Tron: Evolution goes a step beyond the usual movie spin-off but that is still a few steps behind for a gaming sub-genre in need of a serious development overhaul.
Besides Tron: Evolution, Propaganda Games has only had one other video game release, being the 2008 reimagining of the Nintendo 64 classic, Turok. Since then, the Disney-acquired company met the economic downturn, dropping up to thirty of its employees just in time to create the Tron movie tie-in game. The result is another half-baked cinematic supplement that takes a classic franchise and boils it down to run-jump-punch.
Acting as a prequel to the upcoming Tron: Legacy film, the game throws players into the utterly forgettable story of a masked nobody who follows characters from the Tron world (known as ‘the Grid’) around, absorbing the narrative from a third person fly-on-the-wall perspective in cut-scenes that awkwardly chop into the gameplay. The animation is pretty top-notch for the usually rushed movie-game variety, but there’s something off-putting about the face mapping that’s made every character more freakishly devoid of emotion than those in Fallout 3.
As a third person action-adventure title, Tron gives players the opportunity to explore the universe of the film, from its citadel streets to… …more of its citadel streets. Admittedly, the Grid is a pretty monotonous world already, but they could’ve at least opened the strictly directed ‘A to B’ map structure to make it seem a little more expansive. On the plus side, free-running controls that let players run across walls, jump from ledge to precarious ledge and attack enemies simultaneously do make the Tron world a lot more hospitable for claustrophobic gamers.
But just hope the running and jumping satiates you, because the combat leaves nothing to be desired. Hordes of droning, disc-clad enemies come running at every obligatory combat stage, only to strafe around players and nary attack. When they do attack, it’s as simple as block and parry. The enemies do develop as the game drags on, but it’s the same respawning horde formula at each interval.
While the action is repetitive and tedious, the parkour-inspired controls are surprisingly fluid for a hastily-produced movie game. While not as honed as the realistic experience offered from titles like Assassin’s Creed where players can almost feel the weight behind their virtual avatar, Tron offers a fantasised, weightless version of the experience where realism is traded for fluidity and speed that keeps the action quick.
Remarkably similar to the most recent Prince of Persia, actually. Which is good and bad. As in both games, the controls trade rigidity for flow and speed, but the beauty in the controls fails to mask the repetition. Players will find themselves running and jumping through dictated, one-way strips only to come across yet another fighting sequence. It’s a tired formula that even the option to play in 3D can’t redeem.
Tron plays fan lip-service with the cycles element thrown into the game beyond the simple cameo appearance, and a multiplayer/single player integrated levelling system brings some credence back to single player campaigns that online gaming has stolen in the past few years.
Tron: Evolution goes a step beyond the usual movie spin-off but that’s still a few steps behind for a gaming sub-genre in need of a serious development studio. The controls are tight and the picture is sharp, but the repetitive formula will wear off the novelty quicker than the spent novelty of a Tron sequel.