TRON: Evolution Preview

Back on the Game Grid.

Maybe the world is going to end in 2012. I mean, some weird, spooky stuff has definitely been happening in recent years: Bonkoid weather patterns across the globe; Leonardo DeCaprio in a good movie (or two); or that freaky, right-out-of-Lovecraft's-nightmares, 'Bathynomus giganteus' thing that came back up with the research submarine a few months ago.

[image1]And in just the last year or so, Disney Interactive has begun rolling out a veritable Electric Light Parade of promising titles, including those based on licenses that so many of us have particularly wanted—and/or particularly want— to see made into decent games. We've got Epic Mickey painting its way to Wii, we've got an Armada of the Damned showing its sails on the horizon—and just in time for the Game-Grid of the Holidays (and the appearance of a movie sequel damn-near 30 years after its predecessor), we've got TRON: Evolution on the way.

Set between the events of the 1982 film and the forthcoming sequel TRON: Legacy, Evolution is so closely tied with the movies that the new film picks up precisely where the the game ends; in fact, the developer has stated that the interrelated nature of the stories is such that any key 'reveals' about the game plot would probably be movie-spoilers.

Half of the TRON: Evolution experience revolves around 'on foot' movement and combat (or at least the in-System equivalent). On the 'man to man' end, it's focused on what developer Propaganda labels 'high mobility combat', and it takes its kinetic and stylistic cues from the disciplines of Capoeira and the free-running acrobatics of parkour—wall-running, hanging from ledges, leaping from platform to platform, and flipping over and around enemies before wailing on them with melee combat moves—or brain-panning them from mid-virtual-air with the ever-popular Tron Disc attacks. Evolution features an upgrade scheme that allows combatants to switch between Normal, Heavy, and the especially-satisfying Bomb Disc attacks. This latter one is a special strike that takes some time to 'charge', but deals high amount of visually-impressive digital splash damage.

But you barely even read that paragraph, right? You want to by-ROM read about the Light Cycles, which is perfectly understandable, and just as the Master Control Program intended. The Light Cycle sections literally glow in their high-def glory, doing their movie-trailer brethren proud—it's all streaking cybernetic con-trails, neon-trimmed suits, glossy real-time reflections and digital highways de-rezzing beneath your wheels as you jump from crumbling bridges and dodge aerial bombardment.

[image2]If you haven't visited the TRON preview-verse in a while, be aware that the days of hard, instant, 90-degree turns are outdated software; the new Light Cycles can lay down their trailing barriers of digital death in swooping, graceful curves.

One presentational bonus: We had our time with TRON: Evolution's PS3 incarnation, which meant the obligatory, added augmentation of striking 3D. True, we still had to wear the funny glasses—the digital, high-def, home-theater world isn't quite our own personal Nintendo 3DS just yet—but if ever a game/movie franchise demanded to presented in 3D, it's the TRON-verse, with its alluring, sprawling, reflective, neo-noir electronic vistas and searing neon highlights.

On a final humorous note, delving into The System has, as any TRON fan knows, its very real-world dangers, too. During our demo, we were pointedly warned by the Propaganda guys not to look directly at the screen—while wearing our fancy 3D glasses, anyway—when the (obviously pre-release) version of Evolution would beta-toggle between display modes. Of course, some of us lazier types didn't listen, and KWRONK!, I'm still not sure what happened, but it turns out that the eye-twisting anomalies resulting from that beta-build totally beta-bitch-slapped us right across the old rods and cones, presenting us with a disorienting image our eyes and brains could not deal with. Lesson: When the developer-dudes tell you to take the glasses off, take the glasses off.

TRON: Evolution will hit the Game Grid in conjunction with the release of the move-sequel TRON: Legacy. Log back in for our full System-scan when the game ships in November 2011. End of the World to follow.