"TRON" is easily one of the most influential video game movies of all time, which is somewhat unexpected since it was released in 1982, when video games were still in their infancy. The movie captured the imagination of a generation and spawned more than a few games of its own, from the original arcade game to Atari and Intellivision home console versions (TRON Deadly Discs, anyone?) and 2003's TRON 2.0. With next month's release of "TRON Legacy" comes TRON: Evolution for the consoles. It's the latest take on an iconic franchise and holds the promise of finally realizing the multiplayer action TRON fans have always wanted.
Set as a prequel to the new movie, TRON: Evolution ignored the events of TRON 2.0 out of necessity. Although TRON 2.0 provided an excellent single-player adventure (and effectively served as the movie sequel that many fans thought they would never have), the game never managed to effectively exploit its multiplayer potential. Monolith did the best it could with the technology at the time, but when it came to lightcycle racing and the split-second decisions necessary to survive, the hardware and Internet connections of seven years back just weren't up to it.
TRON: Evolution revisits the multiplayer arena in two ways: You can play on foot in all maps, but in some, you're also given the ability to hop into a lightcycle at will. Getting in and out of a lightcycle is a simple matter of a button press since the lightcycles aren't vehicles that you enter and exit. Just like in the film, these bad boys simply form right around your character when you switch into one.
Racing around in a lightcycle is easily the highlight of the multiplayer game, as the things are beyond nimble. When you initially get behind the wheel, the lightcycle feels a bit jittery, but after a few minutes of racing around, everything starts to click. Just like the previews for the new film, the lightcycles in TRON: Evolution aren't limited to straight lines. Sure, you can pull 90-degree turns with ease if you like, but you can also curve, weave, zig and zag throughout the course, all while leaving a wall of colored light in your wake.
The light trail doesn't persist forever, but it is long enough to cause some major havoc if you plan your route properly. While plenty of kills in the mixed matches came from disc use, players who knew how to maneuver were just as deadly with the lightcycle. There is nothing more satisfying than blazing past an opponent, only to hear some choice words emit from their mic since they just plowed headfirst into the light wall you left behind.
With that said, lightcycles weren't the only vehicle we played. The standard attack tank (driven by Clu in the original "TRON" film) is also available on the game grid. While slow, its main attack cannon packs quite the punch. If you can keep your opponents at a distance, it is a wonderful vehicle to have on hand. You'll have to find it, though, since it doesn't just appear like the lightcycle. Sadly, recognizers are not available for play. Here's hoping the red beasts make their way out via DLC.
Playing on foot is an interesting take on multiplayer; the standard deathmatch modes are here, but instead of a focus on "big guns," combat centers on melee moves and disc-based fighting. You have the ability to switch off between different discs (with different abilities), so experimenting with combat styles is necessary to find something that works for you. At first, the hand-to-hand combat was simply button-mashing, but much like racing the lightcycles, once you start to get a feel for it, there is a decent amount of depth with blocking and parrying being par for the course.
Maneuvering on foot is much like the single-player aspect of the game, with high mobility being the key. Drawing inspiration from both parkour and capoeira, players move about easily, running along the ground as well as along the walls. In fact, some of the recharging strips are located on the side walls, so running up is the only way to reach them. We're not entirely sure how the multiplayer will hold up over the long term, but it makes quite the first impression.
The four game modes available for multiplayer are disintegration (deathmatch), team disintegration (team deathmatch), bit runner (single flag CTF variant) and power monger. In power monger, the teams have to secure capture points and hold them. Each mode can be played on each of the game maps, though vehicles are only allowed on the larger maps.
Finally, there are the power-ups. While battling it out on the game grid, players will be able to restore health and energy with the overcharge, become temporarily invulnerable with the user mode pick up and enable a short-term, one-hit kill ability with the equalizer.
Movie-based video games have always had a rough time, and fan expectations for TRON (both the new game and the new movie) are exceedingly high. We didn't get a whole lot of time with the game, but what we saw of multiplayer was quite promising. If the single-player is at least as good as what was in TRON 2.0, Disney should have another winner on its hands. If not, then this is one game that will quickly be derezzed when final reviews hit next month.
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