The toughest thing for a game reviewer to do is write a review of a mediocre title. Our job is to entertain as much as inform, and when you get something middle of the road, it's hard to be punchy. The urge is to label a game an overly simplistic "thumbs up" or "thumbs down", because the market is so competitive, and we want readers to spend their purchasing dollars wisely.
But Q4 2010 was pretty weak on big game releases, so there's still some time to kill if you aren't creaming yourself over Call of Duty: Black Ops. Which, okay, those of us in that category are admittedly a minority.
In fairness, there's nothing wrong with Tron: Evolution. There just isn't an Evolution to be found either. Removing the 3D (which most people will not use) and the PlayStation Move compatibility (which you don't get on the Xbox 360 version), you're left with a game that hits some solid line drives but never knocks it out of the park. It's a basic action platformer with repetitive combat and spiffy graphics...that unfortunately don't seem that spiffy after you've seen Jeff Bridges' spectacular digital likeness in Tron: Legacy. And to be brutally honest, the digital Olivia Wilde looks more like Miss Piggy. But her hair is perfect!
Propaganda Games promised that Tron: Evolution would add to the canon Tron universe. Technically it does... but barely. If you are a Tron fan (like me, yes, that was me in the leather Quorra suit at Fan Expo,) I'm not sure the new details will be enough to carry you through.
The game deals with a brief slice of the period between the first and second films, after Flynn disappears into the Grid. The Basics Programs written by Flynn and the Isos spontaneously created Programs with free will and fab-u-lous fashion senses have just begun cooperative government... and if you have no idea what I'm talking about right now, just stop reading: you won't get anything out of the game.
You play a system monitor, basically Tron's version of Robocop. You soon encounter a virus named Abraxis who has originated within the system , and who apparently mugged a Ringwraith for his yellowy-orange-outlined wardrobe. Abraxis originated within the Isos, and Clu swings into action to contain the infection.
At the start, it seems like a great story. My mind raced ahead to the cool factor of Isos imperfections in the system leading to viruses, and Clu having some justification beyond being THE BAD GUY ™ for wiping them out. It would give the central conflict of the Grid a lot more depth... if that was where the story went.
However, the story doesn't go there. Why Disney chose to populate its 3D world with such thoroughly two-dimensional characters and flat storytelling is beyond me, but it's a failing of the general IP, not just this game.
That being said, there are some cool moments. The platforming is frikkin' hard, but that leads to a real sense of accomplishment when you clear a level. Also, the game respawns you extremely quickly, which is a blessing with the "run-jump-die. Run-jump-grapple-die. Run-jump-grapple-wall run-die" play experience that comes with platforming games.
Furthermore, the light cycle racing is exciting eye candy, if lacking in challenge until near the end of the game. You feel like you're doing a lot more than you are, which is a nice change from the "run-jump-die". The combat is middle of the road and quite repetitive until you get the hang of the "mobility" mechanics, and the learning curve on that is lengthy if you haven't played something like Prince of Persia. Tron: Evolution isn't a 'guard your health carefully' game. The ideal way to play is to keep moving and use your agility and numerous environmental powerups to your advantage. It's actually elegant by the time you hit high-end gameplay, but you have to slog through a lot of little-to-no-difficulty combat until you hit the Game Grid which is, unfortunately, not as cool a part of the game as it should be. I say "unfortunately", because that's the backbone of the multiplayer.
But back to what's good... the tank battles are another difficulty-light opportunity to gain XP and cause some nifty explosions. The soundtrack is decent, although not nearly as good as the movie score. And Zuse is way less annoying in the game.
Sadly, there are some further criticisms as well. Abraxis is not a cool enough villain for the number of times you have to keep fighting him. The controls could have done with some tightening there are places where they fight with the user instead of fighting for the user. And it's one of those games where you spent so much time holding down the R2 button that your finger curls up, your carpal tunnel kicks in, and your TMJ flares up.
And Tron himself appears in the game for all of five seconds. Although the main hub of the Grid is referred to as Tron City, so it seems the title is now a place instead of a person.
To put it simply, if you liked the new movie, despite its flaws, Tron: Evolution is a decent companion piece. If you weren't into the empty visual spectacle, then make this the...
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