In 1982, I saw one of the greatest films in my young life, TRON. Now, notice I didn't say that it was 'the' greatest because in all honesty it was a poorly made film in terms of story and character development. What made it great was the action in the film, the chance to see a frisbiee deathmatch and cool glowing costumes. Plus, this was the first film to actually use computer generated graphics, which makes it special for a lot of folks out there.
Anyway, the arcade games by the same name (TRON and Disc of TRON) also emerged on the scene and they brought some pretty solid gameplay for that time period. They kept the theme of the movie and actually lasted longer in the entertainment category than the movie did in the theaters. So, to say the video game side of things for TRON were successful would be a mild understatement. Nearly twenty years later new online games of the famous light cycles from the game began cropping up online. Soon after there was a release of TRON 2.0 on the PC, which meant that people were still thinking about it. Finally, Walt Disney Studios introduces TRON footage a couple of years ago at Comic-Con and we're back where we began in 1980 with another TRON movie and, more importantly, another TRON game.
The question is, "Can the new game be just as entertaining as the old?"
Let's find out...
TRON: Evolution is the title for the new release from Disney Interactive Studios. DIS has attempted to take all the cool elements of the film releasing on Friday and put them into this new game. This includes driving a tank, getting your lightcycle mojo on and, not to be forgotten, plenty of disc wars.
The game sits story-wise somewhere between the first movie and second. It's like Star Wars: Clone Wars if you need a comparison. Your character, who is virtually unnamed, witnesses the death of TRON (hero from the first film) by the hands of CLU (bad guy in the most recent film). You're also up against a non-stop virus that is infecting your system/home and you must stop that. In other words, there's a lot of sh*t going on in the story. The first part of the game has you escaping from CLU's men and trying to meet up with Olivia Wilde's voiced over character, Quorra. There are various other things going on, but that's the beginning of the story.
MCP might be messing around a bit here...
The gameplay in TRON: Evolution is simple, yet sloppy at times. If you're a fan or fascinated soon-to-be fan of the films you'll be happy to know you can jump around and throw discs stylishly and achieve button mashing at its highest form. The game does a great job of gorgeously setting up the world of TRON perfectly for you. Seeing a disc match, and being able to participate in one, is pretty darn exciting. Having the ability to scale a wall, jump off of it and land a hit using your identity disc is amazing when you can pull it off. That's the catch, though. The main words there were 'pull it off'. What the game gives up in exchange for 'style' is tight controls.
I found this game to be terribly loose when it came to controlling how I was fighting, where I was jumping and getting timing down on jumps. For example, there was a part at the beginning of the game where you were asked to jump on two small platforms, scale a wall and jump backwards from that wall onto a narrow bridge. I've played Mirror's Edge before, so the concept of doing such a maneuver wasn't too insane. The controls seemed to be hurt by a very manual camera. Getting a good angle on the jumping spot was incredibly difficult and hitting the buttons at the right time left no margin for error. You would think that if you could make it to the bridge that your character would grab on (which he did) and then pull up to climb onto the platform. What happens is that your character jumps the two tiny platforms, briefly scales a wall, jumps from the wall onto the edge of the bridge and then proceeds to launch backwards into oblivion. If you don't get it right on the spot from the wall then you've got no chance of making the bridge. This is just one of many examples of my frustration with the controls and hitting the right spots at the right times. To Propaganda Games' credit they did try to alleviate the issue by including a 'bit' helper to give you some clue on where to jump and what not. If you hit the 'back' button on the controller the 'bit' will show you the path you should take. It's a band-aid, not a firm solution to the issue, though.
Another issue with TRON: Evolution is the fact that the game was unforgiving when you failed at jumping off the same wall. If you fell off the wall or you missed the narrow bridge you would be instantly derezzed (killed). There would be no second chance or falling down to a smaller platform to climb back up and try again. You would instantly die. Now, to compound this frustration (and this issue that took me 20 minutes to accomplish) the game would reset back at the checkpoint every time. Big deal, right? Wrong, it is a big deal. From this checkpoint the game feels the need to give you some instruction on how to jump correctly, which is fine. The problem here is that every time you would restart at the checkpoint it would give you that same instruction over and over and over and over and over and over again (and you couldn't skip it -- it would take up a good five seconds of your life each time).
