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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Tron 2.0 Killer App (Xbox)


By Michael Palisano

Buena Vista Interactive's Tron 2.0 Killer App is an exciting game that takes the classic 1982 movie interactive with an exciting quest that mixes a traditional quest mode with exciting light-cycle races. The game's unique power-up system gives it a unique feel. The main mode is excellent with a good mix of action and puzzle solving. An interesting plot also helps to immerse you into the game, with the original actors Bruce Boxleitner and Cindy Morgan returning. Tron 2.0 Killer App also supports a variety of online modes that let you to compete with other players in traditional deathmatch and light-cycle matches. The stunning visuals remain starkly beautiful and brilliantly recreate the glowing cyberworld from the film flawlessly. This is a solidly entertaining game that offers plenty of challenge and excitement, and is a real joy if you're a fan of the landmark film.

While the original Disney film Tron never really reached the box-office heights it deserved to, it's landmark use of computer graphics and the fascinating 'journey' inside computer made it a cult-classic that only increased in stature over the years. After many years creating an underground buzz, PC owners were given a chance to take a trip back to this strange parallel universe with the release of Tron 2.0 from developers Climax. The game won praise for its unique approach to the FPS genre and its brilliant light cycle battles, and now Xbox owners finally have a chance to play this excellent title. Tron 2.0 Killer App takes place 20 years after the movie and casts players as Jet Bradley, the son of Alan Bradley, the legendary programmer who programmed the original Tron program/alter ego in the film.

As the game begins, Jet finds himself digitized inside the computer and he finds out that an evil user named Thorne has overtaken large chunks of the space, corrupting programs and spreading viruses throughout the system. The system's security forces are battling Thorne's mutated programs but are losing the battle. As in the film, only the powers of a human user will be able to stop Thorne from taking over the computer. After the cool introductory movie, Jet finds himself transported inside the computer system. A brief tutorial level follows that introduces you to the basic system techniques and combat rules. Once you've completed this area, the adventure begins. You start with a basic weapon or "primitive" which is your disc, as you progress through the game, you'll gain access to more advanced weapons such as guns, rifles and grenades. These can be acquired by interfacing with the various databases you'll find throughout the game. In order to implement these upgrades, you'll have to use your subroutine panel to set up these programs and install them. These operate in a number of ways to upgrade your character's weapons, ammo, and techniques. However, the subroutines may become infected or fragmented, and you'll have to install viruses cleansing subroutines to clean these up. Other subroutines can be used to upgrade Jet's abilities with higher jumps, better armor and more by implementing upgrades that they find. Some of these upgrades will drain your energy and life bars. Players can also find out information by downloading emails from the outside, which can give them valuable clues to their next location. The subroutine menu is fairly unique and surprisingly involved. It allows you to place different routines in your system by dragging and dropping them into your disc. Players can also manage their weapons and armor systems here, as well as change other attributes. It's fairly complicated but this unique system that brings a bit of role playing to the FPS proceedings.

Tron 2.0's gameplay itself mixes FPS action with RPG and puzzle elements. During battle, you aim and shoot at enemy programs. Your standard light disc does a good job, and you can target and lock onto specific enemies easily. Most standard foes go down easily with a shot or two, but they usually attack in groups and can call in reinforcements. However, you'll have to be careful to avoid hitting innocent programs, since derezzing them causes the game to end immediately. These action sequences can be quite intense, but the game also has cerebral appeal. Tron 2.0 Killer App's puzzles can be difficult to beat. There are many areas where you need to acquire what Permission Levels in order to progress. These can be found by downloading them from I/O pods. In these pods, players will find Archive Bins that are hidden throughout each level. Players then turn and face the transfer pods and download the information. Once acquired, these these subroutines open doors, disable sensors, and turn off barriers. Many areas require you to jump from platform to platform in order to find a hidden I/O bin. Unless you have the proper permissions, you won't be able to access all the I/O nodes. Additionally, here are many areas that aren't accessible unless you have the right subroutines installed, so you have to search each area thoroughly. As Jet travels through the system, he'll encounter many hostile adversaries, as well as friendly programs. He can talk and interact with them, and they'll usually point him in the right direction. Later on, Jet will find a group of underground programs who are resisting Thorne's takeover of the system and will help him fight his many minions. This makes for an extremely immersive game that requires both skill and reflexes to beat. The single player game starts off relatively slowly, but builds momentum as you go deeper into the system and face more intense conflicts.

