TRON: Evolution Review

TRON: Legacy is getting eaten alive by critics this weekend, so it’s no surprise that its video game counterpart is on par with every other mediocre tie-in this industry has become notorious for. What is surprising, however, is the direction Propaganda Games, the studio behind the ill-fated Turok reboot, has taken the gameplay.

Of course the iconic disc is integral to combat, but you’ll spend just as much time de-rezzing neon-colored baddies as you will running about the levels doing your best Prince of Persia impression. That’s right, Legacy is essentially a futuristic Prince of Persia game with the same quality you’d expect from a Wii port. The Parkour-inspired gameplay and platforming works about 70 percent of the time, but all too often you’ll be missing jumps or meeting an otherwise unexpected demise because of the poorly design areas and odd angles you’re forced to try and work with. Luckily checkpoints are (mostly) plentiful, and the game’s one major saving grace is that it respawns are near instantaneous.

As I mentioned, you’ll be throwing your frisbee around quite a lot, but the combat is just as uninspired as the platforming. You basically just mash on the X button until everyone is dead, or you select one of four different power-ups for your disc and then mash Y until everyone is dead. Certain enemies are weak to specific attacks, such as the Heavy or Bomb attack, while others will need to be corrupted or shocked before you can permanently delete them. A much more robust combat system with various combos and perhaps some impressive finishers would have elevated the game out of the mundane, but as it is you just need to upgrade your best weapon and spam it until it’s time to move on to the next room and start again.

Positioned as a prequel to TRON: Legacy and a sequel to the TRON: Betrayal graphic novel, the convoluted plot made zero sense to me. Judging from the reaction in the fans, I’m not alone. After the initial CG cutscene, all cinematics take an immense drop in quality. Fans of Olivia Wilde will be particularly disappointed, as Quorra’s in-game render makes Oblivion’s female population look moderately attractive by comparison. I appreciate Disney’s attempt to extend the TRON universe and devise a compelling mutlimedia experience, but Evolution’s script is outright incomprehensible. At least in the movie you get amazing visuals to distract you, but that’s not even the case here.

You’ll occasionally take control of a Light Tank or Light Cycle, but neither of these sequences are satisfying. The controls of each vehicle are clunky and lead to a handful of frustrating deaths, especially on the Light Cycle. On the tank you’ll simply be struggling against the camera more than you will the enemies. And why do the enemy forces suddenly multiply 100-fold when you hop in a vehicle? If they had all this power at their disposal, why didn’t they just send it at you while you were running like an idiot jumping over stuff?

At times, the soundtrack can’t decide if it wants to rip off The Dark Knight or Escape from New York, but for the most part, Sascha Dikiciyan’s technotronic score was actually the high point of the game for me. I even stopped playing halfway through and waited until the next morning so that I could rock the surround sound. The actual sound effects aren’t quite up to par, unfortunately, and are either generic, too muted, or simply don’t exist. For example, for all the running and jumping Anon does, he’s about as loud as a ninja, which just makes everything feel incredibly artificial, and not in an artsy, intentional way.

So, TRON: Evolution sounds like just another crappy movie tie-in, right? It is. It most certainly is, but strangely, I didn’t mind playing it. I even grinded for an hour to level my guy up to 50, unlocking a ton of achievements in the progress and then dipping into the tacked-on multiplayer to dominate all the lowbies for a while. The game was just short enough and not completely terrible enough to make me it hate it. Honestly, this is the kind of game my old achievement-whoring self would have been ecstatic to get in-between more challenging titles, though I certainly won’t be going back to complete it on Insane difficulty.

There’s ultimately no real purpose to this game’s existence, but if you get stuck with it for Christmas, you could certainly do worse for an evening or weekend. However, I can’t recommend a deliberate rental to anyone other than achievement fanatics, as TRON fans will just be rendered confused and disappointed.

[Reviewed on Xbox 360]