Leveling up to a new "version" gives you access to more memory blocks, which you can use to buff your disc, or add health or energy boosters. The more energy you have, the more special combos you can use. There are two types of collectibles, but not enough of either and they aren't really all that useful. Collecting shards of Abraxis' disc may help you later in the game, but the "Tron files" are little more than text-only introductions to the various characters and weapons you'll encounter in the game. You can be forgiven for viewing them as an afterthought, since that's exactly what they are.
The last remaining sliver of gameplay is taken up with driving light tanks and light cycle races, although the light cycles in particular aren't what you might expect. The classic light cycle race from the 1982 film sparked such a flame of imagination that it's the only thing most people remember of the film, although the light cycles were only on screen for fewer than 10 minutes of the film's 96 minute running time. It's surprising then that Tron: Evolution has strayed so far form the formula here.
The light cycles are damn pretty and practically ever-present, but in execution bear only a passing resemblance to how they were used in the original film. You will scream across the grid in your light cycle (and later, in Flynn's), but you will encounter only a few enemy riders and the light trails are little more than set dressing. Instead, the challenge in these portions of the game is to stay on the road even as it de-rezzes under you, and to dodge obstacles that appear literally out of nowhere. It feels frustrating and unfair, at first, until you realize that even replaying the same section multiple times is still good fun. In fact, my biggest gripe about the light cycle racing is that there wasn't enough of it.
Tron: Evolution also features a hearty online mode in which you can enter The Game Grid to wage Tron-like battle against your fellows. Memory blocks earned in the single-player portion can be used to buff up your multiplayer stats, improving not only your own abilities but those of your light cycle and tank. The play here is as fluid and gorgeous as in the single-player portion, and will serve as a fun online diversion for Tron devotees, but owing to the relative lack of depth, it's hard to see it toppling Call of Duty.
Bottom Line: Tron: Evolution gets so much right, it's easy to forget it's a licensed game. It is at once familiar and brand new, and when it connects the dots it is as satisfying a game experience as they come. The good news is it rarely misses. It may not re-write the book on action games, but for licenses, it just might.
Recommendation: If you're looking for a good action game to play over a weekend, then you could do much worse. Tron geeks will likely want to own it and play it again and again.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Game: Tron: Evolution
Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Release Date: December 7th, 2010
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, PSP
Available from: Amazon