Disney Interactive Studios
From: Disney Interactive Studios
For: PlayStation 3
Genre: Action, Adventure, Movie, Tie-in
ESRB Rating: Teen (13+)
First and foremost, Tron: Evolution for PlayStation3 is one humongous hunk of fan-service if there ever was one. It's got your cyberpunk setting all gloomy but aglow with oversized circuitry, your plasma-spitting tanks, your improbably low-slung motorbikes manifesting walls of light in their wake, a bunch of people running around in their best black neoprene with trippy neon pin-striping accessorized with matching Frisbees. What more do you want?
Bridging the considerable gap between the groundbreaking 1982 Tron movie and its long anticipated sequel, Tron: Legacy, in theaters this month, Tron: Evolution is not a movie-based game per se, but rather a tale told (and played) between the two.
It's nothing if not authentic, thanks in part to many key players from the films lending their likeness and voices to the game, including old school Bruce Boxleitner (as the title character, albeit relegated to a supporting role here) and the freshly coded Olivia Wilde with her appropriately mesmerizing eyes. And while the mighty Jeff Bridges is not in the game, you wouldn't know it as his vocal double, Fred Tatasciore, is a dead ringer for El Duderino, tying it all together like a Grid-wide area rug.
Be that as it may, Tron Evolution does such a good job at pleasing fans that it somewhat neglects regular gamers. That is to say, if you've no penchant for somber tones highlighted by streaks of electric blue and the odd shock of orange, then Tron: Evolution comes off as a little stark. Nay, boring. Sickly green at one point...
.. which is precisely the point, of course. It's an homage to the clean cold efficiency of the computers seen from the inside - infected by viruses, in this case. Still, play it for a few hours and you start to feel trapped in an Etch-a-Sketch doodle.
And while the 3rd-person action plays much like a Price of Persia-type wall-scrabbling, ledge-leaping, chasm-hopping romp - very good stuff all said and done - you can't help but feel you're playing a knock-off of Spider-Man or Uncharted, albeit one of vintage stylishness. Still, it's Batman with an electro-magnetic grapple gun, a glow-in-the-dark Tomb Raider by any other name.
Tron: Evolution's take on combat is similarly routine in its Spider-Man-ish-ness, but it's conducive to the capacious surrealism of fighting computer avatars with a Frisbee. The style is Capoeira, the Brazilian martial art disguised as dance. It lends itself well to the exploration portions of the game that rely on freerunning or Parkour acrobatics to get from place to place, making super-human leaps and gravity-defying hurdles, charging up energy or acquiring electric baubles along the way. That you can jump right in to beat-'em-ups and disc-tossing combat without breaking stride is pretty cool - and entirely by design, of course.
You also have the ability to upgrade or swap out your skill set and weapons load-out as you move through the levels, gathering spendable experience points (XP) along the way and giving you reason to forge ahead despite the looming sense of tedium.
Tron: Evolution also steers shy of monotony with that mainstay of Game Grid lore, Lightcycles. While understated and limited to escape sequence usage for the most part, Lightcycle riding is all that you'd expect: the thrilling sense of speed, the patent distain for the coefficient of friction, that wicked plume of electrified translucence spewing out the tailpipe. All good.
There are also a few segments with tanks, which strike a nice balance between utterly awesome and totally pointless, net gain zero, but another nice break in the "Leaping Neon Frisbee Man" motif nonetheless.
Surprisingly, Evolution's most enduring charm is found in its online multiplayer battles. Up to 10 people can have at it in a variety of skirmishes that incorporate Lightcycles, tanks and discs, often all at the same time. It can be downright frenetic, but it's pure Tron mayhem that's been trapped in our collective imagination since 1982, hinted at in several low-powered arcade games that followed, but now fully realized here in glossly high def. That you can jump into a multiplayer game directly from the single player campaign and continue to earn rank and XP is both novel and wholly welcome.
With new multiplayer content already available for download plus more promised, you can consider the single player game of Tron to be merely a training exercise; Evolution's longevity is in the multiplayer, and that alone is a good enough reason for most fans to pick it up. Non-fans, too, if they can bear the learning curve and neon austerity of it all.