise, this game is an excellent choice for LAN parties. It actually seems particularly suited to them.

Disc Arena is the major multiplayer type you'll play online. One map is a reminder of the first game Flynn played after he was digitized in the movie. Other maps are entirely new, conceptually, giving you a lot of options to explore and play with. One arena, for example, takes place inside a Pentium 4 processor. The "Intel Inside" logo is clearly visible, and "Pentium 4" is visible in one arena.

Despite the latency problems, it's still very fun to play online.

Fin: Final Thoughts:
Tron 2.0 is an excellent game, well thought-out, and entertaining. It holds true to the legacy created by the original Disney movie in 1982. I'd give it perfect 10, were it not for its few problems:

Its system requirements are low (Athlon 500 with GeForce 2-class video), but it's just not Tron without the eyecandy. You'll need a fairly beefy system to enjoy it. I'd say an Athlon 1700+ with a hardware T&L video card would work fine for you, but you might need an EAX-compatible sound card to help take the sound load off the CPU.

Antialiasing will hurt more than it'll help, and likewise, a higher resolution is overkill. The blurring glow effect takes out most of the aliasing. You probably won't know the difference if it's 800x600.

It also requires broadband to play online, because multiplayer is otherwise only good on a LAN.

Despite all of that, this game is definitely worth buying. Hell, I'd say it's worth upgrading your system for!

Related Links: Related Links:
  • Tron 2.0 website
  • Tron Sector


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