First look at TRON: Evolution

The '80s classic returns, but where's the glow in the dark spandex?

Disney was ahead of the curve when it made TRON back in 1982. It was one of the first examples of where the licensed arcade game was planned out before the film went into production. And the game actually went on to beat its big screen cousin’s box-office takings.

TRON: Evolution will have to be something special if it’s going to achieve the same feat. This third-person action game is a prequel of sorts to the upcoming 3D movie TRON Legacy. Devs Propaganda have created an entirely new story set in 1989, roughly halfway between the two films.

Everything in the world of TRON is set inside a massive computer mainframe. The cities, their inhabitants and all the central characters are virtual constructs, created by genius programmer Kevin Flynn. You play as a construct designed to combat viruses and prevent a series of cataclysmic events from taking place.

Just like the Matrix, it’s possible to do just about anything in a virtual space. Your character is an expert in free running, allowing him to run along walls, leap over huge chasms and hand-spring off the shoulders of your enemies. If you’ve played Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, you’ll be on familar ground here.

Propaganda describe the combat style as “capoirera meets parkour”. Capoirera is a Brazillian martial art famous for its unpredictable and acrobatic movements – play as Eddie Gordo in Tekken 6 if you don’t believe us. While the combat flows very nicely, we suspect that there could be a lot of button mashing in store. It certainly seems possible to spam your ranged attack over and over. Your deadly frisbee doesn’t need time to recharge and it returns to you like a boomerang almost instantly.

The game’s major villain is a computer virus by the name of Abraxas. He might look like a neon-coloured disco version of Darth Vader, but he’s not to be trifled with. He spreads death and destruction with a single touch. As you explore TRON, increasing portions of the beautiful virtual world become corrupted by his influence, bits of scenery rotting away before your eyes.

Light cycle races are similar the original 1980s arcade game, the aim being to cut off your opponents by leaving a light trail directly in their path. While the old light cycles could only move in straight lines and corner at ninety degrees, the new control system is much more versatile. Not only can you steer smoothly, but there are jumps, boosts and the ability to ditch your cycle at any time and continue the battle on foot. Propaganda tell us that the multiplayer will be based on light cycle arenas and that it has features which will “revolutionise online gaming as it sits”. That’s a big claim, but at the moment the developers aren’t willing to say how they’re going to do it.

Even though TRON: Evolution has a very distinctive look, it seems as if the combat and platforming aren’t anything particularly new. Although the developers wouldn’t comment at this time, we’re hoping that at least some of the game will be in 3D to match the visuals of the upcoming movie. Let’s hope so, because this is one of those series that deserves some ‘wow’ factor.

Apr 30, 2010

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