PAX Prime: Tron: Evolution


The year was 1982. Imagine if you will a world where the Atari 2600 is King, the Commodore 64 has just launched, and Disney has created a movie with the best computer graphics ever seen on the Big Screen. If none of this is ringing a bell, you were either too young or not born yet. The movie I’m speaking of was Tron.

Yes, the graphics are crap now and the games it spawned from its vision of a computer generated world are dusty old relics that you can download to your Xbox 360 if you’re feeling nostalgic. That feeling lasts about all of three minutes when you realize how antiquated those graphics are. But the movie generated some of the best arcade games of the time and for that alone, we have to salute Disney. One of the better Intellivision games, “Tron: Deadly Discs”, which may have provided a means of competing with the more popular Atari 2600, came out the same year as the movie. Sadly, the home video game market would crash the next year and so the advances made in gaming wouldn’t see the insides of a home for several years to come.

The game “Tron 2.0” would come out some 21 years later and receive a mostly lukewarm reception by those who were not already a fan of the movie and the original games. It died a quiet and noble death before it really generated a lot of mainstream interest. But, somewhere, there must have been enough of a spark for Disney to determine a sequel of the Tron movie was in order and with it, a new game.

Tron: Evolution is the tie-in that will serve as the story bridge between the original Tron movie and its sequel coming out at the end of this year, Tron Legacy. In it, players assume the role of “Anon” (short for Anonymous, get it?) and journey through the computer world in order to… Well, that part we don’t know. The developers were tightlipped about the story line in order to prevent the inevitable spoilers that would end up online. There was mention by one of the attendees of missions directly from Flynn himself but a developer struck him down with a well thrown data disc and he derezzed before I could find out more. True story.

At any rate, these are the bits we do know: Playing as Anon, you will find yourself in the new and graphically improved world of Tron beginning with only the trusty data disc at his side to combat enemies. At PAX Prime, there were two levels available for play; a level where Anon flees from Recognizers who proceed to demolish the “roads” Anon races along in an attempt to escape and a “platform” level that has Anon running along walls (a la Prince of Persia) and using his disc both as a means to pull himself along by attaching to data points and combat the evil programs.

I have to admit that one of my favorite things about the original movie and games was the light cycle. You raced along the game grid generating a wall behind you that was deadly to anyone who might run into it and your movement was confined to 90 degree turns which meant you had to think a little ahead in order to avoid hitting your own wall. The cycles in the movie were able to move normally once they were off the battle grid and I always regretted not being able to play that version of the light cycle.

Yes, it's a light cycle. It's okay to feel tingly.

Maybe I wasn’t the only one because the cycle chase scene in Evolution doesn’t have you speeding along at right angles but rather behaves the way a real cycle might… if it was designed like the cycles from Tron. The feeling of actual speed is here and a sort of frantic pace is produced as the Recognizers “bomb” the highways you’re riding along which results in large chucks derezzing. Avoiding the bomb blasts, the “holes” in the road, and choosing the right path through the debris around you lends the level an overall feel of being woefully outgunned and forced to rely on the speed and maneuverability of the light cycle to escape.

Stepping up to play the level was a little intimidating. There was no warm up before I was thrown into the action and so it was a matter of trial by fire to learn what the cycle was capable of while fleeing the Recognizers. A few mishaps where I had to continue from a previous point later and I had eyes for nothing but the screen. It’s hard to admire the scenery as it skims past at speed but the game does a good job of capturing the feel of the original Tron movie while allowing for the more advanced graphics of this day and age.

After making my way through the rapid fire feel of the cycle level, I was allowed some breathing room in the platforming level. Initially disoriented by the change of pace, there were a few missteps before I got the feel of the controls for moving Anon through the world sans light cycle. Even after orienting myself, I had to look around the area I was in now that I could truly appreciate the scenery without it being bombed or speeding past it before I could fully grasp what I was seeing.

Again I was impressed by the “old school” feel of the graphics. This was the world I had seen when I was a kid and here I was actually able to look around. Neon colors are predominant and looking at Anon, a feeling of nostalgia came up as I saw the neon blue pattern of his outfit. Propaganda Games did an outstanding job of meshing the old with the new.

The platform level consisted of running along walls where lit “panels” allowed Anon to gain purchase and defy gravity. The timing for launching myself from wall to wall felt a bit awkward at first but once I caught on, it felt a bit more natural. Running out of wall to run along resulted in Anon launching himself through the air into oblivion but a pulse of the controller and I caught site of a “data point” which allowed me to use my disc to swing to another point like a pixilated Tarzan.

Crutchboy throwing down on Tron: Evolution

The culmination of the level ended with me fighting my way through several enemies using Anon’s disc to both attack and defend. Pressing the keys in sequence while locked onto an enemy resulted in an acrobatic display on Anon’s part while he repeatedly threw his disc at his target. As the target derezzed from the onslaught, a floating number indicated that I had been awarded experience. Asking one of the attendants what role the experience played resulted in another tight lipped response and a threatening gesture with the data disc at his side. Really.

From the answer I did receive, it would appear players will be able to apply the exp to attributes or to level up the disc and its attacks. Tron 2.0 had a similar system for its weapons so my assumption is that more powerful attacks become available as you use the points to power up your disc. I asked if there were other weapons available throughout the game and was politely advised that more information would become available when the game, and the movie, were closer to launch.

Olivia Wilde reprises her role as Quorra in the game and I was privy to a cutscene where she speaks to Anon. Once again, asking who else might be in the game was met with a smile and a repeat of the closer to launch answer though it was revealed that Bruce Boxleitner would be voicing Tron in the game. I kinda figured he might.

It’s hard not to be a little excited about the game since I’m excited about the Tron sequel. That excitement, however, is tempered by the fact that games sold as tie-ins to movies have for the most part failed miserably. As a fan of the Tron franchise, I’m hoping this one might be the one to break that record.

Gritskrieg – End of Line

Posted By Gritskrieg

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