Tron: Evolution is Prince of Persia but more neon. There are neon frisbees, neon bikes, neon tanks, neon suits, neon baddies, neon skyscrapers and neon laser beams. Sadly, all this glowing gas can't make up for some sloppy controls, repetitive combat and a limited multiplayer mode. Tron of Persia had potential, but it feels like a knock-off that doesn't make nearly enough of its quite brilliant licence.
Set between the first film and the events of the forthcoming sequel, Evolution tells the story of the supposed murder of computer program Tron and real life programmer Flyn (played by Jeff Bridges). Your character, Anon - a faceless, voiceless hero - joins forces with Flyn's surrogate daughter, Quorra (played by 13 from House), as you attempt to protect the system from corruption.
You might think it's a bit harsh to label this as a knock-off, but Propaganda's third-person action adventure feels like a less refined version of Ubisoft's game with added projectile attacks. Anon can run up and across walls, leap from ledge to ledge, wall jump and generally get about in a very nimble fashion. He's also a dab hand at combat, using his disc to dish out devastating attacks.
Initially Anon's attacks are limited to the basic heavy disc, but soon other variants are unlocked, including bomb and stasis versions; the former does exactly what you'd expect, while the latter slows down enemies when hit. Each disc comes with a variety of moves, carried out by using three of the face buttons and the triggers. You can perform some pretty nifty-looking moves by the time you've ranked up Anon to level 12, but never does the game feel like a great hack 'n' slash. You mash buttons and make sure you're using the right disc for the enemies facing you, but an incredibly basic counter move and the complete lack of a dodge prevent Tron from being anything more than competent.
So what of the platforming elements, then? Well, at times it's very good, with Anon able to nip about the environment, leaping over obstacles, running across walls and latching onto glowing orange orbs. But things can get annoying very quickly. It's far too easy to miss your launch point when trying to vault onto a handhold, meaning you'll likely spend a lot of time plummeting to your death time and time again. It's not that the platforming is hard, but that Anon is quite easy to walk off the top of a platform. You need a run up to successfully use a vaulting point, but unless you're careful you'll make him dash straight off the end of ledges, to his doom.
A big disappointment for fans of the original film will be the distinct shortage of Lightcycle sequences. Even when the iconic bikes do show up, these sections suffer from twitchy handling and a plethora of instant-kill obstacles. You're always simply trying to avoid falling debris until you reach the end, and once you've ridden a bike (fairly early on in the game) you won't want to do it again. The drivable tanks are another missed opportunity, plodding along as nearly indestructible killing machines, firing out powerful rounds that obliterate everything in their way. While these sequences should be thrilling, they become tiresome as soon as you've fired the cannon a few times.
And yet despite these criticisms, Tron isn't a bad game. The fact that it's like Prince of Persia, albeit a slightly sloppy version, means it's got something going for it, while the combat (when you're not going from identikit room to identikit room) is often quite exciting and depicted with a clear cinematic flare. But there's only so much of the same old formula you can take before it becomes boring. I lost count of the times I entered a room, the citizens inside screamed and legged it, and guards appeared, the doors locking behind them. When you're not doing some form of acrobatics, that's the game in a nutshell.
If you've seen the original film or trailers for the soon-to-be-released sequel you'll know just how visually spectacular the world of Tron is. The game does a decent job of capturing this look, but it's not quite eye-popping enough. The world certainly impresses with its built-up city streets and neon lights, but it's just missing that wow factor. Things aren't helped by some rather clumsy animations and transitions between them, and there's a distinct lack of memorable set-pieces. In fact, the most impressive moments come when the cool looking Recognizer ships fly into view to drop off soldiers. The soundtrack is ultra stylish, though, while the voice acting is top notch. Evolution is a nicely put together package, but its visuals are hurt by a severe lack of variety.
Main story aside, there's also a 10-player multiplayer mode to try, although the standard deathmatch style action doesn't suit the game's combat. Deathmatch, capture the flag and king of the hill variants are on offer, and some of the maps allow you to switch to your lightcycle on the fly, but the handling doesn't lend itself to a frenetic multiplayer experience. It doesn't help that hardly anyone is playing the game at the moment - and it's already been out for two weeks.
Tron: Evolution is simple fun, but let down by a fairly short campaign that becomes samey far too quickly. The combat stops evolving too soon, and the lightcycles are a big disappointment. Multiplayer sounds good on paper but isn't something worth investing much time in. Obsessive Tron fans will appreciate the story that links to the two movies, but everyone else can easily give this a miss.