Tron: Evolution

The Tron: Evolution event was held at the base of the Soho Hotel, amidst a small sea of baffling (but pretty excellent) cupcakes.

It began with an impromptu invite into a cinema conveniently located on the premises. A preview of the upcoming film, Tron: Legacy, was polarised into our encumbered eyes. It’s good to see Jeff Bridges back in the role of Kevin Flynn and the application of video games in films is always compelling to me. I’m optimistic that the film will recreate the same feeling spawned by those visceral, electrically-charged light cycle battles in the original Tron film.

When we’d unstrapped the giant glasses from our face, we were informed of the situation in the world of Tron befitting the temporal location of the game; programs, known as Isometric Algorithms (“Isos”) have formed without input from any programmer. They are beings without any purpose and as such have introduced an element of randomness to the grid, an environment that was previously largely predictable. With surprising evenhandedness, these Isos have been deemed to be as important to the grid as any other program. However, their unexpected introduction has given rise to a hostility in the grid made evident by the apparent murder of one of the senior Isos. Flynn decides to send in a new program to monitor the situation. That program is you.

Hostility in the grid!

When Tron was released in 1982, it was the first film to put characters inside the guts of a computer by thrusting them into its own glowing virtual reality. It’s therefore interesting, and apt, that the Tron video game be the first to have literal application to the narrative of its cinematic counterpart. Missions and objectives completed in the single-player campaign of Tron: Evolution will be intrinsic to Tron: Legacy and actually referred to within the film. It’s a clever way of validating its narrative position as a “prequel” that also deepens the player’s involvement in the story. It gives credence to the proposition that the game itself is more than just a generic movie tie-in, the likes of which have been almost uniformly disappointing in the past (respectfully disregarding the Lion King, circa 1994).

During the presentation, I’d been somewhat sadistically pleased to see that the live play-through of the game was resulting in actual death. Trying to leap across various abyssal pits along the way to the objective wasn’t a simple matter of pressing A and initiating an animated jump sequence – there seemed to be a knack to moving through pixel-space. This was validated by my own play-through later on in the gaming room.

The game has its own slightly pared-down Mirror’s Edge approach to moving across the game landscape. Walls are there to be climbed vertically and scaled horizontally in order to reach platforms and progress through the game. It’s thoughtfully implemented and intuitive. Moving through the levels feels satisfyingly fluid.

Orange Vs Blue – The way it was meant to be

Meanwhile, the combative element of the game involves your Identity Disk, which is essentially an electric frisbee. You can throw it, you can slice it, you can slam it. It’s a thing I would like to own, but it’s also interesting as a game mechanic. It can be used at long-distance or as a melee weapon, which opens up differing play-styles. The hostile Isos turn up at various intermissions during the campaign and you must slay them with your Disk. This, for me, is the most uninspired part of the game. The small swarms of indistinct baddies feel more like obstacles than threats. I speak only for the early part of the game, so it’s not unreasonable to assume the combat complexity increases from the hack-n-disk-slash fare that I experienced.

Something mentioned during the presentation regarding the single-player game that caught my attention was the ability to switch seamlessly into multiplayer at various points throughout the campaign, dragging all your earned upgrades across the threshold with you (in either direction). It’s an attempt to cajole players who generally only stick to single-player campaigns into the glorious, blinding sunlight of online multiplayer. This strikes me as a truly admirable cause. Give a man a single-player game and he will enjoy it for a game-length-average of approximately 10 hours. Give a man the strength to brave the world of online multiplayer and he will entertain himself, and his family, for a whole lifetime.

The multiplayer element was what the preview really focused on. When I first saw Tron, quite some time after its original release, I immediately scoured the internet for a multiplayer light cycle game. I stumbled upon something called Armagetron – a freeware game that still has a lively community today. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t quite fit the bill. Years later, after picking up a controller at this event and figuring out how to dive into my quickly-apparating light cycle, the bill was filled. It’s very fun and very frenetic and very much my kind of game.

For those uninformed, light cycles are motorbike-like vehicles that leave a trail of unspecified obstacle behind you – a kind of planar light-wall. Any enemies encountering this wall will lose energy if grazing along it at an angle, or immediately Derezz (die) in a head-on collision. The aim is to trap victims in your carefully-laid light web or, alternatively, Disk ’em to death.

There are three main modes and each of them can be altered by whether players are on-foot or on-cycle. The most basic is Deathmatch (Disneyed into “Disintegration”) either solo, or with teams. Throughout the game, your abilities with the Disk become more powerful while your energy bars are full, and you increase your energy by interacting with the game world – climbing walls, jumping around and generally behaving like an excitable child. This is pretty useful in Disk-only battles.

I will smugly Derezz every one of you.

The other modes encourage more team-play and strategy. One is a breed of Capture the Flag wherein you need to secure a series of bases in order to stream electricity across the map, while a King of the Hill variant requires a “Bitrunner” – a player who holds the Bit for as long as they are able to without getting killed. Holding the Bit causes your health-gauge to diminish (like coded kryptonite) and it’s passed from player to player until the time is up. The team who holds the Bit for the longest, or obtains enough energy first, wins.

I had a huge amount of fun with the multiplayer and got far more enjoyment from topping the scoreboard (and beating John) than any acceptable member of society ought to. Zipping your way over turbo-boosters and whirling ribbons of light around your chosen victim until they’re unable to avoid a ninety-degree collision is nothing short of exhilarating.

Rose Wolfe’s Christmas List 2010:

1. Light cycle.

One of these in blue please Santa







10 responses to “Tron: Evolution”

  1. Blitzkrieg avatar

    FUCK YEAH! Tron is gonna be awesome!

  2. djgenfish avatar

    Great article Roze! Excellent writing skillz, yo.

  3. gunzfree avatar

    good read

  4. Dan avatar

    Very good read, game sounds sweet.

  5. Francis avatar

    I enjoyed the last Tron game, I’ll probably give this a look.

    ps. Want to play with my unspecified obstacle?

  6. Blitzkrieg avatar

    She will slice it with an electric frisbee. Proceed with caution.

  7. TankHammer avatar

    This is the first preview/review of this game that actually makes me want to play it. Super-excited for the movie btw. I’m very jealous of my friends who got into the press event at E3 where they re-created Flynn’s bar.

  8. sh0 avatar

    Even the oldschool-ish Tron 2.0 game was really fun. Check it, dilliyo!

  9. avatar

    Daft Punk- Derezzed (TRON)

  10. Helios avatar

    Very good article. Keep up the excellent work :Þ

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