A new Tron movie signals the arrival of a new Tron video game. Unfortunately, this one could fall into the trap of licensed games -- substandard gameplay leaning heavily on an anticipated license. And the team at Propaganda Games has a big hurdle to overcome, as they're not only expecting to get this prequel out the door by the time the movie releases, but before.
That said, even though the game borrows a lot of ideas from action/platforming games like Prince of Persia, what's there is nicely polished and makes good use of both the license's history and the new movie's aesthetic. If nothing else, Tron Evolution: The Video Game might end up being a fun way for fans of the Tron setting to further explore the mythos.
There's not much to say about the actual gameplay I saw -- it's a standard beat-em-up in 3D with some wall-running platforming thrown into the mix, and while you can earn XP for extra moves to upgrade three different combat modes, it's nothing you haven't seen before. There are, of course, light cycles in the game (I played both an action segment, with the game's hero racing down a highway and avoiding explosions, and the standard light cycle battle), but neither mode intrigued me much. Not that anything is broken -- Propaganda knows how to make a game work by this point. But there was no real innovation in the gameplay I saw, nothing to make me choose this game over any other of its kind.
The real draw, then, will likely be in the story. As I said, the game is a prequel to the new movie, with the player controlling a program created by Jeff Bridges' Kevin Flynn to help him uncover a conspiracy in the world. Propaganda says it has designed the game in such a way that "as you're playing the game, for example, you're going to come across a series of events, a series of characters, that you're actually going to influence and move forward with. When you then go see the movie, you'll be looking at the movie going, 'Oh my god, I did that. That was me that created that effect, that's how that character evolved, that's how the world evolved because of what I did.'" That's a cool idea, and if Propaganda is to be believed, the game will expand the meaning of the film without ruining or spoiling it ahead of time.
The graphics will help bridge that gap, too. The game does look good, and the team worked with the movie's set and costume designers to make sure they nailed down the same sort of cool cyberpunk neon aesthetic that the movie has. I actually watched the game running in 3D, and while the experience was clumsy (complete with special shuttered glasses), it did look good.
Tron Evolution doesn't necessarily seem like a bad game, just one that's not very inventive. If there is something new about it, I haven't seen it yet -- the developers mentioned a new vehicle called a light tank, and that promises something interesting. But that may be enough if all you want to do is geek out to the story of Kevin Flynn before the movie comes out.