Taking place following the events of the Tron: Betrayal graphic novel and before those of the newly released Tron: Legacy, Tron: Evolution adds another chapter to the Tron saga. Tron: Evolution does so by taking elements from other well established franchises and puts them together in a package that while not completely enthralling to play through looks and sounds amazing and gives fans of the Tron franchise added life to some of their favorite characters.
The core gameplay of Tron: Evolution consists of four basic parts. Platforming, hand to hand combat, light cycles and light tanks. The game actually goes out of its way to keep all four parts separated from each other in single player mode. The platforming is heavily parkour style roaming throughout the city. This includes lots of wall running and launching players over chasms similar to that of the 2008 Prince of Persia. Unlike Prince of Persia, the controls are just loose enough that often the Monitor doesn’t make the jump exactly the right way which leads to repeated deaths overcoming the same simple obstacle. This leads to what should be simple sections to become frustrating.
Combat is a beast all of its own. While there is occassionally a section of platforming where one opponent appears, they are easily dispatched. Most combat takes place in closed off arenas where the Monitor must take on a few waves of enemies, attempting to derezz them using his light disc or capoeira inspired hand to hand combat. For the most part, hand to hand combat doesn’t come in to play as players spend much of their time deflecting their opponents’ light discs from all angles or avoiding unblockable attacks.
Players are granted a series of differently powered discs as they upgrade (level up) which can be used to exploit various weaknesses of different opponents. This comes to be one of the biggest weaknesses of Tron: Evolution as the art style, while beautiful, doesn’t aid in telling apart different opponents. Most look identical and as a result, in the heat of battle, it is nearly impossible to tell them apart and plan an strategy to exploit their very specific weaknesses other than repeated deaths of trial and error.
The Light Cycles and Light Tank sections of single player feel more like added fan service than an integral part of the game. The Tank sections are slow moving and lack excitement or opponent AI. The Light Cycle sections feel like mini obstacle races with little to offer in terms of defining moments for the gameplay.
Online is one of the more fun features of the game as it brings together the combat and Light Cycle portions of the single player campaign. In large arenas, up to ten players compete in deathmatch and team deathmatch style combat or capture the flag variants. Players are able to recreate the classic Tron moment of racing side by side on a Light Cycle, cutting off their opponent and watching them fry as they slam into the electric trail left behind the player’s cycle.
No matter how many times this happens, it doesn’t get old. The only major weakness to the Tron: Evolution multiplayer comes from the lack of a large playerbase. This can make it hard at times for players to get good groups to play with but will hopefully be helped out by more gamers receiving Tron: Evolution over the holiday.
Tron: Evolution offers a near cinematic feel to its storytelling as it helps continually to emerge players in the Grid and help show the changes that have happened since the events of the original motion picture. The cut scenes help lay out a conspiracy that the player as the Monitor Anon (short for anonymous) must uncover. Tron: Evolution helps explain the imprisonment of Kevin Flynn into the Grid through a murder mystery as Clu takes a war to the ISOs. Sounds like a bunch of gibberish to a non-Tron fan right?
Well the story of Tron: Evolution is told in a way that players who are not familiar with the Tron world can still understand it and enjoy it. While they may not be able to grasp at all the little nods to the original film, there aren’t any times where a player is left wondering what happened or questioning why events are playing out the way they do. The story does a good job of reeling the player in even in spite of the lackluster gameplay.
Unfortunately, players will only be reeled in just so much as there is a complete lack of character in the game’s protagonist. The Monitor is completely faceless, indistinguishable and emotionless. Now while it could be argued that players are meant to project their own personality into these generic protagonists, it does not happen in Tron: Evolution. There is no human component to connect to which leaves nothing for players to grasp on to in order to relate to the character they are controlling.
Tron: Evolution is a beautiful game. It is a game made for the HD world and the art style would do wonders if applied to a remake of the original film as it has in Tron: Legacy. The stark contrast of the black walls and characters highlighted in neon blues, oranges and yellows leaves a game that is incredibly visually impressive. Even more interesting is the look of the ISOs which come across as nearly angelic in their all white and non-technologically inspired attire as compared to the other denizens of the grid.
The only fault of the visuals comes through in some of the enemy design, as mentioned earlier. With a lack of drastically defining features and colors between different enemy types, it makes the gameplay unnecessarily difficult for a player. Even on a large screen HD display, the differences between characters is so minimal that it can barely be interpreted in the heat of combat. Instead of making a player come up with coordinated strategies to advance through the game, players instead are forced to play unfair guessing games to determine the enemy they are facing.
The soundtrack is also fantastic as it knows just the right spot to amp up and when to cool down. Composed by Cris Velasco (God of War), Sascha Dikiciyan (Prototype) and Kevin Manthei (Ultimate Spider-Man), the game music fits the world of Tron to a T, especially when accompanied by the two Daft Punk songs from Tron: Legacy, “Derezzed” and “The Grid.” The sound effects also do a fantastic job of capturing the computerized feel of the Grid without ever feeling too over the top or hokey.
Tron: Evolution is a valiant attempt at creating a licensed title that seeks to add to the mythos of an established franchise without simply making itself a “movie tie-in” game. The story is enough to bring fans of the original or newly released Tron films in but the gameplay does become frustrating at times. The complete separation of combat and platforming also feels somewhat disappointing as the two could have been more creatively tied into each other.
Visually, Tron: Evolution is a spectacle, just like the film and can be enhanced with the PlayStation 3’s 3D technology (pending the player also has a television capable of 3D as well). But, when all is said and done, Tron: Evolution looks to be a niche title for fans of the Tron series more than anything else. The risks taken in gameplay do not pay off strong enough to warrant many non-fans to brave the world of the Grid in this already overloaded holiday season.
Developer: Propaganda Games
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios