Tron: Evolution

If you haven’t seen _Tron: Legacy_ yet, you need to go see it, preferably at an IMAX. While the dialogue, plot and acting are all relatively poor, it’s one hell of a visual and aural experience. Disney went crazy promoting it, starting up advertising about a year before its theatrical release; it paid off, I got seriously excited about the whole thing and ended up travelling 40 miles to get to my nearest IMAX over the Christmas holidays. But God it was worth it. After blowing my mind, I started to look for anything else that might continue my love affair with Jeff Bridges and blue neon lighting; first port of call, _Tron: Evolution_.

In many ways, _Evolution_ is the perfect companion to _Legacy_; it’s got a host of problems and questionable design decisions, but it still has the ability to captivate the player through its visual style and integration with the _Tron_ universe. Set before the events of _Legacy_, _Evolution_ bridges the gap between the original _Tron_ and the new incarnation, with the majority of the franchise’s characters making appearances (although not all with original voice talent). The narrative, while not fantastic, does offer enough for fans of the _Tron_ fiction to enjoy, a load of “Oh, so that’s why…” moments, and is definitely worth looking into if you enjoyed the film.

Unfortunately, it’s the gameplay that lets it down. Although there are a host of different mechanics thrown into the mix, ranging from _Prince of Persia_ style platforming to light cycle races, each has one thing that makes playing through the game nearly unbearable. The platforming can be extremely annoying because of bad camera angles and an inability to get your character to jump in the correct direction, and the light cycle sections just don’t hit the correct balance between speed and handling. The combat, while surprisingly deep and offering a number of different weapons (referred to as discs, such as the Heavy or Bomb), can also be extremely frustrating due to the game’s difficulty; at times _Evolution_ is simply unforgiving. There is a levelling system and some significant RPG components that do make _Evolution_ stand out from the sea of utterly crap movie-cash-in games. For every enemy you kill you gain experience which leads toward levelling up and earning MBs that can be used to purchase character upgrades. These range from increases in health and special attack slots, to attack damage and defence bonuses. You won’t reach the maximum version (i.e. level) while in your first, or possibly second play-through of the story, so _Evolution_ does offer a surprising amount of replayability, as long as you can handle its array of flaws for more than seven-ish hours.

The visuals match the film’s aesthetic perfectly and generally look pretty good, which again is quite surprising for a movie tie-in game. Unfortunately it looks like Disney couldn’t secure the Daft Punk soundtrack for both the film and the game which, although providing an acceptable imitation score throughout, truly detracts from the experience. This is easily solved if you have a choice of consoles, just get the 360 version and custom soundtrack the Daft Punk album over the top of the game; I’m not going to lie, this makes everything at least ten times better.

As with all movie tie in games, _Evolution’s_ major issue is a lack of time. Some fantastic design choices have been made throughout the production of _Evolution_, such as the levelling and combat systems, that simply lack the level of polish to drag the game from a distinctly average experience to one that is truly great. With a little more time, the platforming wouldn’t have been so frustrating, the combat wouldn’t have been so unfairly difficult and the _Tron_ franchise would have finally provided what it’s fundamentally about; a great video game. If you enjoyed either the original film or its sequel, generally love technology and uncontrollably giggle over the idea of spending megabytes to upgrade your character then _Tron: Evolution_ is well worth a rent. If not, stay well clear.


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