There are a lot of things that Tron: Evolution tries to be. For one, it really wants to be a Prince of Persia-style adventure through the Tron universe that bridges the gap between the beloved 1982 film and its upcoming sequel. It also wants to be an updated version of the classic Light Cycle sequence from the film and seemingly every other Flash game in existence. As you may have surmised from our introduction, it doesn't quite live up to the expectations it lays out for itself.
It starts off well by managing to get Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner to reprise their roles as voice actors, lending a sense of legitimacy to the game and its story. We only mention this because we'd love to blame the lackluster story and dialogue on poor voice acting, but this time around it's legitimately because of the poor writing and incomprehensible plot. The story has something to do with multiple factions of programs (designated by their different colors), some being infected by an evil virus and others wanting to take over the system and, by extension, its user Flynn. And… that's really all we were able to suss out. It's an overly complicated setup to the film that ultimately feels completely unnecessary.
That over-complexity is a running theme for the rest of the game. Where other parkour-influenced action-adventure titles like Assassin's Creed or Prince of Persia keep their controls simple and therefore make it easy to traverse their particular landscapes, Evolution overcomplicates it. Why do we have to hit one button to wall-run, then turn the super inconsistent camera to see where we’re going to jump, then push the left stick in the direction of the wall, only to find that it's too far away and fall to our death? It's all too complex for such a simple action.
And then there's the combat. It's your fairly typical Prince of Persia-style fighting with the Identification Disc as your projectile weapon. Throwing the Disc feels like it should: it's fast, can hit multiple enemies with one throw, and is open for tons of combos. The problem is that all the enemies have Discs too. There's no real way to detect when you're about to get hit from behind, so you can't lock on to enable the dodge move (another terrible design move) leading to some horribly frustrating combat situations.
Boss fights are even worse. One early boss in particular stands out. Fighting against a tank may sound interesting, but when you realize that there's no way to take cover from the tank's blasts and once again find yourself dying repeatedly, you'll begin to suspect that your controller thrown at the television may do more damage than your Disc.
The famous Light Cycles make a return, but not in the way that anyone was hoping. Rather than the timeless battles between the right-angle turning foes, they've been subjugated to simple escape sequences down narrow passages. It's really a shame to take one of the coolest and most recognizable sequences from the films and turn it into something so bland and uninteresting.
What's worse, the Light Cycles are even questionable in the multiplayer, where we were hoping that they'd be able to shine. The way we see it, it's fine if the single-player lets players turn in anything less than 90-degree angles, but as far as we're concerned once we're on The Grid, it's serious business time. We want sharp angles and an ever-decreasing area for the Cycles to make their way around in. Here, the maps are too big, the combat too clunky, and the Light Cycles barely distinguishable from way across the map. And you can't even get destroyed by your own light tail. What gives? Even with a full match (a rarity even so soon after the game's release), it's bogged down by poor design and a lack of urgency.
Tron: Evolution is a mess of poorly implemented ideas and sloppy mechanics boiling down to a game that offers very little even to its most hardcore fans. Its story is barely there, and the exploration of the universe isn't one that is worth traversing the problems that it wallows in.
Dec 23, 2010