Tron 2.0: Killer App vs. Tron the Movie

by MaxPower

It has been twenty two years since the original Tron movie made its big screen debut in 1982. The Disney film was one of the first feature films to use computer generated imagery that had actors acting in front of a ?black screen?. Tron, named after an old Basic command ?Trace On?, has something of a cult status because of the unique look of the movie. The glowing neon primary colourized film was shot first in black and white and the colour was added later using computer aided techniques. The acting, lead by Jeff Bridges, is agreeably kitschy in the same way the original Star Wars movies are. It premiered just as the ?cyberpunk? (the word coined in 1980 as the title of a short story) movement of the early ?80?s was just getting rolling. Cyberpunks were/are a young, technologically facile, ethically vacuous, computer-assisted vandal or criminals. The punk term comes from the musical genre of the 1970?s and ?80?s and the cyber from the word cybernetics. The film subgenre of cyberpunk is characterized by ?countercultural antiheroes trapped in a dehumanized, high-tech future?. I can think of no better form of dehumanization than being transported inside a computer, which, of course is the theoretical basis for Tron. If you have never seen the movie, it?s about a computer guy who is transported inside his computer and has to fight an evil software. If you?ve never seen it you?d also be missing out on many humorous Tron references in popular shows such as the Simpsons:

Homer (when trapped in a Tron-inspired 3D land): Uh, its like, did anyone see that movie Tron? To which the Simpson cast responded: No, Nope, No, No,
Yes – oh wait I mean No.

Tron can revel in its cult status now but it had a rough time originally. The Academy Awards, not exactly a progressive organization, passed over Tron for best visual effects because the Academy felt the movie ?cheated? with its use of computer generated imagery. In fact, Disney animators refused to work on the project fearing for their jobs. In a not so ironic twist, Disney did in early 2004 shut down their hand-drawn animation facility to focus on CGI. Additionally, the movie wasn?t exactly a hit, grossing $26.9 million in 1982 dollars, which is equivalent to $52 million in 2004 dollars. That is a similar total to ?The Butterfly Effect? and ?King Arthur? which premiered this last summer and they weren?t exactly box office stunners. The one high point, however, was the Tron arcade game released after the film but which grossed more dollars. It is in that fine tradition of Tron-inspired video games did I try out Tron 2.0: Killer App for the Xbox.

Tron 2.0 originally was thought to be the feature film sequel to Tron, however, the Tron 2.0: Killer App game took centre stage as the production of the movie was sidelined. Tron 2.0: Killer App was a PC game that came out two years ago before recently being ported over to the Xbox. Not surprisingly the graphics in the game are far superior to those in the old movie ? which is kind of the point. The game?s graphics actually look worse than you would expect from an Xbox first person shooter (FPS). Well not worse ? different – just like how the movie was different. This type of gaming experience is really what you want from a game-sequel to an infant CGI film in that Tron 2.0 definitely doesn?t stray far from the movie theme. Why the game, set 20 years after the movie, basically has the same computer ?innards? as the movie did in 1982, is a question for the ages. Last time I checked my laptop has as much power as 100,000 Apple IIs or whatever. Regardless, you get to hit all of the movies high points, the Light Cycle races and games (think 3D high-tech ?snake?), the disc weapons (among 16 other standard fare FPS type guns) and even the voice work of original Tron stars (as well Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as the voice of ?Mercury?) which is really the strength of the game.

As for the game functionality itself – the game starts off much like a movie. A little cut scene to set the stage, followed by the developer?s credits rolling exactly how you would see them in a theatre. Just like being in a theatre you can?t fast forward through the credits, but that isn?t a big deal. The game play itself consists of taking the mission of being a human ?user? inside the computer world, armed with an arsenal of powerful digital weapons and vehicles. Players will engage in warfare against legions of mutated programs as you fight to stop the computer corruption from spreading.

Tron 2.0 is also Xbox Live enabled featuring traditional FPS deathmatches on ten maps as well as some new, unique to Tron, game play modes including:

overRIDE ?This mode allows players to instantly switch from first-person combat to light cycle vehicle driving and back at any time. This is unique to vehicles in current FPS titles in that the player has more control and flexibility as to when and how their light cycles are used. It sounds fun and it is, however, the developers would have been well advised to put in a bit more cover because when you ?dismount? your light cycle you?re caught pretty flat footed out in the middle of nowhere. Granted, you need big open spaces to ride the fast light cycles.
Squad-based team multiplayer in the TRON universe. Players choose to be one of six classes to suit their individual and team playing styles.

These Xbox Live game play modes give quite a bit of extra replay value and extend the functional life of Tron 2.0 much beyond the time it will take you to play the 30+ levels.

My negative Tron 2.0 comments are varied. The game loads are relatively long especially when loading into a game after just turning the Xbox on, as well; there are quite a few load points which disrupt the flow of the game. Additionally, the text displayed throughout the game is too small and hard to read. This is most likely due to the stylized font and glowing Tron-original environment the game designers were trying to mimic. Font may have been tough to read on green and white computers in ?82, but I expect clear menus and fonts in my Xbox games. The jumping puzzles in some areas are tough while the FPS concept may not be as fully explored as I would have liked. For example, at some points Tron 2.0 felt more like a platform jumper than an honest to goodness FPS with excellent guns and realistic physics. Granted, it takes place in a computer and things are ?derezzed? and not killed, but you know what I mean – I didn?t like platform jumpers ten years ago and I?m not crazy about them now. That being said, this is not a mindless point and shoot type of game – rather it has various problems to be solved and mazes to be navigated.

It strikes me that children would probably not ask for this gift by name as they would not have experienced the goodness of the Tron original. That means this game is probably targeted at twenty and thirty-somethings who can remember the original and who grew up gaming. That in and of itself is an interesting commentary, and I would suggest an accurate portrayal of my feelings about the game. It?s cool to see all of the old 1980?s Tron stuff and apparently other people, probably around my age, agree. A quick scan of Amazon shows that the people who bought the 20th anniversary Tron DVD also bought:

  • War Games (1983) starring Matthew Broderick as the old school ?80?s hacker who breaks into secret government files
  • Flight of the Navigator (1986) starring Joey Cramer as the cool video game kid who gets to fly with aliens
  • Blade Runner (1982) starring Harrison Ford as the quasi-cyberpunk future guy

Tron 2.0 is just like the original Tron and the above list of movies; it makes me want to go out and rent the originals and revel in their cyberpunk kitsch. Once you rent the movie you?ll want to play the game and then you?ll probably enjoy this interesting twist on a FPS.

  • Tron 2.0: Killer App vs. Tron the Movie
  • by MaxPower
  • Published on December 1st, 2004

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