Tron: Evolution: origins, elements and inspirations

As Tron: Evolution arrives on multiple formats, we take a look at its most prominent, recognisable elements and how they've evolved for a new generation...

Tron: Evolution

Tron’s game world is firmly rooted in the state-of-the-art circa 1982. It was a time when Taito’s Space Invaders was the tabletop game of choice for every youth club, and if you didn’t have a Atari 2600 at home you were relentlessly picked on. By kids in the year below you.

Tron: Evolution, a third-person action fest set seven years after the events of Tron, has all those elements, updated for the 21st century. We identify them and forensically trace their ancestry…

Light Cycles

Ad – content continues below

Tron’s Light Cycles are as central to the action in Tron: Evolution as they are to Tron and Tron: Legacy. Of course they are – Light Cycles has become a mythic game in its own right. The arcade game Tron kicked it off, but several unofficial adaptations have carried the torch since.

The legacy goes back further though. You may best know the gameplay template as Snake, ubiquitous on Nokia mobiles. The earliest example we can find is Blockade, released in 1976, swiftly followed by an Atari console version called Surround.

And, in Tron: Evolution, you get the same fast and furious gameplay in third-person 3D. Which is lovely. There’s one tweak you won’t find in any other Tron game ever (official or unofficial) – you can rez in and out of Light Cycle mode. This’ll be essential while playing the game, apparently.

Mind you, while wandering around the Light Cycle arena you’ll be as squishy as a supermarket carrier bag full of offal should a passing enemy choose to mow you down, so this tactic should probably be used sparingly.

ID Discs

ID Discs are still the main hand-to-hand combat weapons in Tron: Evolution. Deadly discs. That’s one of the reasons Tron is still so freakin’ cool. You can keep your BFGs and rocket launchers, I’ve got myself a frisbee here.

Ad – content continues below

So, discs of death. From whence did you come? We’d hazard a guess that they were inspired by the very first wave of sports-based games. By Pong and Breakout. The evidence? That comes from Tron itself, where gameplay on the Grid resembles the two-player arena format that any vintage console player will recognise for a bazillion cartridges of old. Speaking of which…


One of the main, roaming enemy vehicles in Tron, tank combat makes a revamped and upgraded appearance in Tron: Evolution, too. Old-school gamers will instantly identify two classic antecedents. The first is Atari’s Combat – one of the games that shipped with every 2600 back in the day. The gameplay was simple. You’re a tank. Your opponent’s a tank. You trundle around and try to shoot your opponent. Hurrah!

The second, cooler ancestor of Tron: Evolution’s tanks are the vehicles from arcade favourite Battlezone. Released just two years before the original Tron, the 3D vector style and luminescent grid are a clear influence on Tron’s aesthetic.Recognizers

Ad – content continues below

Updated in Tron: Evolution to be meaner and more menacing than their blocky, original incarnation in Tron, it’s pretty clear where the inspiration for these floaty, lumbering program destroyers sprang from. Space Paranoids, of course! Sorry, we meant Space Invaders. So, in Tron: Evolution, you’ll effectively get to know what it’s like to be set upon by a space invader, while riding a Light Cycle. Ladies and gentlemen, the geek factor has just been set to eleven.

Acrobatic Combat

Wha? How’s that supposed to be classic gaming lore updated for the 3D realm? Oh ye of little etc, etc. Have you never heard of Prince Of Persia? And Tomb Raider? And Prince Of Persia again? Yep. Tron: Evolution brings things right up to date with third-person, parkour-style combat moves that mark it out as a 21st century entry into videogame canon  – but the acrobatic style can be traced way back to Jordan Mechner’s iconic 1989 platformer.

And, spookily, as Tron: Evolution begins seven years after the events of Tron – that puts it right in the same time frame…

Tron: Evolution is due for release on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PSP on 26 November, with a PC version following on in December.

Ad – content continues below