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TRON Evolution - Some Early Predictions

By TronFAQ on Thursday, November 25, 2010 at 11:29 PM
If you've been reading this site for any length of time, you've probably noticed that I've said very little about TRON Evolution for the last year. Why is that, you might ask.

Out of fairness to the game, I've been waiting until the last possible moment prior to release, before forming an opinion. I think I've seen enough previews now, to draw an accurate conclusion about the quality of the title. Evolution is scheduled to be released tomorrow (November 26th, 2010) in the UK and possibly most of Europe. (I've found conflicting information as to whether it's just the UK, or a broader European release. So it's not clear at this point.) The North American release date is December 7th, 2010.

Frankly, I don't understand the reasoning behind the staggered release schedule because it's practically inviting people to pirate the game. In fact, the 360 version of Evolution was already pirated a couple of days ago. (So much for piracy only being a PC problem.)

There's also Battle Grids for the Wii, which is a completely different game from Evolution for the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. And there are also DS and PSP versions, which are again different.

But let's now take a look at a couple of videos that preview Evolution.

After seeing that, you're probably thinking: "OMFG, this game is going to own!" Yeah, of course it looks awesome. It's a pre-rendered animation done by Digital Domain, who did the CGI on TRON Legacy. But it's not actual gameplay, so it's useless as a means to base any kind of informed opinion.

Let's take a look at Giant Bomb's preview instead. It's a whole half-hour of real gameplay. But be warned that the preview spoils a fair bit of the game.

Let's go over certain points in the video.
  • 00:20 - Disney/Propaganda decided to drop the "The Video Game" subtitle from TRON Evolution. Good call. Any game with "The Video Game" as part of its title sounds more than a little tacky.

  • 03:26 - Watch as the employee from Disney Interactive tries to do the parkour moves in order to progress through the level. Is that supposed to be fun? Having to make jumps with fairly precise aim and timing, and then having to do them again and again when you don't manage, doesn't look all that fun to me. A lot of players grumbled about the jumping puzzles in TRON 2.0. Now they've taken the worst part of the previous game, and made that the main gameplay mechanic throughout the entire Single Player campaign.

  • 3:43 - The game's director, Darren Hedges, reveals that there are around 9 levels in the game. (They're on Level 6 and he says they're roughly "two-thirds" of the way through.) Much later at the 17:54 mark, he mentions that total Single Player gameplay length is about 8 hours. This game is short.

  • 5:57 - Hedges makes a point about the player having all sorts of choice in Evolution, and then explains how in a particular area you can either jump up and hit a switch or stay below to hit the switch. That's meant as a good example of choice? Whether to hit a switch from above or below? Sorry, but the level progression still looks very linear to me.

  • 7:01 - Here we can see the other main game mechanic. Brawl style combat, from a third-person perspective. I prefer first-person, but could live with third-person if the gameplay makes up for it. Unfortunately, this brawling combat looks repetitive and boring. The AI seem like pushovers. Just mash the buttons, and beat the crap out of your opponents without having to think too much. The disc is auto-aim, so you have no fine control over it like you did in TRON 2.0. So not much skill or finesse required for disc combat. Also note the text hints on-screen. I hope there's an option to turn this hand-holding measure off.

  • 9:14 - Hedges mentions persistent player progression, where the player can take his or her skill level and abilities from the Single Player game into Multiplayer, and vice-versa. While this sounds cool in theory, I have to wonder how well it will work in practice. The game had better do player matchmaking based on the players' levels, or else matches in Multiplayer will not be very fun.

  • 15:30 - Here again, the Disney Interactive employee demoing the game falls to his death more than once. Jumping puzzles still aren't fun.

  • 19:00 - Hedges mentions that the energy strips on the walls are supposed to keep you constantly moving and progressing rather than "just, basically, walking into a room, plowing your way through - you know - a bunch of bad dudes, and then going to the next room and just repeating it ad infinitum". Well, how does this "high mobility system" prevent that? What a load of bafflegab. It doesn't change anything.

  • 22:33 - Hedges mentions how the PS3 version supports 3-D. What he neglects to mention is that the PC version also supports 3-D. But, honestly, how many people will have the 3-D TV or monitor and glasses, to take advantage of it? It's not a huge selling point at this time. It's really more of a marketing gimmick, than anything.

  • 23:07 - Here, Single Player Light Cycle gameplay is demoed. And, again it looks boring. It's entirely an on-rails experience. You're only allowed to go down a guided track, while explosions go off around you and structures collapse. So all you do is just dodge things, with the occasional opponent Light Cycle showing up. If that's all there is to riding Light Cycles, then it's not really impressive.

