Tron 2.0 was originally released on the PC last year, where it served as a sequel of sorts to the sci-fi film from 1982. What distinguished the game most was its highly stylized look. Much like the film, everything in it was bathed in a characteristic colored glow. As the game has transitioned to the Xbox platform, the developer has seen fit to add a number of new multiplayer modes to it. But underneath its flashy exterior, Tron 2.0: Killer App is still a fairly bland shooter whose few memorable moments are overshadowed by unimaginative level design and far too many load screens.
The game takes place 20 years after the events of the film. You assume the role of Jet Bradley, who is working at the same company as his father Alan. The elder Bradley, voiced by original Tron star Bruce Boxleitner, mysteriously disappears at the outset of the story, so his advanced artificial intelligence, ma3a (pronounced "muh-three-uh" and voiced by Cindy Morgan, another Tron alum), digitizes Jet into the company mainframe to both investigate what happened to Alan and combat a viral corruption in the system that's been unleashed by a rival corporation called fCon. Along the way, you'll meet a number of other characters who'll help you out, including a female program voiced by actress and model Rebecca Romijn. The voice acting is good, as you'd expect from professional actors, and it helps convey the game's interesting story.
Upon entering the computer, you find yourself in a strange new world where programs can look like humans but can speak in computer terms and in distorted, digitized monotones. The environments are boxy, and they are all bathed in the glow of various primary colors. It all looks pretty good and is faithful to the film and to the societal sentiment toward high technology in the 1980s. Despite this, you'll still find all the standard aspects of first-person shooters here. Your weapons are called primitives, treasure chests are called archive bins, keys are called permission sets, and humans are referred to in godlike terms as "users." You'll quickly discover that the company mainframe's own defense programs, called ICPs, deem you the cause of the viral corruption, so you'll have to battle and evade them...in addition to fCon's menacing "z-lots" and data wraiths.
Like just about all Monolith-designed shooters, Tron 2.0 Killer App includes a number of role-playing elements. As you complete missions, you'll earn upgrade tokens called "build points," which are used to level you up. You'll transition from Jet 1.0.0 to Jet 2.0.0, and so on. With each additional level you can choose to increase stats, such as your health, energy, and weapon efficiency. You'll also encounter power-ups called subroutines. One example is "fuzzy signature," which reduces the amount of noise you make, thus allowing you to sneak up on enemies for stealth kills. Each subroutine offers a specific bonus, but you're only allowed to equip a few of these at a time. This is limited by the amount of space you have in your system memory. As you level up, you'll gain more system memory slots, and you can also reduce the size of each subroutine (in addition to increasing its power) by running it through robots called optimization wares, which you'll find scattered throughout the game's levels.
You'll also encounter a number of levels that include light cycle combat. Basically, light cycle combat is similar to playing a multiplayer game of Snake. You move about a gridlike arena at 90 degree angles while leaving a trail behind you. The object of the game is to use the arena walls and your trail to corner the other light cycle riders into crashing. Power-ups, such as turbo boosts and shield breakers, are scattered around each arena. The light cycle combat is fun for a while, but much like multiplayer Snake, it gets old quickly. Fortunately, the bulk of the campaign isn't focused on this aspect of the Tron universe.
The manner in which the designer has translated the basics of first-person shooters into the computerized world of Tron is admirable, because it helps immerse you into the world and makes it easier to empathize with Jet and the strange world in which he has found himself. Unfortunately, the game's many levels are broken up into far too many bite-sized sections. It's difficult to maintain cohesion with Tron 2.0's atmosphere and story when the action is constantly getting broken up by load screens. The game is also greatly weakened by the presence of so many jumping puzzles and bottomless pits. For every time you are rewarded with a memorable gameplay sequence, you end up grating your teeth five or six times after falling off a high platform to your death.
Tron 2.0: Killer App includes several different multiplayer modes that are playable for up to 16 players via Xbox Live or system link. It's possible for four players to jump onto Xbox Live from a single Xbox. The different game modes include standard deathmatch and team deathmatch (called "derez" and "team derez") and light cycle combat. There's also a class-based team mode called data capture, which is simply a derivative of capture and hold. Three objective points are scattered about each map, and the first team to control all three wins. The most interesting mode is called override. Override combines light cycle combat with standard first-person shooting. Basically, this means it's possible to dismount from your light cycle while on the grid to attempt to shoot at the other light cycle riders. The team version of override adds in objective points that can be captured, and these appear courtesy of the data capture mode.
While it's nice to have so many options for playing Tron 2.0: Killer App online, it doesn't really lend itself to a solid multiplayer experience. When you're on foot, you move about in a slow and lumbering fashion, making it difficult to dodge and weave attacks. The wide-open design of most of the game's 10 maps doesn't help matters much either, because there isn't much cover to hide behind. The game's weapons are given exotic names, such as "suffusion" and "LOL," but they're really just fancy names for the same guns you use in any first-person shooter, like shotguns, sniper rifles, and assault rifles. The only difference is that in Tron 2.0: Killer App, the weapons just don't feel as precise or satisfying to use as the guns in most other first-person shooters.
Tron 2.0 was only a barely-above-average game when it was released on the PC last year. Fourteen months later on the Xbox, it really doesn't fare any better, especially in light of the number of excellent first-person shooters that have been released in that time. Tron 2.0: Killer App's campaign, which is pretty much the same as it was on the PC, still suffers from the same issues. There are too many load screens, too many annoying jumping platforms, and not enough memorable gameplay sequences to make up for it. The new multiplayer modes are a nice addition on paper, but they aren't all that fun to play, and there's hardly anyone online to play against anyway. If you're a big fan of the Tron universe, then Tron 2.0 might be worth picking up. However, if you're just looking for a first-person shooter for your Xbox, then there are much better options available.