Saturday, January 18, 2020

Second Look - Tron: Evolution (PS3)

When I first decided to contribute to this blog nine years ago, my first review was a review of the video game Tron: Evolution, which was released to coincide with the movie Tron: Legacy. In my original review, I was a bit harsh towards the game, however with the impending milestone of 1000 reviews, I decided it was time I give the game another shot and possibly do it better justice. Though I did remember my initial complaints from my first playthrough, I got past them on my second playthrough, via New Game +, by actually getting better acquainted with the controls. Once I had done that, I found myself actually enjoying the game for what it is, effectively taking back most of the things I said about it last time.

Before the events of Tron: Legacy, Kevin Flynn records a video of himself where he talks about the existence of ISOs (Isomorphic Algorithms) in the system he created, the strange part being that he never programmed them. Flynn decides to send in a security program he created called Anon to investigate the death of one of the ISO leaders, Jalen, believing it to have been a murder orchestrated by Clu, who believes ISOs to be a threat. While attending and guarding a ceremony for ISO leader Radia, Anon runs into Quorra shortly before the ceremony is attacked by a virus going by the name Abraxis.

Kevin Flynn explains the situation with ISOs.

As noted above, the game is meant to act as a direct prequel to Tron: Legacy, filling in story gaps left by its precursors Tron: Betrayal (a tie-in comic) and Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids (the Wii/3DS version of the game). In this way, the game works as a way to help explain how the events of Tron: Legacy got to the point where they did, though fully understanding it requires at least some cursory knowledge of the Tron series.

A bulk of the gameplay involves some amount of platforming, featuring a variety of moves such as vaulting, wall running, wall jumping and hanging from ledges or objects. Those first two even contribute to the gameplay beyond platforming, as vaulting glowing objects refills your special moves and wall running on specific areas refills your health. Once I got the hang of how the platforming worked, I didn’t mind it too much, however it’s still entirely possible to derezz from a badly-timed jump, especially during the late game, and so timing jumps just right eventually becomes a necessity.

Derezzing is also rather frequent in this game, that is unless you upgrade your character as often as possible. Every time you level up after gaining enough EXP, you earn more MB (Megabytes) to upgrade Anon, which you can use at upgrade stations found at certain points in a level. Upgrading your stats and Discs also allows combat to move a bit faster, though the seemingly endless swarms of enemies in some areas can still end up a drag. There are four different Disc types, though for the most part I only needed to use two of them. The Stasis Disc is required to take on some swarms of viruses, though aside from that I relied more on the Bomb Disc due to its ability to one-shot a Tank or act as effective crowd control against most enemies, especially when upgraded.

Combat and platforming sections are also broken up by Tank and Light Cycle sections, each with their own gameplay styles. The Tank controls a little awkwardly, though it mainly involves derezzing enemies and Recognizers, with rolling over certain spots increasing health. Light Cycle sections are similar, except with less awkward controls; the real challenge comes from controlling your speed effectively, as going at max speed can cause you to derezz in some way, however top speed is required to go the full distance on jumps. There are also hidden collectibles scattered throughout levels in the form of Tron Files and Abraxis Shards, the latter being said character’s Identity Disc, and collecting both of these reveals more about the world and story.

Speed is everything in the Light Cycle sections.

The game also advertises itself as being compatible with PlayStation Move. While it is certainly possible, I don’t quite have a good grasp on how the feature was actually implemented, and so I don’t have any real comment to make here on that.

For this review, I decided to give the multiplayer another shot as well. Either there really was a server demand at the time of the original review or I was just doing it wrong, though either way, I was surprised to be able to participate in a match immediately. After a single match, in which I actually did pretty well, I can safely say that, even after nine years, there still exists a thriving online community for this game, so those looking for the multiplayer option will not be disappointed.

Visually, the game perfectly replicates the look of Tron: Legacy, with original characters appearing as though they had come straight out of the Tron universe. While they did get to use the likenesses of Bruce Boxleitner (Tron), Olivia Wilde (Quorra), Michael Sheen (Zuse) and a young Jeff Bridges (Kevin Flynn), their CG renders as seen in cutscenes have only aged mostly well, if only due to the primary factor of it being a nine-year-old game. That said, while the environments are varied, some of them are a little dark to where I only obtained Tron Files and Abarxis Shards I had not previously collected by stumbling into them on accident.

The music, composed by Sonic Mayhem, Cris Velasco and Kevin Manthei, deserves some praise as well. While the soundtrack makes use of Daft Punk’s “The Grid” and “Derezzed” from Tron: Legacy, the rest of the score takes the style of Daft Punk and runs with it to craft an identity of its own, with the battle music being a primary standout.

As for the voice acting, Bruce Boxleitner and Olivia Wilde actually reprise their roles as Tron and Quorra respectively from Tron: Legacy, giving a performance consistent with their on-screen counterparts. Though only Michael Sheen’s likeness was used, James Frain does a good job emulating his performance as Zuse; likewise, Fred Tatasciore shows off his range as a convincing sound-alike for Jeff Bridges as both Kevin Flynn and Clu. As for original characters, John Glover delivers a great performance as the intimidating Abraxis while Jensen Ackles makes good use of his screen time as the opportunistic Gibson, with FLCL alum Kari Wahlgren displaying more of her talent while portraying ISO leader Radia.

As a side note, when I played this game the first time, I did so using the officially licensed Collector’s Edition wired PS3 controller from PDP, which replicates the Tron aesthetic and lights up when plugged in; though it doesn’t only work with Tron: Evolution, this ended up being the only game I actually used it with. I had dug it out for use during my second playthrough, however the rubber had evidently begun to deteriorate after nine years, with the rubber that makes up most of the body becoming sticky to the point where I opted to use a regular controller instead. Additionally, upon noticing the DLC code that came with the game didn’t have any expiration date on it, I decided to try and redeem it to see if it would actually work; surprisingly, it still did, so if you have not yet redeemed your own DLC code, you can rest easy.

This is an awesome controller. Unfortunately, its
materials have not quite stood the test of time.

After giving this game another chance, Tron: Evolution is a fairly solid, if flawed experience. The need to upgrade in order to survive longer in battle can be a bit frustrating in the early game and the platforming can be a little tedious towards the end game, though once you get past that it gets somewhat more enjoyable, especially on a second playthrough. That aside, the voice acting and soundtrack are really good, plus the aesthetic and world-building allow it to fit alongside other installments in the Tron universe. Keeping the game’s somewhat uneven nature in mind, I would still suggest fans of the Tron series to give this one a try.

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