Beyond Good & Evil is one of those games that came to us quietly, sneaking in, Sam Fisher-like, under everyone’s radar. Gamers were either too immersed in Project Gotham Racing 2 or speculating on the possible release date of Halo 2 to even notice this amazing little treasure. And what a treasure BG&E is, as this is one game that has come to us in the form of an intelligent, visually stimulating multi-genre experience. Simply put, this game is amazing.
The planet Hillys is at war with a vicious alien race known as the DomZ. The citizens face the threat of attack daily, and their only protection comes in the form of an elite military division, the Alpha Section. The general public believes they are being served heroically by the Alpha Section, but there are those dissenters that believe that there is more than meets the eye, especially as residents have been mysteriously disappearing as of late. Enter Jade, our intrepid heroine who will use her investigative skills to find the truth.
Jade is recruited by the insurgent IRIS Network, an underground organization determined to expose the government conspiracy involving the DomZ attacks and the government’s relationship with the Alpha Section. She is sent in to take the place of Double H, an IRIS agent who has been lost in the field.
Jade will have many objectives throughout the game, the most important being to gather evidence to expose the vast conspiracy between the government and the aliens. However, Jade will also need to earn money to buy essentials, such as Starkos (synthetic, bread-like energy boosters) and PA1s, which increase her physical stamina. The most profitable way to earn units, the Hillyan currency, is to photograph the local wildlife for the Science Center. For each new species sent in, you receive units based on the rarity of the specimen and the Science Center’s interest in it. When you fill a roll of film, you are given a pearl, which are very rare and are also the only form of payment accepted at Mammago’s Garage, where you can buy upgrades for your hovercraft.
In the game world, you can also earn units by placing bets against the locals at the Akuda Bar. You can try your hand at “Three Shell Monty” or the Hillyan version of air hockey, which is highly addictive. Or, you can take your hovercraft down to the races and enter the competition. First place is worth prize money and a pearl.
The plot in BG&E focuses on puzzle-solving and exploration over fighting, so the button combinations are fairly simple; mostly just a touch of a button will do the trick. Some things, such as jumping across chasms and grabbing onto ledges are automatic. All you have to do is point Jade in the right direction and she’ll do the rest. Although the gameplay is simple, it never gets boring. There are so many other things to think about, it is nice to not have to worry about a series of complex button patterns to perform a move.
Don’t be fooled though, Jade is a fighter at heart and is a martial arts expert, using her Dai-Jo stick and a Gyro Disc glove to take on any enemy, no matter their size or ferocity. Although the game does not feature a complex fighting system, it is intuitive, and fits well with the flow of the game.
There are quite a few parallels that can be drawn between BG&E and another brilliant Ubisoft venture, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Both games are original in vision and showcase impressive graphics and gameplay. The fighting systems are similar, although the Prince has a few more moves in his repertoire, but both systems work well with their respective gameplay styles. Both games provide the main character with sidekicks, to supply comic relief and help solve some of the puzzles that require teamwork.
Jade may not be as athletic as the Prince, but she puts up quite a fight, back flipping between multiple enemies and using her special attack to smash opponents to pieces. She can also use her Gyro Disc Glove to shoot long-range energy disks at enemies or use it to activate switches.
Jade’s companions include her uncle Pey’j, a somewhat cantankerous walking and talking pig with a penchant for gadgets, and Double H, an absentminded but chivalrous IRIS agent. These cohorts will accompany her through most of the game, fighting alongside our green-eyed heroine and helpfully carrying out tasks for Jade at the push of a button.
When I first heard about BG&E, I was intrigued, so I went to the website for more information. When I saw the screenshots, I was doubtful. They looked great, but I wasn’t convinced I would like the cartoon-like aspect, since I have become accustomed to the realism provided us by the next-gen consoles. Playing Beyond Good & Evil has made me realize that it is nice to have a break from all of the realism now and then, and that cartoon-style graphics can truly be artistic. The world that Ubisoft has shown us in this game is beautiful and creative, full of color and inhabited by a unique variety of flora and fauna.
The characters in BG&E are life-like and move fluidly, capturing emotion and adding depth to their personalities. The city itself is alive and teeming with activity, including fishing boats rocking in the water and aircraft zooming by overhead. Within the city, the Pedestrian District is a great setting, with everything from shady street merchants to the local bar helping to make it seem more realistic. There are also massive T.V. screens scattered throughout the Pedestrian District, spreading the media’s propaganda, thus adding to the intensity of the situation.
Another thing that brings this game to life is the exceptional sound, featuring ambient noise that really puts you in the setting and fantastic sound effects for the variety of animals and vehicles. The soundtrack is near cinematic quality and adds to the depth by including songs that pertain to life on Hillys. For example, while Jade is at the Akuda Bar you can hear the background music make reference to “stupid propaganda.” The voice acting is also done really well, and includes some clever dialogue between Jade and her two companions.
Beyond Good & Evil not only combines many different layers of gameplay, but it combines many different genres. It is an adventure game at heart, but the sheer scope and ambitiousness of the game, coupled with the level of interactivity with the environment and depth of non-playable characters give it a definite RPG feel. The hovercraft provides a fun driving aspect, which blends seamlessly with the plot, instead of seeming like another gimmicky GTA add-on. There is also a bit of stealth action, which again complements the story rather than just feeling extraneous. Ubisoft has proven that such elements can be safely blended together with very pleasing results.
Throughout gaming history there have been many video games featuring immersive storylines, but I have never been truly sucked in by any of them until now. I guess somehow I still knew they were video games, so I never became that invested in the characters or the plot. Beyond Good & Evil has not just sucked me in; it has swallowed me whole. It started almost immediately after I loaded it into my Xbox. I was so captivated by the story unfolding I didn’t realize the action had started and I was almost killed by an attacking DomZ. I can barely tear myself away from it to write this review. I want to know what is happening. I want to know who is behind it all, and who is involved. In other words, I am Jade, fighting to weed through all of the propaganda and lies to uncover the truth.
- Gameplay: 9.2
- Graphics: 9.3
- Sound: 9.2
- Replay: 6.5
- Overall: 9.4
- If you want beauty, style and substance, you want this game.
— J. Paradise