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TVG plays the gold lightbike to Disney and Propaganda Games' blue one in Tron: Evolution...
I went to Chile last Christmas. Out in the countryside you see packs of stray dogs roaming around, pawing at every passing stranger for a scrap of affection, a moment's attention - maybe just a pat on the head. They all start to blur into one after a while; dusty, despondent, dejected, and desperate to be played with. The problem for these dogs is that - much like movie licenses - even the ones that don't obviously exhibit mange try just a bit too hard to be liked.
Tron: Evolution is set seven years after the events of the first film; a prequel to the upcoming Tron Legacy, it documents the transformation of Flynn's original utopia into the dystopian police-state of the new movie. You play as 'Anon', a system monitor created by Kevin Flynn (Tron's hero), that is tasked with investigating the mysterious emergence of the power-hungry ISO's and the rise of the malevolent Abraxas virus. This is a game set inside a computer, that you play on a... console. (Geek fact of the day: the real Abraxas virus first emerged in 1992; it overwrote infected programs with the text "...For he is not of this day...Nor he of this mind").
'Norton Antivirus: The Game' is a mixture of third person action-adventure and bike combat racing sections. The on-foot sections are of the Prince of Persia creed; expect to spend plenty of time wall-running over bottomless chasms in the minimalist neon blue cityscape of the digital world. Combat is surprisingly robust, if not particularly innovative. There are three basic attacks: melee, light disc (ranged), and special disc (heavy), which can be strung together into combos. Each of these attacks varies depending on your state of motion; sprinting results in attacks which are weaker but faster, while adopting a defensive stance by holding block increases the power and range of your special disc moves, and replaces your jump with a rolling dodge. Identikit anthropomorphic viruses spawn from the bitcrushed orange sludge infesting corners of the small enclosed combat areas of the game; based on what was played, it seems there's nothing particularly inventive or exciting about the enemy AI or level design, and it sometimes feels like fighting against a wave of uninspiring drones (in fairness, later enemies are said to require more complicated strategies of attack). Energy and health are recovered by running across illuminated 'Energy Transfer Channels' located on walls in the game, rather than traditional boxes and enemy pick-ups.
"Instead of walking over to the wall and picking up a medical pack, or picking it up off the floor from your enemies, you really have to think about how you're moving about the world to get back energy to use your special disc or to get health back for your character," explained Darren Hedges, the game's Director. "We really wanted to keep that perpetual motion and movement of the player in play at all times."
The light cycle section on display was a high speed chase through a stark disintegrating metropolis, which has you weaving around falling debris while avoiding the deadly orange trails of your enemy bikers. The track occasionally branches into higher and lower paths, and you have to avoid the damaged 'de-rez-ing' sections if you don't want to fall through into the inky void below. It's pretty old-skool in its unforgiving approach, with tangerine insta-kill light gates that descend from the heavens to block your path and some fairly difficult jumps to judge.
There's a levelling system in 'McAffee 2010: Judgement Day' that allows you to buy upgrades for your weapons and stats as you progress, in addition to a few different types of light disc to unlock. Interestingly, you have one persistent character for single-player and multiplayer, and all experience and perks earned in one cross over into the other. There are really only two maps in the multiplayer: a bike map, and a combat map with a slight variation on each making (technically) four; to be honest, I had to really pay attention to tell the difference between the two bike maps, and I'm still not sure whether I got to play on both combat maps or whether it was just the same map repeated a couple of times.
The bike map is a large rectangular arena littered with jumps and boost chevrons, with a ramp on either edge leading up to an overhead track. Instantaneous ninety-degree turns left and right are made by the light-cycles with a press of either bumper, leaving a deadly wall of light in their wake; at it's best, in 10-player free-for-all, it's like a frantic game of multiplayer Snake as you weave in and out of the multicoloured neon maze, trying to trap your adversaries by cutting across their paths at the last moment. You can 'de-rez' your bike at any moment and wander around on foot, with all of your standard attacks in place; getting hit by a light-cycle in this vulnerable state will kill you instantly but it's essential for replenishing your health along the ETC's and also for securing tank nodes. The tanks are pretty unassailable, and will crush bikes with ease, but they're rather slow and it's possible to trap them in a wall of neon death if you're nimble with the light-cycle.
In addition to the standard free-for-all and team deathmatch modes, Powermonger (Domination), and Bit Runner (capture the flag) are available for team play on each map. Bit Runner works best on the more compact combat maps; holding the 'bit' causes your energy to slowly drain down to minimum, and the vertical design results in a frenetic game of parkour-infused tag as you run up walls and jump between ledges to outpace your aggressors. Parrying and dodging add depth to the combat, but it's occasionally hard to distinguish your character amongst the throng of similar looking avatars.
There's nothing particularly offensive about 'AVG: Critical Update', but there just isn't anything that particularly stands out as original or inspired either; the multiplayer has its moments, but the visuals look downright ugly compared to the sleek minimalism of the single-player experience. Tron fans might want to pick this up, but with games such as Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood due out soon, most will probably just put it down like a stray dog.