December 06, 2010
Making a Tron game must be a tall order considering that you're really only confined to the virtual realm of Kevin Flynn's Grid, where neon lines and cool blue hues are pretty much the only colours available in a level designer's palette. Tron: Evolution takes you to different parts of The Grid however, scratching beneath the pristine surface to rough hewn craggy cliff faces, rainy precipices and more, but it's all still a bit samey. So, has developer Propaganda Games counteracted the inherent repetitious nature of the scenery with some killer gameplay? Well...
Things start off fairly promising in the grand scheme of things for Tron: Evolution. The controls are tight for the most part, the combat is quite solid and varied, and the story is absorbing to a degree, even for a complete Tron noob like myself, who really should have seen the original Tron, but for some reason I haven't. Nonetheless, Tron: Evo's blend of fluid movement and intuitive fighting makes for some surprisingly enjoyable gameplay, and for a time, we thought that Tron: Evolution could be that rarest of things: a decent movie tie-in.
As a prequel to the forthcoming movie, Tron: Legacy, the video game does a good job in setting up the film, although not a whole lot happens during the game's running time of roughly 8-10 hours or so. You're Anon, an anonymous user as the name suggests and it's up to you to prevent the evil, hooded antagonist, Abraxas from spreading his corrupting virus throughout The Grid. Along the way, you also have the countless minions of Clu to deal with and it quickly dawns on you that there's not a whole lot to Tron: Evolution’s plot.
While the combat is fun, it's only really fun in small doses and Evolution insists on forcing you into arenas where you're bombarded by multiple waves of enemies, which grows tiresome after what feels like the 10 millionth encounter. Upgrades to your light disc and abilities come far too slowly, and you're never entirely sure how exactly you earn the game's MB currency used to persistently upgrade your character in both single and multiplayer – you just seem to intermittently gain 2MB here and 4MB there without even realising. You'll be playing the game forever if you plan to max out your character too, although few will have the time and patience to even bother.
Evolution’s single-player largely consists of sections where you're either engaging in Prince of Persia-style platforming, wall-running and vaulting all over the place or fighting off ludicrous numbers of foes. Both aspects get old fast, and despite the game's somewhat dull environments are symptomatic of Tron's premise and setting, there's no excuse for the infuriating and repetitious nature of the action. Attempts to break up the action with light tank and light cycle sections help to an extent, but even these brief moments of respite from platform jumping and disc throwing descend into tedious trial and error sequences, where you're crashing and restarting constantly while resisting the urge to bounce your head repeatedly off the nearest brick wall.
Thankfully, the checkpoints are always fair, so after virtually every small section, you can walk away from the game and come back later, which is probably a good idea as Tron: Evo doesn't really lend itself well to extended play sessions. And when later parts of the game throw stupid Black Guard sub-bosses at you with health bars that require heroic levels of patience to chip away at, you'll be reduced to tears of frustration after several drawn out battles of attrition. Sadly, it's a game breaker.
So, the single-player starts out well and rapidly becomes a dull grind, tasking you with repeating the same old stuff over and over. Does the multiplayer fare any better? Well, that depends entirely upon whether you're willing to put up with the same kind of repetition as the main game. Disintegration and Team Disintegration are enjoyable for the first few matches, but after brawling and light cycling around for hours on end, the cracks start to show in the combat system, as it becomes a contest to see who can bash buttons quickest. Power Monger is a bit more fun as you're given the objective of capturing nodes against an opposing team, so Evolution’s multiplayer is essentially hit and miss. It won't really threaten to impinge upon your time with your current favourite games to play online, that's for sure.
You'll have to sink ages into both single-player and multiplayer to grab all of the achievements though, with a minimum of two playthroughs of the story required and an interminable amount of time grinding away in multiplayer. There's the obligatory collectibles to find and reams of enhancements to buy in order to garner all 1000 Gamerscore, so only the truly dedicated will persevere in reaching 100%. Most of the cheevos are pretty straightforward though and will just pop naturally during your first playthrough. An easy list to complete if you can be bothered to put in the hours.
We actually thought for one tantalising moment that Tron: Evolution might be a good movie-related game. It certainly looks the part, the soundtrack is suitably synth-tastic and it plays perfectly fine, which is why it's a real disappointment that there's little invention in the level design, the set-pieces, the combat and platforming. Things become too repetitive, far too quickly and after the first few hours, you'll be screaming out for something interesting or different to happen to break up the monotony. That moment never comes of course, making Tron: Evolution another dull and instantly forgettable entry in the notorious annals of movie game infamy. A real missed opportunity if ever there was one.
The synth score is perfectly fine and the soundtrack in general is solid, as is the voice-acting. There's a fine Jeff Bridges impersonation in here and Olivia Wilde does a good job as Quorra, but there's little else of note.
Samey vistas are a given since The Grid is a big blue neon landscape, but Propaganda has tried to mix things up with some treacherous parts of The Grid drenched in rainfall as storms rage. Character models look as they should and everything is lovely and shiny, just like in the movie. Ultimately, the graphics do the job and that's about it.
Fundamentally, there's nothing wrong with how the game plays. The movement is adequate and the combat is varied with special light disc abilities spicing things up, but when you're consistently doing the same things repeatedly with little variation, it gets very tiresome all too fast.
There's seven long chapters to endure in single-player and plenty of life in multiplayer if you can be arsed to get into it. And you'll also waste hours of your life acquiring every character enhancement. There's no faulting the game's presentation though.
Again, fulfilling the requirements for 100% will depend entirely upon how willing you are to sink the time into multiplayer and gaining every upgrade. The majority of the game's achievements are easy, but the collecting and second playthrough on 'insane difficulty' are only for the truly dedicated.
Lulled into thinking Tron: Evolution might actually be half-decent on first impressions, we feel a genuine sense of disappointment that it gradually turns out to be yet another poor movie tie-in that's fairly unmemorable, repetitive and a bit dull overall. Here's hoping that the movie is infinitely better than this.