We're told that part of the appeal of the Tron 'experience' is the opportunity to travel inside computers. In 1982 this was dead exciting. That was before spreadsheets. And viruses. And spam. Of course, familiarity breeds contempt and if computers are entirely necessary for modern living, it cannot be denied that their wonder has diminished somewhat. Unfortunately, this belated 'sequel' merely confirms this, revealing the inside of your Xbox as a large, tedious and often infuriating place.
Tron 2.0 opens with what is the most ridiculous cut-scene in videogame history. You are Jet Bradley, videogame developer and son of Alan from the original film. When Dad is attacked and seemingly disappears, you go to investigate. Unfortunately, apparently being entirely hapless, you foolishly stand under some sort of crazy ray gun machine and end up being digitised - imprisoning you inside a computer universe infected by a corrupt program. It's your job to get the hell out and help the Holly-ish computer Ma3a to fight off the virus and find out what the hell has happened to your old man.
Tron 2.0's soundtrack perfectly complements the action and, visually, there is simply nothing else that looks like it out there. It's all violently bright fluorescent colours with a retro effect that feels both cold and alien but with a geeky cool. Unfortunately, poor level design means that it becomes increasingly difficult to feel any sort of attachment to the environments. Each area is immediately striking but you never feel that you're anywhere in particular. There's no feeling of moving through a machine - it's just a series of staggeringly bright boxy looking rooms.
As you progress through various sections of the servers, you must find 'permissions' that enable you to access 'bins' that contain power-ups and unlock new areas. To help you dispatch enemies you come equipped with discs, and Rod type guns. All weapons (aside from the discs, which are by far the most effective) require energy from nodes or constantly replenishing energy baths. Discs also remain by far the most satisfying to use too, especially when modified with power blockers. There are also levels that require you to bomb about on lightcycles. This is by far the finest aspect of Tron 2.0, being genuinely fast, in first-person perspective. They are essentially a 3D version of mobile phone favourite Snake except with far more dangerous power-ups. And much like Snake, it's good fun but fundamentally limited.
In fact, Tron 2.0 is fundamentally limited from the outset. The Xbox was chosen as a natural port from the PC over other platforms because of the similarity in coding and its ability to handle the graphics. Sadly, it appears Climax have crammed everything they could into the game, resulting in thoroughly irritating load screens. Multiplayer Lightcycle games demand a ten second minimum respawn - ridiculous considering how quickly the races are over, whilst you could probably build your own PC in the time it takes to reload a game after you cop it. And cop it you will. Throughout the game, enemies are defiantly tough and even when you plug in various bits and bobs to make you harder, you'll still be dumped far more often than you rightly should, considering the load times. Plus, call us traditional old fools, but we like an FPS to be rammed full of shooting action. What we don't want is platforming. We don't want to die because a digitised Jet has got the leaping distance of a domesticated rabbit. And then spend hours reloading from our last save point.
If the single-player game is disappointing, it was Climax's legacy of LIVE production that led them to this title. And to be fair, multiplayer options are huge and considerably more fun than the single player mode. Still, we wouldn't recommend playing with anything less than three players as most of the maps feel cavernous. But with lightcycle maps and disc-only arenas and plenty of more standard modes, fans and newbies to Tron are pretty well provided for. Well, in a passable, average, not really 'must play' sort of way, you understand.
Tron 2.0 feels like a real missed opportunity. It's a game that's presented so well and genuinely stands out from other first-person shooters in terms of looks but the fiddly, tedious and often confused design of gameplay drags it down to being a distinctly mediocre adventure. Disappointing. Very disappointing.
Tron 2.0 Killer App is out now for Xbox