Beyond Good and Evil will either be a game you have played (and loved) or never even heard of. Unfortunately, it seems like the latter is the common answer: this classic Ubisoft gem never received sales that reflected anywhere near its quality.
What was charming and original about Beyond Good and Evil was that it took an adventurous step in an otherwise clichéd genre by having a female lead character, Jade. It was also interesting to see that her sidekick, and lifelong friend, was Pey’g, a walking, talking pig – an interesting combination of heroes if ever there was one. Developed in mind of creating a trilogy (which sadly has yet to realised) the game showed a lot a promise… and it didn't let down! Will the trilogy ever be completed? We hope so, and, from recent conversations with an Ubisoft worker it seems that there is “a lot of buzz about it in the office” – here’s to hoping!
If you look back over the history of gaming there are very few female leads – the ones that we know are all busty babes with no character depth. BGE broke this trend, smashed it in fact, when character Jade came out as an intelligent tomboy who uncovers the truth about the world using her camera, stealth skills, a few kick-arse moves, and, shockingly, intellect – perhaps this is a reason why it didn’t sell: cup size has proven to be the main driving force for many-a title.
The story is set on a world called Hillys where the population is under constant threat from an enemy force known as the DomZ. The defence of the planet is down to the useless Alpha Section, who do little to keep the population safe – things are clearly not how they should be. Jade, our heroine, suspects that something sinister is afoot, and decides to take action into her own hands in an attempt to uncover the truth behind the mysterious DomZ. Jade realises that, alone, she is powerless, but if the world were informed of Alpha Section’s corruptness, then the people may be able to rally together and form an uprising. To do this, she infiltrates both the DomZ and Alpha section – using her camera to uncover a truth she understands relatively little of.
What with Jade being a photojournalist, you can imagine that the camera is quite a key feature in the game: not only do you use it to capture incriminating evidence, but you also use it to take photographs of animals. Scattered throughout Hillys (and space) are a whole variety of creatures whose photographs will earn Jade cash (in the form of Pearls), which can then be used to upgrade your vehicle and make other essential purchases. Just photographing all the animals in the game is an adventure itself – both enjoyable and challenging.
Don’t get confused here though, Beyond Good and Evil is not just about taking photographs, it’s also an action game. There are many sections where Jade must sneak past the enemy, or – in what is most frequently the case – bash all sense out of them with her staff, and there are even levels where her trusty hovercraft comes into play. Also, at various points in the game Jade will be collaborating with other characters to orchestrate the downfall of Alpha Section (yes, this means you get to play as the pig). For the most, these characters are controlled by AI as part of Jade’s group, but there are some individual missions where you will be able to play as them on their own. We encountered few problems with the game's AI (except for when they ran in our line of fire and got duly whacked by Jade’s staff!) and it all seemed to be well thought out. The group dynamic is also great: there are items which can be shared between all of the party, which means you can assign health packs for other characters to use on their own accord; and you can even share out the character's health (they start complaining if they feel that Jade has more health than them – greedy SOBs!)
A great aspect of the game is how intuitive everything feels: the controls will come as standard to all adventure players, camera manoeuvrability is picked up in seconds, and there are even stealth aspects… that work – Sam Fisher fans, rejoice! Switching items between characters is simple, and being able to upgrade/downgrade their health is a fantastic idea. Then there are the hovercraft sections thrown into the mix: in these you must traverse the world and battle leviathan-like monsters. Of all the facets of the game and their controls, there is nothing that can be found frustrating or awkward – simply put; it’s a perfect system.
For all its beauty in story, the game does have a short length – the average player will have this done within 8 hours – but this isn’t really a bad thing, as you’ll certainly want to play this one again. Plus, you can extend the time it takes to reach the end by trying to photograph all the animals and collect all pearls scattered around the world – a truly enjoyable challenge.
Beyond Good and Evil is a game that focuses on character depth and involvement rather than voluptuous bimbos and their minimalistic storis. It’s an intelligent, refreshing, well-balanced, and entertaining piece of genius– essential for adventure fans. Please do not be put off by the whole ‘photographs speak louder than action’ message: this is truly an action-packed title, just with a bit more class.