WELCOME TO THE MACHINE: The new Disney film “Tron: Legacy” picks up the story of the 1982 movie “Tron,” which was neither a critical nor a commercial success but somehow still echoes in pop culture as an early signpost of the digital era’s glowing frontier. “Tron” is remembered more for its ideas and images (and its namesake video game) than for its story or characters, and that is a challenge presented to this new film, which stars Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde. Here’s a review of the game from our “Tron” expert, Jay West.
“Games? You want games? I’ll give you games.”
— Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn in “Tron”
Movies with video game tie-ins seem to have been around forever, however, it all started with the movie “Tron”: the 1982 classic Bally/Midway arcade game was the first major video-game movie tie-in. Having played every gaming incarnation of Tron ever released — starting with the original arcade games of Tron and Discs of Tron (and their contemporary emulations on the Xbox 360), the Intellivision and Atari cartridges, the Tomy electronic hand-held game, the Tron 2.0 Xbox, PC, and Nintendo Game Boy Advance games (Killer App), and even the Tron Ideal board game — it’s now seemingly appropriate then that the latest version to be released is called Tron: Evolution — which is a new, multi-platform video-game tie-in to the recently released “Tron: Legacy” movie — now available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC, PSP, and Nintendo DS gaming platforms. For my review of Tron: Evolution, I played both the PS3 and Wii versions of the game.
Tron: Evolution serves as a second act of the Tron saga’s story — the original “Tron” being the first, and the newly released “Tron: Legacy” being the third. Darren Hedges, a game director at Propaganda Games who produced the Tron: Evolution video game with Disney Interactive, calls the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC versions “The Empire Strikes Back” of the Tron saga — referring to the type of conflict that the protagonists in the original “Star Wars” trilogy encountered with it being the darker, second act. The Wii, PSP, and Nintendo DS versions of Tron: Evolution occur just prior to those events — when video games were played for sport on The Grid — before the digital world of Tron fell into chaos and oppression by the tyrannical, program-gone-bad by the name of CLU (an in-his-30s incarnation of Kevin Flynn played by digitally de-aged Jeff Bridges in the movie).
The Kevin Flynn and CLU characters both play a major role in the game’s narrative of the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC versions — in these versions of the game, you are able to see the moment in which the mirror “cracks,” so to speak, between them — when CLU turns against his creator, setting the stage for the conflict and story of “Tron: Legacy.” The character of Quorra (voiced by Olivia Wilde) is introduced here, and Tron (voiced by Bruce Boxleitner) is also present. The gaming developers at Propaganda worked very closely with the “Tron: Legacy” filmmakers to achieve a uniformity in story and design between the movie and video games.
Players will see these events unfold via their character Anon — short for Anonymous, a prototype system monitor program created by Kevin Flynn to work with Tron in keeping order on The Grid. Your program is also assisted by Quorra in the fight against CLU and the deadly virus character called Abraxas — whom CLU has unleashed on the inhabitants of Tron City. Game play involves “Prince of Persia”-styled parkour movement, as well as capoeira — with Anon running along walls and jumping from ledge to ledge to propel him through the digital landscape, and for battling soldiers of CLU and Abraxas. These battles occur in Tron disc skirmishes, as well as with other classic Tron gaming vehicles: Lightcycles and battle tanks. All of this leads up to a climactic duel with Abraxas — and the ending of the game features an important meeting and union of characters that play out significantly in “Tron: Legacy.” It’s all engaging gameplay, and it’s intriguing to see how this game’s story parlays so well into the events of the movie.
The HD graphics are sleek and faithfully replicate the look of the characters and settings in “Tron: Legacy,” and the Dolby Digital surround sound is immersive and enveloping, with plenty of sci-fi sound elements and ambiance to further draw you into the game. A couple of tracks from Daft Punk’s “Legacy” score, along with music by the popular video game composer Sascha Dikiciyan (who also goes by the name Sonic Mayhem), make up the game’s electronica soundtrack.
There’s a couple of features unique to the PS3 version: a state-of-the-art, stereoscopic 3-D option for 3D-capable HDTVs, as well as support for the PlayStation Move motion controller during the Lightcycle story mode gameplay. The 3-D aspect of this game is quite impressive — providing considerable depth and added dimension the likes of the 3-D seen in “Tron: Legacy” — and the PS Move motion controller was a blast to play with, where one holds the controller in a similar way to holding bars on a motorcycle. Here’s a further look at those features:
As much as I enjoyed playing the story mode of the game, I enjoyed playing the multiplayer online aspect of the game the most — which is commonly an area where many gamers find the greatest form of repeat playability and long-term appeal in games — and it was here that I felt the game designers captured the strongest essence of classic “Tron”-like gaming. In multiplayer mode, you can jump straight into gladiatorial type of gaming along with up to 12 online players or AI (artificial intelligence) bots — with a choice of four game modes: The first is Disintegration, where players compete individually to derezz their opponents. The player with the highest derezz total, having wiped out the most players, wins. Team Disintegration, where teams compete to derezz the other team’s players. Bit Runner, where a central bit is available to be acquired, teams compete to pick up the bit and stay on the grid while the other team attempts to derezz the bit runner and acquire the bit. The team with the most points holding the bit wins. And Power Monger, where teams compete to secure capture points. Energy nodes have to be linked in order to gain points.
The Wii version of the game, which adds “Battle Grids” to the Tron: Evolution title, features highly stylized, cartoon-like graphics — and is set in the digital world when gaming tournaments were played for fun, competitive sporting. As a result, this version of the game features brightly colored landscapes, vehicles, and costuming versus the previously discussed version of the digital world, which has darker tones in its visuals and story. Here the player can indulge in four modes of game play: Grid Games, where you play Tron-inspired arcade-like games including Light Cycle Racing, Light (Identity) Disc Battles, Light Runner Combat, and Hyperball; Championship Mode, where you create your own customized party mode and battle for the top spot in a tournament; Story Mode, where you explore a unique story mode on your quest to become the Grid champion; and Multiplayer, where you can compete against up-to-four-player local multiplayer events on the same Wii.
The Wii controllers work very well with the game — and I enjoyed playing all of the game modes — with Hyperball being my particular favorite. It replicates a scene from the original “Tron” movie where Flynn engages in a jai alai-style game. Here you have a large scoop on one arm to catch and throw a light ball to hit and refract off a ceiling in order to knock out the platform rings that your opponent stands on. This marks the first time this has been offered in a Tron-based video game — and it’s great to see its inclusion.
The Wii version also has Dolby Surround sound and features an emphatic blend of arcade-gaming action sounds and up tempo, house-style music that includes Daft Punk’s “The Grid” and “Derezzed” tracks from their “Tron: Legacy” score.
There’s also a Tron: Evolution collector’s edition for the Xbox 360 and PS3 — which includes a limited-edition Lightcycle created by collector favorite Sideshow Collectibles — that is based upon the style and design of the Lightcycles in the video game, and which is only available via this set. As well, there are limited edition Tron-themed gaming controllers available for the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii gaming platforms — each featuring illuminating blue circuitry.
The Tron: Evolution video games make for great synergy with the “Tron: Legacy” movie, giving both gamers and moviegoers the opportunity to fuse the experiences together, and making worthy entries into Tron’s (ahem) legacy of video-game history.
— Jay West
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