Tron: Evolution Review

This is it. We have arrived at our last AAA title of 2010. There will be no more new games on the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 until January 6. This is sad, but it’s nice to have a chance to catch up on some things. (Nier, Resonance of Fate and Deadly Premonition are up next.) But the question now is this: Does Tron: Evolution send us out of 2010 with a bang or with a whimper?

It’s a little of both, actually.


Tron: Evolution (PS3 [Reviewed], XBox360, PC)
Developer: Propaganda Games
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Release Date: December 07, 2010
MSRP: $59.99

Tron: Evolution is a weird package. It’s got a compelling visual style, but at the same time that style hampers it because everything looks the same after about an hour because the developers, Propaganda Games, didn’t do anything interesting with it. It’s got compelling combat, but it’s hampered, again, by Propaganda shepherding you from identical room to identical room fighting the same enemies over and over. Every aspect of Evolution, single player and multiplayer, is interesting at first and then boring and annoying later.

As you might guess by the game‘s title, Tron: Evolution is not quite the game version of Tron: Legacy. It’s called a bridge between the two Tron movies, but it’s more of a prequel to Legacy than a sequel to Tron. Evolution’s plot is all setup for Legacy; it explains why the Grid looks like it does and how Flynn ended up trapped in there and why CLU is such a dick and who those people wearing the white suits are. Aside from those points, there isn’t much going on here, which is good because the story is rather shoddily told.

As I said above, the game is at first compelling. Combat is, like most hack-and-slash titles, a mix of ranged and melee attacks with a light disc, but the emphasis is decidedly on ranged attacks here. You have your basic attack and a heavy attack, with which you can bash foes with a heavy disc, bomb disc, corruption disc and a stasis disc that operates like Mass Effect’s Lift power. There are, of course, combos on top of all of that, and surviving early on, as the game introduces you to various types of enemies, requires creativity. It’s combat that feels unique to this game.

Mixed in with combat is Prince of Persia-style free running, in which you’ll jump over things and run along walls and stuff. This is also kinda fun, at first.

But after a while, Propaganda stops throwing new things at you, and every situation feels an awful lot like one or more that came before it. Eventually the game starts to shake into a pattern like this: Drive a Lightcycle down the road while bombs explode everywhere (this is horrible unfun); run across some walls and jump over gaps; enter a room and fight enemies; run along more ¬†of the same walls and jump over more of the same gaps; enter a room that looks like the last room and fight more of the same enemies. And so on. Occasionally you also get to drive a tank, and those are the best parts because they play more like an arcade shooter than they do any other part of this game. The free running becomes more complex as you go, too. This is not a good thing; the handling is so finicky that you’ll often find yourself accidentally jumping off a cliff.

Multiplayer surprised me by being quite enjoyable. Straight up light disc arena combat is a blast provided the the match isn’t horribly unbalanced (I’ll get to that in a second), and lightcycle combat is quite thrilling once you figure out what you’re doing. And I don’t think I’ve ever had an easier time getting into a game than I did with Evolution; it typically took me about ten seconds from “searching for match” to being in a match.

The odd thing about Evolution, though, is that it’s got RPG-style progression that carries over to and from both modes, because you use the same character in both. It’s an intriguing idea that I don’t recall ever encountering before, but it doesn’t entirely work here. The progression is typical for a single player game; you’ll be several times more powerful by the end than you were when you began, but this makes the online portion far too unbalanced, as a high-level character can defeat a lower-level character with ease. The game’s matchmaking does nothing to alleviate that problem — which is likely why it puts you into the action so quickly. This becomes frustrating because it’s rare when you find a truly balanced match; most of the time you’ll either totally kick some ass or totally get your ass kicked.

Tron: Evolution is inspired framework squandered by uninspired design. It’s innovation hampered by lack of imagination. It’s neither bad nor good, really, but it is the worst kind of video game experience: one you will forget after you put the game back on the shelf.

Pros:

  • Unique combat
  • Tank driving is great
  • I like RPGs
  • Multiplayer matchmaking is fast

Cons:

  • Gets stale quickly
  • Unbalanced multiplayer
  • Unimaginative

Final Score: 60/100

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