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Review

Review: Tron: Evolution

Just Grid your teeth.

Developed by Propaganda Games (remember Turok, anyone?) Tron: Evolution comes in the wake of the cinematic release of Tron: Legacy, one of 2010’s most anticipated blockbusters. Unlike most movie-based titles, Evolution stands as both a sequel and prequel, following up from the events of the Tron: Betrayal comic series whilst remaining several years behind Tron: Legacy.

Players assume the role of Anon, a system monitor programmed by creator of the Tron world, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges). After the suspicious death of their leader, Jalen, tensions begin to rise between the ISOs and Basics, the two inhabitant “races” of The Grid. As a security measure, Flynn tasks Anon to watch over the ceremonial appointment of Radia, the first ISO system administrator, however, the parade is ambushed by an unknown virus calling himself Abraxas. In the chaos, Flynn is unexpectedly cornered by his Grid-world double, Clu, who is hellbent on purging the system of all ISOs. Alongside Quorra, the leading female in Tron: Legacy, it’s up to you to put a stop to Clu’s plan and expose him.

For those who know nothing about Tron fiction, the paragraph above may have made no sense whatsoever. That is exactly how I felt upon playing the opening level. Evolution makes the assumption that its players have a working knowledge of the ‘82 flick as well as the comic books, already creating a harsh barrier to entry. It wasn’t until I actually sat down in the cinema and watched Tron: Legacy that the pieces started to fall into place.

Though the game starts off with a bang, the story is spread too thinly across the middle section, resulting in pointless character appearances, cheesy dialogue and a poor script. Only Tron fans and those who have already seen Legacy will appreciate the narrative, leaving everyone else to scratch their heads.

The single-player campaign is composed of seven lengthy, linear stages, guiding Anon and Quorra from Tron City to Ajira, the Outlands and several other vistas in The Grid. Evolution is played mostly from a third person perspective, though when in combat, it will lock into an almost birds-eye view. Anon mostly makes use of his parkour skills to get from A to B, being able to run along walls, grab onto ledges and leap over gaps (think Prince of Persia.) Though fun at times, it’s not entirely fluid and the small gallery of perilous obstacles – such as beams of energy – fail to impress, having not been integrated into the game particularly well.

There are also a handful of instances allowing players to ride Tron’s iconic Lightcycle, essentially a sci-fi motorbike which spews a ribbon of energy from the exhaust. Unfortunately, these segments of gameplay are utterly underwhelming; there are no Grid Game duels whatsoever, and the Lightcycle handles just as poorly as the Light Tank.

Those expecting full Move support for the PS3 version of Tron: Evolution will be even more disappointed. Only accessible during the Lightcycle portions of the game, players can hold the Move controller out in front of them and tilt from side to side to control the vehicle. It’s incredibly sluggish and it feels as if Propaganda shoved it in at the last second just to get more casual appeal from the PlayStation Move box label.

Though slightly better, the combat is still riddled with flaws. Anon’s ID disc is his only weapon throughout the entire game, though it has four different modules, each one assigned to a button on the D-Pad. The Heavy Disc is the first available and also the most effective, simply allowing for stronger throws. The Stasis Disc can slow enemies down, leaving them open to a barrage of attacks. The Bomb Disc is capable of hitting multiple opponents, with the Corruption Disc causing damage over time upon impact. Using any special attacks associated with each module will use up a bar of energy which, along with the health bar, needs to be closely monitored. Instead of health and energy drops, players will be forced to run or vault over energised objects, which will replenish the stat bars.

One of the game’s few triumphs is the way it handles movement when in combat. Apart from being able to perform basic functions such as blocking and parrying enemy attacks, you can also recall your free-running skills in order to outsmart your opponents. The gameplay may prove frustrating at times, though it’s still functional and even fun in some instances.

Online Multiplayer is also present in Tron: Evolution, though it too suffers from the flaws of the single-player experience. Combat and navigation are handled exactly the same, though energy supplies are more limited to balance out the playing field. It can get incredibly repetitive and even messy at times, especially when you get players spamming area attacks. Game types include your regular team based objectives such as Team Disintegration and Power Struggle, with a couple of free-for-all variants. It’s a shame Evolution doesn’t include actual Grid Games from the films (basically techno gladiatorial battles.)

Whether you are playing online or in the campaign, you are continually rewarded with experience points for in-game actions which feed into the same gauge. Levelling up will unlock stat bonuses for your character as well as perk-like abilities, both of which grant unfair bonuses to higher levelled players. In one of the first matches I entered there was a level fifty combatant surrounded by under twenties; no matter how many times they attacked, his health bar always remained intact and when he finally decided to fight back, he could easily dispatch the entire crowd in a single blow.

With its cinematic counterpart being described as the 3D event of the year, it’s unfortunate that Tron: Evolution draws short in the visual department. Surfaces lack the sterile sheen showcased in Tron: Legacy, with the character animation being the only highlight and cut-scenes are also fairly bland, with the film cast’s voice acting being their only saving grace. With that said, the soundtrack is solid and delivers where it needs to, one of the tracks being Daft Punk’s recent hit “Derezzed.”

