by Al Warwick
previewed on X360
Reawakening of a slumbering franchise
The original Tron movie, a pioneering work of cinema and the beginning of an ever strengthening relationship and merging between videogames and film, is now nearly thirty years old. In this time there have been precious few spin-offs and sequels from either the 1982 film or the arcade game released the same year in any medium.
2004’s Tron 2.0 by old boys Monolith, released for the PC and Mac (and later XBox) was a fine highlight and a welcome return to the story focusing on original protagonist Alan Brady’s son Jethro whose exploits are too played in the unique environment of a computer’s internal organs.
The game managed to nail the notoriously difficult challenge set for videogame sequels released many generations after the original – to remain loyal and faithful to said entry yet pack enough punch and technical wizardry to satisfy a new audience who’d be playing without misty eyed sentimentality clouding their judgment.
The first person dynamics that have hurt so many games in their mission for integrity (I will just instantly heal all my wounds with one conveniently – and inexplicably – placed medipack) – worked here. The ‘instant upload’ workings of a computer program rendered such shortcuts not only acceptable but expected. The linear direction and restrictive game-play (again such a hindrance and no-no for any game but particularly FPS) only served to suit the game’s setting of a cramped and dangerous computer brain.
Another Doomed-to-Fail Videogame Adaptation?
Of course, the franchise receives its most heavyweight update in the form of the upcoming ‘Tron Legacy’ movie arriving in December. The early words for that are all positive and there looks to be a generous slice of fan service along with the superhero-movie wow factor (the bar of which has recently been raised by Marvel’s Iron Man) that we all expect nowadays.
Serving as a prequel to the movie sequel (with me here?), ‘Tron Evolution’ from Disney and Propaganda Games (revivers of the long-doomed Turok franchise) arrives on the big three this summer. ‘Evolution’ will feature plot elements and narrative scope that will be continued in the film – there is a direct link here between the products regardless of the differing medium (think Matrix-Animatrix-Enter the Matrix for the last good example of this).
Thankfully, this should all but ensure that Evolution will be as far away as possible from the lazy ‘videogame adaptation’ that follows every multiplex blockbuster and almost always pales in comparison (Transformers and Avatar are recent culprits).
Cell Shading at its best
The game itself looks to be something of a corker – with ‘looks’ being the buzz word here. A cell-shaded graphical engine now commonplace in every genre, but pioneered most successfully with Jet Set Radio, the visuals here look crisp, clean and engrossing.
The game-play itself looks to be predominantly third-person adventure fare with the obligatory racing/key finding/ puzzle aspects thrown in for good measure. Early glimpses also hint to a target market non-exclusive to the kids which is important for a videogame of a film which so often dumps down its ingredients once the shift takes place.
A Purist’s Delight?
The disc blades and light bikes are back – the latter of which have sparked controversy and fervent debate amongst purists as they can now curve in their steering – and the trailer for the game has showcased its action orientated nature. Some epic set pieces which underline the varied combat situations that the narrative looks to cook up are also clear by the preciously short preview video.
Said purists may also spot that the main protagonist has a yellow hue – a sign of corruption within previous installments of the Tron mythology, which is hardly original, but somehow all the more interesting given the surroundings and make-up of the Tron universe.
Never Underestimate the Power of Marketing
Despite rightfully positive reviews across the board, Tron 2.0 did not sell well on any platform, the reasons for which could be down to anything from a lack of marketing, an obsession with GTA-esque realist gaming culture or simply that the Tron franchise needed some big budget mentioning to surge back into the psyche of today’s modern gamers.
Well Tron Evolution has just that, and despite the thin details so far, the polished visuals, studio license and important narrative role with both the original movie and the upcoming sequel should ensure a better performance on the high street.