See it in Action!
While most of the attention around the development offices of Washington-based Monolith Studios is currently focused on putting the finishing touches on the sequel to No One Lives Forever, A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way, a significant amount of work is also being allocated to a somewhat lesser known but equally impressive first-person shooter: Tron 2.0. Scheduled to be published by Disney Interactive sometime next year, the game was first announced at this year's E3 in Los Angeles, though its existence was made public a few weeks prior to the show, and as you can probably deduce from its not-too-subtle name, it'll be a sequel of sorts to the classic 1982 film Tron. The game takes place some 20 years after the events of the film, and its plot revolves around the resurfacing of the same digitization technology that got Alan Bradley and Kevin Flynn (played by Bruce Boxlietner and Jeff Bridges, respectively) into so much trouble. In fact, many of the same characters from the movie will reprise their roles in Tron 2.0, including Alan Bradley himself, who is still working at the same firm where he developed the Tron program 20 years earlier. You'll take on the role of Jet Bradley, Alan's son, who'll uncover a secret plot by this firm to make use of a new form of the digitization technology, and in a failed attempt to stop the people involved, Jet is inadvertently digitized and sent inside the computer world of Tron in the opening moments of the game.
Once inside the world of Tron 2.0, Jet will have to navigate through high-tech levels in an attempt to not only free himself from his computerized imprisonment, but put a stop to a digital mastermind by the name of Thorne. Like Jet and Kevin Flynn before him, Thorne was a user who was digitized, though he was done so incorrectly and became insane in the process. Within the setting of Tron 2.0's digital world, Thorne's insanity translates into computer chaos. Bad sectors, corrupt files, missing partitions--Thorne's corruption destroys everything that he comes into contact with. But as gloomy as this scenario might sound, Tron 2.0 actually has enough moments of levity to offset the dark and moody settings that Tron has become famous for. This game, after all, is being developed by the same group of people responsible for the NOLF series of games, which, despite being excellent first-person shooters, are rife with humorous dialogue and clever scripts. Tron 2.0 will have similar lighthearted moments wherein Jet might encounter two guards engrossed in a funny conversation about technology-themed personal problems, like the size of their floppies.
The levels, too, are very suggestive of their digitized settings. As Jet, you'll start out in an Internet hub where you'll receive assistance from a floating helper named Byte, who is none other than the descendant of Bit from the film. This area is a cross between Times Square in New York City and Las Vegas, with bustling crowds and bright lights everywhere, and it clearly presents itself as an area where a lot of traffic passes through, much like an actual hub. Other areas include the progress bar, which is a seedy joint reminiscent of Star Wars' Mos Eisley cantina and a place where Jet will run into data pushers, which are Tron 2.0's equivalent of drug dealers; a corrupted server, home to Thorne and his evil minions; a data stream that connects two larger levels together; and even a PDA. The game sticks to the computer theme to the point that your inventory will be dictated by the level's "system memory," meaning you'll be able to carry more items while in a server than you will while in a PDA. The total number of levels that you'll find in Tron 2.0 is still up in the air, but the designers have stated that they're aiming for including a fewer number of massive levels as opposed to a high number of standard-sized areas.
As is evident in the screenshots, these levels stay true to the overall theme and style of the original Tron movie, the most notable features being the signature glow effect that lines the environments of the world, and the uniforms of the in-game characters. Developed by Nvidia specifically for Tron 2.0, this neonlike effect enhances the then-impressive visuals of Tron significantly. The world of Tron 2.0 is varied, and a different glow scheme is being assigned to each unique level in the game in order to give each a distinct look. Objects, environments, and characters that are specific to a given level will all share a similar design and the same glow color. The designers at Monolith are quick to note that, despite the fact that this technology was developed by Nvidia, Tron 2.0's glow effect is native to DirectX 8.1, so any card capable of running those drivers will be able to benefit from the game's truly unique visual style.
Something Old, Something New
The variety and distinct style of the levels in the game certainly go a long way in differentiating Tron 2.0 from being a simple computer game adaptation of the movie. And while the designers at Monolith stress that this isn't an homage to Tron, they also do admit that fans of the movie would like to see the game address some of the film's setting or plot in some way. To that end, Jet's travels will take him to the original Tron server from the movie, where he'll encounter the toga-clad characters and many of the different inanimate objects that graced Tron 20 years earlier. Of course, since the game takes place two decades after the events of the movie, this level will be noticeably dilapidated. For example, the recognizers, which used to be an imposing police force that sent fear into the hearts of unauthorized users, are now completely obsolete, and they won't be able to stand up to Jet alone. It's also here that you'll be able to experience another classic Tron moment: the lightcycles. While this feature hadn't been implemented in the latest build of Tron 2.0, this level will have a sequence wherein Jet will have to battle others by outdriving and outmaneuvering them on these speedy staples of the movie.
Of course, Jet will also have access to traditional weapons. Tron 2.0 will have four different weapon classes that you'll be able to find throughout the course of Jet's adventures, and each of these classes contains three unique weapons. Needless to say, the disc from Tron is one of those weapon classes, the other three being the rod (electric prod), ball (grenade), and mesh (energy blaster) classes. In its default state, the disc behaves as expected in that it can be thrown out to attack enemies from a distance, after which it will immediately return to Jet, much like a boomerang. Additionally, you can block incoming attacks from other enemy discs by using this weapon's alternate fire mode, and if you time this move just right, you can even deflect discs away from their owners, leaving them defenseless for a short period of time.
The other two weapons in each of these four weapon classes are actually just upgraded versions of their originals. Jet will be able to upgrade his weapons by collecting energy--the coin of the realm--and transferring that energy into his offensive subroutine pool. Subroutines are basically modifiers that will enhance Jet's characteristics throughout the game, and they're broken up into four classes: offensive, defensive, procedural, and utility. With enough offensive subroutines, Jet can upgrade each of his four weapons two times apiece, for a total of 12 unique weapons. The disc, for example, can be upgraded into a fragmenting weapon. Likewise, the standard rod can be changed into a railgun of sorts, while the mesh can become a powerful guided missile. Defensive subroutines, on the other hand, will give Jet an armor bonus with each successive upgrade, while procedural subroutines usually act as healing items by disinfecting computer viruses, for example. Utility subroutines can be used to silence Jet's movement.
In addition to all of this, Monolith is also planning to add a somewhat unique multiplayer component to Tron 2.0. The game will likely eschew the standard deathmatch and capture-the-flag modes that you can typically find in most first-person shooters in favor of a Rocket Arena-style mode that will pit only two players against each other, while an audience waits its turn. Monolith says that this would be a logical addition to Tron 2.0, since it would fit the gladiator-like setting found during the movie's disc sequence. Additionally, the player spectators would be able to roam around the arena while the two combatants are battling it out, for a somewhat believable experience--or at least one that's more believable than being stuck in the typical spectator mode. Interestingly enough, despite Tron 2.0's wide selection of single-player weapons, only the disc will be available in multiplayer, since it would be nearly impossible to properly balance 12 completely different weapons for one-on-one competition. Besides, suggest the Monolith designers, the disc is as iconic to the Tron universe as the light saber is to Star Wars. We see their point.
Tron 2.0 has been in the alpha stages of development for a little over a month now, and it's currently on schedule for release in the spring of 2003. The game will ship with world tools that will allow budding and experienced mod makers to create their own levels, weapons, and total conversions. We'll have more on this promising and unique first-person shooter in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, be sure to download our new movies of Tron 2.0--this one has to be seen in action to be appreciated.