Pros:

  • Plenty of replay value in the form of online play and collectables
  • A fan service for Tron enthusiasts
  • Jeff Bridges and Olivia Wilde, accompanied by Daft Punk

Cons:

  • Despite some unique mechanics, the gameplay is inconsistent and cumbersome at times
  • Unbalanced online play
  • Players need prior knowledge of Tron to even understand what’s going on
  • Underwhelming graphics
  • Sluggish, almost non-existent, Move support

If you have seen and enjoyed Tron: Legacy, then it may be worth picking up Evolution to explore the universe a little further. However, if you happen to be a gamer with no connections to the series, it’s difficult to recommend. Despite the various flaws in both its gameplay and presentation there is still plenty of fun to be had. Tron: Evolution isn’t a bad game, it’s just underwhelming. What hurts more is that Tron: Evolution was prioritised over Propaganda’s other title in development, Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned, a promising action RPG which debuted at E3 to high praise but was cancelled in October.

Score: 6/10

This review is based on the PS3 version.

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18 Comments
  1. R4U Eldave0
    andUandU
    Since: Aug 2008

    A movie tie-in game gets a cruddy score, who’d have thought ;)

    Comment posted on 23/12/2010 at 13:04.
    • philbert8
      The Frankie Boyle Of TSA
      Since: Sep 2010

      If only OCEAN were still around it would of been theirs.

      Comment posted on 23/12/2010 at 14:01.
  2. BIGAL-1992
    Member
    Since: Jan 2009

    A Shame. I was actually keeping an eye on this. A missed opportunity.

    Comment posted on 23/12/2010 at 13:04.
  3. Dan Lee
    Common like the rest of us.
    Since: Jun 2010

    Nice review – it’s selling for under £20 now, would you pick it up at that price?

    Comment posted on 23/12/2010 at 13:06.
    • Jim H [Teabags]
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      Twenty quid ain’t a bad price. If you looking to get into Tron and if you don’t mind the rough edges, go for it.

      Comment posted on 23/12/2010 at 13:29.
  4. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    And yet another film-fuelled game removes the skin from its elbows and chin as it crashes unceremoniously to the floor. No surprise, let’s be fair. Still, Jim, I’m very impressed it scored a 6 out of 10. Festive generosity or too long spent looking at Olivia Wilde. ;-)

    TSA used to have markers/indicators to denote what platform an article or review was about. No mention of it in the review but is Tron just PS3?

    Comment posted on 23/12/2010 at 13:17.
    • 3shirts
      Member
      Since: Aug 2008

      It’s tagged in ‘Playstation’ and ‘Microsoft’ so I assume that means both

      Comment posted on 23/12/2010 at 13:23.
    • Juelz345
      Member
      Since: Oct 2008

      Nah it’s on everything, even iphone.

      The note at the bottom says it’s based on the PS3 version, plus the mention of Move.

      Comment posted on 23/12/2010 at 14:06.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      Hadn’t noticed the tags (nofi likes to shift things around a smidge, from time-to-time and I catch myself ignoring the header info). Thanks, guys.

      Comment posted on 23/12/2010 at 14:56.
  5. colmshan1990
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    It’s on the PSN Store as PSP as well, so I reckon it’s on everything…

    Comment posted on 23/12/2010 at 13:54.
  6. aerobes
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    Got this and played through.
    I’d say your review is spot-on really, I thoroughly enjoyed it for what it is and went in with low expectations too which is key in my opinion.

    Comment posted on 23/12/2010 at 14:46.
  7. Seventy2
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    I got about half way through and the wall-running/instant-death repetition just turned me off completely.

    I was 10 years old in 1982 when Tron came out at the Cinema and I’ve been a fan of both film and subsequent games. In fact it was Tron that turned me on to the idea of computers and lead me to demand my first ZX Spectrum!

    Tron: Evolution is just a mess of a release, and even the fabled Lightcycles are so sluggish that they become a bore.

    This was a really shame, but I have to agree with aerobes, I went in with low expectations and they were met sadly.

    Comment posted on 23/12/2010 at 15:17.
  8. shields_t
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    Can’t say I didn’t see this coming. Thankfully I bought the soundtrack so I have no need for this turd.

    Comment posted on 23/12/2010 at 16:31.
  9. Guyers94
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    I had absolutely no idea that PotC: Armada of the Damned got cancelled :(

    That was looking really interesting and I have no interest at all in Tron, it’s a real shame.

    Comment posted on 24/12/2010 at 11:12.
  10. Jezzamuppet
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    Got to say this looks quite a disappointment, having the grid game duels and light cycle sections seems like such a no-brainer!

    That said, just download the soundtrack and stick it on in the background while you’re playing any other game to get better value and enjoy yourself more!

    Comment posted on 24/12/2010 at 13:07.

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