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Tron 2.0 Preview (PC)
game: Tron 2.0
posted by: Aaron Stanton
publisher: Buena Vista Interactive
developer: Monolith Productions
date posted: 09:10 AM Tue Jun 4th, 2002
last revision: 12:12 PM Sat Nov 5th, 2005

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The original Tron movie was made one year after I was born, and received initially negative reviews. With the signature neon blue suits and glowing red virtual tanks, Tron helped to pioneer the look and feel of the techno world back in the 80\'s. Even today, computer nerds around the world have fond memories of the movie (I challenge any person\'s claim to the \"computer nerd\" title who hasn\'t seen it), which is not too shabby considering its entire fictional world, supposedly running on a mainframe computer, existed in what we\'d probably refer to today as a $99 dollar graphing calculator. For the non-initiated, Tron\'s original storyline centers around a programmer who is \"accidentally\" digitized into a computer and finds himself fighting for his life in the lead roles of his favorite video games (in our terms, think of yourself in a life or death struggle through the halls of Doom III, in his terms, think pong). There he discovers that each of the programs on the system are actually little people who have to fight it out whenever users in the world above pop in another quarter for a round of their favorite videogame (so feel guilty, very guilty).

It seems somehow fitting that the game about digitizing reality is finally being digitized into a modern game ? a natural place for it to be, considering the premise. After 20 years, Disney gave the thumbs up for both a new game and a new movie, and they began casting about for a development team with enough guts to huff, and puff, and blow the socks off the cult fans of the old classic. It\'s a wonder that it took as long as it did. It was Monolith, the makers of No One Lives Forever and Aliens vs. Predator 2, which took up the call. Though the image of Monolith and combat is one we\'re familiar with, the combination of Disney and an adult first person shooter may strike people as a step away from Disney\'s traditional family friendly heritage. Still, it\'s not completely unheard of. Disney has been behind some heavy hitting adult endeavors in the past; add in the fact that they are working with Monolith (developers of No One Lives Forever and Aliens vs. Predator 2 to name a couple) and using the LithTech Triton System, which offers next-generation PC features, and we\'ve got reason to believe this title could very well satisfy a wide range of gamers.

\"So are they serious?\" one of the other GamesFirst! writers asked when I returned from running the brief demo around the block. \"Are they gonna pull it off?\" I had to nod my head and look impressed. The development team seems to be drawing just enough on the original story to make all of us old romantics (some would say sentimentalists) happy and satisfied that it\'s all still the world of Tron, while injecting a solid amount of updated content to keep the universe from growing stagnant.

Tron 2.0 takes place twenty years after the original movie left off (incidentally, this is almost the exact amount of time that has passed in real life ? might make it easy for cameo appearances from the original actors?). Along with that time shift comes an entirely new set of possibilities that didn\'t even occur to me until they were pointed out. How would the original Tron have been different if they had Firewalls? The Internet? How about the spiders that dig out our search engine content? Anti-virus software? Hackers? Computer games with better graphics (not that I\'ve got anything against pong)? There\'s no doubt that Monolith and Disney have a great source of material to work with. It gives me shivers.

Twenty years have passed since Alan Bradley (Tron\'s programmer) was involved in the original adventure, and some things have changed. No longer a low level programmer, he\'s hot on the trail of re-building the technology that allowed his friend to be digitized years before. The game\'s new hero, Jet Bradley (Alan\'s son), proceeds to be \"accidentally\" digitized himself while trying to find information on his father\'s whereabouts, all while their company is in the midst of a hostile take over by an evil bad guy (as opposed to the good bad guys) intent on forging an army of glowing neon terrorists with which to, supposedly, earn a tidy profit or rule the world (your guess is as good as mine). The catch is that only Alan Bradley has figured out how to digitize a human without flaws, and so while the Bradleys appear healthy and full of blue, the minions tracking him have been horribly corrupted by the translation process. Of course, you couldn\'t have a Tron game without a variety of other programs to help out. As he battles across a landscape dominated by primary colors ? and white and black ? Jet will encounter a thriving world full of other sentient programs, including one or two assistant programs that may serve the same function as the original Tron from the movie. There\'s still no confirmed word on whether or not a polished version of Tron himself will make an appearance, but we can all hope.

There will be a spread of basic weapons, the primary being your standard data disc. As the fellow at the Tron 2.0 booth said, \"It didn\'t take us long to realize that the disc was the most versatile weapon.\" You\'re data disc has some basic advantages to it that other weapons just don\'t have. For one thing, you can block with it, and bounce it off of walls for tough-to-get angle shots. For another, you maintain control of the disc even after it\'s thrown. As long as you hold the fire button down, the glowing spiral of destruction will cut its way through space in relation to what you do with your mouse. A quick tap with the finger will bring it back at any time. While others are present, the weapon that players will become the most intimately familiar with will be the disc.

Of course, as in the movie, Tron 2.0 will be heavily dependent on the storyline. Combat aside, Tron 2.0 has a strong adventure element to it. The firewalls, for example, are going to be obstacles to overcome, not just beat down with a Frisbee. If done right, you can be sure to expect more than a simple \"de-rezz the red guy\" type of theme. Monolith also promises multiplayer and mod support in the form of deathmatch and team play, and game editors for us to do our own tweaking. So far, the game looks good--good enough that I found myself with an itch to rent Tron when I got home (an ill-afforded break from preview writing). Watching it again, I realized that Tron laid the groundwork for a lot of great gaming, even providing for religious conflict amongst the programs (\"You still believe in Users?\"). There are enough elements here for ten games. All that remains to be seen is exactly which elements the Monolith team chose to take advantage of, and which they didn\'t. Just one last thought. If little programs really were being destroyed as we played, wouldn\'t it be ironic if a citizen of Tron died while playing the Tron 2.0 game? Hmmmm... maybe it\'s just me.