Gaming Under $20: “Tron: Evolution” Review

OK, so we all know that Tron isn’t exactly a great movie.  Sure, it has become a cult classic over the years, and Disney went ahead and made Tron: Legacy, jumping on the nostalgia bandwagon like the rest of Hollywood.  Those hardcore fans out there that didn’t buy the Tron: Evolution game when it came out may have spotted it at their local Gamestop for the low price of $14.99, and considered giving it a go.  Well folks, I did just that.  Read on, fellow bargain-bin gamers, to see if Tron: Evolution for Xbox 360 is worth your money!

For those of you who don’t know, Tron: Evolution (TE) is not a direct game version of the 2010 movie.  It’s actually a prequel to Tron: Legacy, and meant to expand upon/fill-in-the-gaps between Tron and its predecessor.  To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what the story was going to be like, nor did I really care.  All I could think about was light cycles and derezzing a fair share of baddies.  Unfortunately, I got my wish.  The story seems interesting at first, telling us how a new race of beings called “Isos” (isomorphic algorithms) have popped out of the grid completely on their own.  Isos pose a threat to “Basics” (user created programs), and that includes CLU, a program created both in Kevin Flynn’s image and to build the “prefect system.”  CLU decides to hunt down and destroy all Isos programs.

This is where you come in.  You are a program named Anon (Anonymous), created to patrol the Grid much like Tron from the original movie.  When CLU goes crazy, Flynn is forced to run for his life – leaving you to pick up the pieces.  Not only do you have to deal with CLU, but a devastating virus named Abraxas has appeared, infecting different areas of the grid and turning Basics and Isos against each other.

Sounds pretty exciting, huh?  In all honesty, the story is actually a very small portion of the game, and the “reveals” are minimal.  It’s likely that the idea of making TE a prequel to Tron: Legacy was just a marketing ploy rather than a cohesive idea as Disney prepared for the Legacy release.  All the story really does is give excuses for the hack-and-slash game style to be necessary.  Abraxas is taking over the Bostrum Colony?  Better get out there and fight them off.  Quorra is off saving the Grid and needs your help?  Better get out there and fight those pesky viruses before they get to her.

Now, the combat isn’t truly hack and slash – there is a touch of skill involved.  As you progress through the game you earn XP which grants you MB’s to spend on upgrades as well as an overall higher “version” (skill level).  Your MB’s can be spent on upgrading your campaign character or your multiplayer character.  Unfortunately, you can’t upgrade on the fly.  Instead, you have to wait until you come across an upgrade station.  These stations also give you the ability to instantly jump into a multiplayer match, which was an interesting touch.  Upgrading your Identity Disc (your boomerang-style only weapon) allows you to take out certain enemies more quickly.  Each time you are presented with an enemy, your program scans them for their strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to formulate a strategy for taking them out.  This usually consists of switching between discs with your D-Pad, then commencing with smashing one or two buttons. On occasion, you get to ride a light cycle or use a light tank to take out enemies.  Don’t get your hopes up though, you don’t get to do any cool tricks or 180 degree spins – you spend all your time in vehicles racing ahead of derezzing landscapes or being bombarded by enemies.

The other major component of TE is a bit of parkour.  TE desperately tries to channel Lara Croft or even the Prince of Persia himself with entire sections of the game dedicated to wall running, leaping, “swinging”, and climbing all over the Grid.  I typically enjoy this kind of gaming, but only if the mechanics work properly and the controls are tight.  Naturally, TE had neither of those necessities.  Combat isn’t as greatly effected by the controls as the climbing is; you end up falling to your death quite often.  In most games this isn’t a big deal.  In TE, being derezzed really sucks.  The checkpoints are few and far between, causing mounting frustration as you are forced to play the same 3 minutes of game over and over, thanks to a poorly placed finger-hold that you just can’t quite seem to reach.  The controls are horrible for the vehicle moments as well, adding to your Game Rage.  What could make you more angry than a control-sensitive game having poor controls?  Why, terrible camera angles!  Tron: Evolution has them in spades.  Most of the time you can control your camera with the right thumb stick, but when you get backed into a corner or are trying to jump to a cliff behind you, the game takes over and makes life a living hell.  I can only assume this was done in an effort to create some cinematic atmosphere, but it was just plain annoying.

If I know bargain-bin gamers, most of you are Achievement Whores Hounds, and are looking for a cheap way to up that score.  I got 19 out of 41 achievements on my first play through, which probably took about four hours.  I wasn’t really trying to get achievements, just playing the game on casual.  The achievements I have yet to get are based around collectibles, reaching higher “versions”, beating Insane mode, buying all upgrades, and accruing kills with certain discs.  This could be easily achievable with another 4 hours of gameplay or so…that is, if I’m willing to spend my time on it.  I can’t honestly say I will.  I’m not an extreme Achievement Hound, but have been known to go for them all on games that I enjoy.  TE, unfortunately, isn’t one of them.  Surprisingly, there was still an online community for TE, albeit a small one.  I can only assume they are the most hardcore of fans, because these guys don’t talk and thoroughly kick your ass.  Multiplayer is limited to about four maps and you can choose between Deathmatches and a couple variations on Capture-the-Flag.  There are additional maps and skins for your characters available through DLC, but considering what I saw playing with the original content, I doubt there is a real need to spend any money on these.

TE has a strong voice cast, including both actors from the movie (like Olivia Wilde as Quorra) and more traditional voice actors from the video game world.  What was shocking is that the new additions to the cast outshone the Hollywood actors!   Fred Tatasciore (best known as Baird from GoW) plays both Flynn and CLU, doing an impressive channeling of Jeff Bridges in all his glory.  Another surprise was Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester from Supernatural) taking on Gibson, a playful but interesting character.  Naturally, Nolan North took on a couple roles here as well, but did what he does best by playing minor characters.  These guys did a great job, and really pushed the mediocre cutscenes into moments of pure joy.  I kept hoping to see Tatasciore and Ackles’ characters appear each time the screen darkened for some cinematics.  Speaking of cutscenes, the graphics were alright both in-game as well as pre-rendered.  They had the expected Tron feel to them, being both dark and bright, but the character models were average compared to other games from their time.  Sometimes it was hard to tell what your objectives were because everything blended so much into the blacks, greys, and neon lights.

All in all, Tron: Evolution may be enticing with a $14.99 price tag, but don’t let that sway you.  Most movie-games end up being a bust, and TE follows suit.  Even hardcore Tron fans who want to learn about what happens in the Tron Universe before Legacy will be let down by the mediocre story and all the bull you have to deal with to earn each cutscene.  As far as Achievement Hounds are concerned, TE takes far too much time and effort to accrue enough points to make it worth your money.

Unfortunately, Tron: Evolution is “Not Worth It.”

by Rachael Edwards-Hite


About Rachael

I'm here to be honest with you about where best to spend your hard-earned dollars on entertainment. Besides being a cinephile and gamer, I'm a lover of whiskey, karaoke, board games, premium TV series, and 1911's... and not necessarily in that order.

I'm always outnumbered, but never outgunned. Look for me on XBL: Lady Misfit1

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