The first person mode seems more creative than most FPS titles and offers a good balance of shooting and thinking. It offers players a variety of tasks that keeps the gameplay from becoming stale. Building up your character slowly is a rewarding and interesting system that makes for a more interesting, immersive experience than you'd expect it to. Of course, Tron 2.0 benefits immensely from its unique setting which gives it a unique feel. The developers at Climax have done an excellent job of recreating both the look and the atmosphere of the original Tron film, which translates into a satisfying virtual sequel. The gameplay also benefits from the excellent controls that allow you to traverse through this virtual world with ease. Most of the action takes place from a first person view, with a standard button layout that makes movement fairly straightforward. Players can auto-center the view easily which allows for intuitive targeting as well. From this standpoint, the developers have done an outstanding job translating the main game from the PC to the Xbox.

However, the single player experience is only a portion of the game. The other main area of concern in Tron 2.0 are its viscerally thrilling light-cycle sequences, which allow you to race other programs on the main grid. As in the film, the object here is to race through the grid and avoid the walls the other cycles leave behind. It sounds very simple, and it is, with simple controls that allow you to steer left or right. Going far beyond the single area seen in the movie, Tron 2.0 Killer App includes multiple areas in which players can compete. The layouts are more intricate than the movie as well, with obstacles including tight corners and barriers to avoid. During each race, players can also collect a variety of power-ups such as turbo boosts, shield breaks (which allow you to pass through walls unharmed), wall spikes that leave a horizontal wall behind you and a few others. Each game grid also contains speed up and slow down pads which cause your Light Cycle to accelerate or slow down as you ride over them. Each Light Cycle round is divided into waves where you have to defeat all the opponents on the grid. Once you've completed a full wave, you can move onto another level. Successfully completing certain areas unlocks additional Light Cycles. There are two classes of Light Cycles in Tron 2.0. There are the original standard Cycles seen in the movie and newer, sleeker models that were designed specifically for the game by original Tron artist Syd Mead himself. The earlier bikes are pretty cool, but the new bikes' increased speed makes them thrilling to use and ride. While it's basically a mini-game tacked onto the main quest, the light cycle mode is incredibly addictive and fun, especially once you get to the later levels, where the increased speed and more aggressive rivals makes for an intense experience.

What's even better is that the game supports online play using Xbox Live for this mode, which makes for some truly exciting gaming. There's also a deathmatch mode where you can battle it out with other players and finally a special mode where you can combine the two, jumping out of your Light Cycle to shoot at other players. We found the gameplay to work well for the most part, though we encountered a few minor glitches such as timeouts once in awhile. From a visual standpoint, Tron 2.0 Killer App is a great looking title that creates a dazzling world unlike any other. The glowing walls and cyber-aesthetic were way ahead of their time in 1982, and it's a testament to the original designs that this approach still feels futuristic two decades later. The graphics are beautifully rendered with intricate circuitry snaking up the walls and other objects. Tron 2.0's frame rate isn't as high as one would want, however and there are a few hiccups while the game loads. The music is also excellent, as one would expect with the original Wendy Carlos soundtrack complimented by some new instrumentals as well as a rock score from Breaking Benjamin. Tron 2.0 Killer App also scores points by using many of the original actors, who all put in good performances which really enhances the game's story and plot, it's especially nice to hear Cindy Morgan in a different role, while Bruce Boxlietner's return as Alan Bradley should please fans of the original looking for authenticity. The game's production values are incredibly sleek, allowing the developers to effectively transport you into the Tron universe, while adding some distinct elements that expand on the experience.

Unfortunately, we encountered a few technical problems that caused some major glitches with the game. The biggest of these were glitches where the game would freeze up, forcing players to reboot their system. Fortunately, these only occurred a few times and were mitigated by Tron 2.0's save anywhere system. The other problems happened when we'd pause the game and the in-game music would mysteriously stop. However, these technical issues were minor and didn't seriously detract from the overall experience. In the end, this is definitely a game worth purchasing. The single player experience offers a unique FPS title that takes place in a beautifully designed, immerse world. A unique power-up and character upgrade system give the game a unique feel. Tron 2.0 Killer App's gameplay offers an excellent blend of exciting FPS action and challenging puzzles to solve. The light-cycle sequences are also quite exciting, and can be played independently, making them almost mini-games in and of themselves. From a visual standpoint, the game offers a unique look that fully takes advantage of the Xbox powers. This compliments an immersive, interesting story that carries on the classic Tron film nicely. While fans of the classic film will likely be more excited by the game than those unfamiliar with it, Tron 2.0's excellent gameplay will also please those looking for something different.

Grade: B

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