Now, with all this said, there are some positives to the game.
The A.I. in TRON: Evolution is solid. It's not overly well done, but there are enough brains in the bots that you'll get good fights out of them. There are times where you'll go up against four of CLU's guys at the same time. They will literally strategize the best ways to take you down. If you're hurting one enough he'll run and the others will turn on you. It's incredibly challenging and worth your time. I was really impressed by the A.I., as you can clearly see that Propaganda Games put some good time into creating the enemies in the game.
Another element that is positive is the upgrades you have in the game. As you take out enemies and achieve levels you will be rewarded with RAM. Each RAM is of monetary value and can be used to upgrade your discs and unlock new things. For example, you can upgrade your identity disc to give it different attack abilities or to make it stronger during battles. More damage in an attack is always better for gaining more points and thus the player feels motivated to get more done. It's a great way to motivate players to keep playing and, more importantly, to keep doing better. It offers some replay value to the game and it's incredibly easy to understand. Sometimes games over complicate the 'store' part of games, but TRON: Evolution seems to be right on the mark with this one.
The story in the game is solid and the direction that DIS and Propaganda has set up for you is solid. You will connect with this story and you'll enjoy it. You'll also get the ability to drive one of the tanks around and blow up stuff. You'll have plenty of good moments where it's you against an ungodly amount of enemies. You'll also get to play around with lightcycles, which is very exciting for any fans of the films.
The biggest plus in the game is how positively gorgeous the game looks. Like I briefly mentioned earlier, Propaganda and DIS have captured the world of TRON perfectly. You get the same wonderful lights, the stylish clean world that TRON offers and all the fancy blurring to make the experience even more badass. What I found particularly fascinating is that the worlds in TRON: Evolution are huge. You get a lot of depth, though the single-player is a bit linear and constraining with paths, and a lot of action going on. Clearly the developers wanted to put you in the same world you're going to see this weekend and they achieved it really quite splendidly.
Also, as I mentioned before, you get some voice overs from people like Olivia Wilde. Having actors come in and actually perform for the game always adds a bit more value to the presentation of the game. In addition to this, you also get some pretty solid character models that reflect the actual people in the film. Going back to Wilde, her character was nearly spot on her film character, which is always a good thing when you're wanting gamers to connect with the associated film. There's nothing quite like a good bridge.
What about the online mode? The online mode is a work in progress from my view. You get the same loose controls like you do in the single-player mode, but you're working on a non-linear path. The areas are generally huge for the online play, which is a good and bad thing. It's good because when you have a lot of people playing the gameplay can get exciting. It's bad though when it's a one-on-one situation and you have to go 'find' that person. It takes forever some days, though there is a small indicator showing play position and what not.
In the online mode you get several different types of games. They are as follows:
- Team Disintegration - Essentially just a team deathmatch with discs.
- Disintegration - This is just plainly a deathmatch free-for-all. What I found interesting here is that most people who play this literally will just sit in a huge group with their competitors and knock the sh*t out of each other. I wish the game led the player to more strategy.
- Power Monger - This is a little like capture the flag. You capture power nodes and link energy lines. The team with the most energy points wins the match. It's violent, quick and competitive.
- Bit Runner - Somehow this reminds me of the snitch chase in Harry Potter films. A little more violent.
There's variety here, but much like single-player gameplay the controls are sloppy and a little bit frustrating, which takes out some of the enjoyment.
So is this game worth your time and money? I think you should definitely rent it before you make a decision. For me, I felt a little disappointed, especially having talked to the developers and seen it at E3. The controls are the 'only' thing that held this game back from being good. If there was a patch to tighten those up I would be grateful. The camera would also have to be tightened up a bit to make it more fun. The game does have some replay value to it, especially on the online side of things, but again this needs a patch to make it an even better experience.