  • 25:08 - The DI employee mentions that 90 degree turns have been implemented for Light Cycles in Multiplayer. This was not originally the plan, and only because of fan protests did Propaganda add it at the last-minute. Kind of astonishing to believe they hadn't made it a priority earlier. Then they go on to gripe about how it was difficult to make it work with the physics middleware they're using, which is why they didn't do it sooner. They make it sound so difficult when it really isn't.

  • 27:01 - Now we're shown the Light Tank. While this game mechanic is simplistic as well, at least it will give players an immense sense of satisfaction when they go around blowing away enemies. This is one of the few parts demoed that actually looks like it could be fun.

Finally, at the end of the preview at the 30:32 mark, Hedges is asked if he looked at what came before, when designing Evolution. He mentions TRON 2.0, shareware TRON games, and reading up on what fandom said they wanted.

Indeed, TRON Evolution looks like a game that made a shopping list of must-have features. Those features read pretty closely to a wish list I compiled years ago. But unfortunately, along with implementing what fans wished for: Propaganda also went shopping for what they thought were "cool" features in other current games and ripped them off, in an effort to be trendy and to create what they desperately hope is the recipe for a very successful game.

TRON is not Prince of Persia. TRON is not Mirror's Edge. TRON is not Assassin's Creed. TRON is not Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions. TRON is not Enter the Matrix.

TRON is TRON. Instead of focusing alone on the strengths of what makes TRON unique (Light Cycles, Recognizers, Tanks, pure Disc Combat), they crammed in all these other gameplay elements that fit uneasily into the TRON universe and instead seem forced.

I think Spoony summed up best in his video preview a lot of people's reactions (and certainly mine) when he essentially said: "Parkour? In TRON? No. Just . . . no." This isn't the first time Propaganda has blatantly ripped off other sources, as Yahtzee explains (video is NSFW). The developers try to justify these "borrowed" gameplay elements at the end of this article, but it sounds like they're really reaching when they come up with reasons as justification.

TRON Evolution doesn't look like it will be the kind of game that I'll enjoy much. It's all about being cool and edgy, with lots of sprawling combat and not much else. It has none of the charm or sense of wonder that TRON 2.0 had. The only positive things I can say are that the environments (graphics) look very good, the Light Tank sections look like they could be fun, and Multiplayer seems as if it could be promising. That's about it.

And I think a lot of fans will agree. Particularly those who like old-school TRON. Disney, naturally, is saying and hoping that Evolution will be a huge hit. Of course they would say that, what else would they say? But I'm going out on a limb to predict that Evolution won't be a great success.

Sure, it will probably sell decently. At least one million copies. Which seems to be the minimum required not to be a complete "failure" in today's market. It gets to ride on the coattails of TRON Legacy and has the massive marketing hype machine of the film behind it, after all. Something that TRON 2.0 didn't have, and it went under most people's radars unappreciated as a result.

Disney's Interactive division had some more management shake-ups and has been seeing losses for a long time. TRON Evolution won't change that. It won't be a big hit.

Meanwhile, the film itself - TRON Legacy - should be a box office smash.

November 26th, 2010 UPDATE: Disney Interactive has delayed the PC release of TRON Evolution in the UK until an unspecified date in December. (Scroll to the bottom of this article for the news.) I imagine it will be December 7th, the same date as the release in North America. Unless Disney pulls the same stunt here too, and delays it again. How did I know they would pull this crap? Thanks to fellow LDSO member Win3K for the news.
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2 comments so far.

  1. James December 02, 2010 5:56 PM
    Faq I couldn't agree with you more! I haven't really been into this game like I was with 2.0. A week before 2.0 I was all over the demo, jacked into tron sector and the game forum (if you could call it that). I was expecting something far different then what I've seen from EVO but maybe it will turn into something I like...I have to say the movie will come first and If there are enough 2.0 old heads on EVO I will go ahead and get it.
  2. Anonymous December 03, 2010 11:47 AM
    I have been playing this game on and off over the past few days (PSP version) and, while it seems very shiny and new, it reminds me of the GBA version but not necessarily in a good way. Once you are properly into the game, it becomes what someone labelled the GBA version: "mini-game hell". Except it somehow lacks the appeal of Tron Killer App (and, contrary to received wisdom in some quarters, I like the Gameboy Advance version a lot). There seems to be a number of unlockable levels and customisations in TE (and a code input feature, which may provide some other options), but I suspect I will be using the Quick Play feature a lot more once I finish the game.

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