Tron: Evolution

I loved Tron. As a movie, it set itself apart from the mainstream fodder of the time by being so, so different. The characterisation of the programs and the world of the Game Grid brought itself to life in front of my eyes and has remained so in my mind. Even now I use the Tron environment as a mentally visual reference when I think about game environments in system terms… maybe that’s just me, maybe it’s weird, but the point is that it stuck with me and still does.

News of the ‘reboot’ of this franchise, when it broke, had me heading in two directions, those being “This is great!” and “This could ruin everything!”. The trailers of the movie (as of writing this I’ve held back from seeing the movie for various reasons) have me in the former camp but I still have the feeling that I may need to accept some changes to the canon of my memory in the same way I did with Star Trek. The news that the development of the game was taking place alongside the production of the movie and was going to be a direct and connected prequel to the movie has added a certain frisson of excitement around the title and when I had the opportunity to play a preview along with Rose I was thrilled that the environments and game elements were matching my years old view of the world of Tron.

Now though I have the full game in my hands and I’m traversing that world as ‘The Monitor’, a program written and designed by Kevin Flynn to try and find our what’s happening in the system following the ‘death’ of a senior ISO. ISOs are programs which have spontaneously evolved and appeared within the system. Having not been written, they have no pre-determined function and are seen by some of the traditional programs – the Basics – as being some sort of aberration.

The introduction of the Monitor into the system provides you – the user – with a basic set of tutorials in how the characters are controlled and how to move around the game world. It also introduces the various aids and external elements which you can make use of. Key among these external elements is the disc station. Strategically placed, these outlets allow you to upgrade your program – health weaponry, etc. – by applying RAM. RAM is earned through levelling the program up, this in turn is done through gaining XP via fighting and exploration. The Disc stations also provide a way to jump out of the game world and into…erm, a game world….

No, really it’s true! You can exit the story mode and drop into the game grids, where you engage in one-vs-many and team events. These events earn you additional XP and as such can be used to accelerate your character’s advancement in-game. There’s also the option to create or join online tournaments too, which also count towards XP earnings. After you’re finished with the in-game gaming, you can then drop back into the game itself and carry on gaming. There, clear enough?!

So that’s the broad brush strokes, what about the gameplay itself? Playing through Tron: Evolution had me flipping through a set of emotions: frustration at my seeming ineptitude when traversing the landscape – wall running, leaps and grabs – annoyance that the target units in fights don’t seem to die quite quickly enough, excitement at seeing story elements unfold and, finally the BAH! of mashing buttons during the combat sections.

The game progress is roughly as follows: Exposition, a cut scene showing conversations and actions. Exploration, movement by your character through, over and around the buildings and elements of the cities. Action, the fight scenes follow the exploration as soon as night follows day. For sure the different enemies require different types of attack to finish off, but this minor variation seemed to me to be just that, minor. After selecting the best disc for the job (Heavy and Bomb are my favourites) it becomes a question of standard attacks, heavy attacks, re-power by running and jumping off various pieces of scenery and repeating until done. Oh, sure there’s a level of satisfaction which is felt after de-rezzing a dozen of Clu’s best orange-piped lackeys but after a while I longed for a Lara-esque puzzle room or even a more linear flow of bad-guys in the mode of Mass Effect. In Tron Evolution it felt a little contrived that I’d get to a room after leaping around the outside of buildings avoiding detection, just to have the doors shut and security programs arrive in neatly timed waves. After which another door opens and I carry on leaping around trying to avoid detection – surely after having dispatched my 500th lackey, my cover is pretty blown!

Or perhaps I’m being a little over-sensitive and expecting too much. Maybe I’m as sensitive as the controls in Tron: Evolution which frankly are a bit nuts! The left stick (I’m on the ‘360 here) controls the direction of movement and operates as one would have expected; except that my version of straight ahead, something which allows for a few degrees of latitude in stick position, is not matched by the games version. This is fine until you’re trying the run and jump to hang on to a pretty small piece of scenery and the character starts to veer off. Correction is no good at this point as it is simply over-correction and results in a wild zig-zagging which, frankly, is no use to man nor program.

I’ve uttered much in the negative here, these aren’t big things, just niggles, and added up they sound significant. The reality is, though, that the world of Tron as presented in Tron: Evolution and I’m led to believe in the new movie, too, has been vividly and brilliantly expressed and I just want to see more. I want to know if characters really die (no spoilers!!), who the virus is and how Clu became a little bit wonky. I want to finish this and know that the world I painted inside my head many years ago has developed and grown but is there, recognisable and real.







Leave a Reply