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Beyond Good & Evil (Xbox) artwork

Beyond Good & Evil (Xbox) review


"Just who are telling the truth and who are the traitors? Jade, and ultimately, you, will have to see this through your photographic lens to believe it and expose it to Hillys before it's too late."



If the rumours are true, director Peter Jackson's latest film license King Kong was sold to Ubisoft off the strength of Beyond Good & Evil. Perhaps this is just some propaganda-heavy news article made up by the same shifty sources who annually promise a forthcoming Legend of Dragoon 2 or an end to the bloody Army Men series, but it's a nice line, and I choose to believe it.

Why? Because I want to believe that Mr. Jackson is like me, and has at some point fell in love with a hauntingly beautiful game. A game so perfectly made that he wants the same care and attention afforded to his film spin-off.

Perhaps protagonist Jade is about as different as everyone's favourite skyscraper-climbing chimp as you could imagine, but she shares the same never-say-die attitude. The young and lithe girl spits in the face of the stereotypical game heroine norm with cup sizes doubling her IQ by being a more natural character, with real concerns and emotions. Her world of Hillys is being invaded by a parasitical race of aliens known only as the DomZ, [EmP's note: words starting and ending in capital letters are cool] forcing Jade and her uncle Pey'j to convert their lighthouse home into a makeshift orphanage for all the Hillian children who's parents have fallen victim to the evil race.

The concern she holds for her adoptive family never fails to shine through in a refreshingly human way. This motherly resolve is tested to the extreme when a shower of the aforementioned intergalactic invaders crash-land on her peaceful island, unhindered by the protective force-field that usually shield their abode thanks to a late-paid electricity bill. Beyond Good & Evil wastes no time in throwing you headfirst into battle as the coffin-shaped DomZ surge from their meteor-like vessels, eyeing up your adoptive family hungrily.

If Jade shares one trait with the stereotypical heroines that thrive on the grassy plains of Videogameonia, it's that she can kick large amounts of arse. Which is handy, as the DomZ capture Hillians and store them inside their perplex-like innards to be used as some kind of biological battery cell. Won't anyone think of the poor children!? The crafty aliens do, as the unfortunate orphans are quickly kidnapped and made to be the strangest-looking set of AAA-batteries you're likely to see.

Solve this by employing a typical real-time battle set-up, pumping your attack button to smash, poke and prod the scaly green fiends to death with a handy bit of flaming scrap-wood Jade grabs up as she runs to the defence of the kids. With the right combination of button mashing and direction nudging, you'll find Jade to be quite the capable ninja. She'll spin gracefully, the flaming branch swung in an unblockable arc of death; she'll flip effortlessly, letting her feet cartwheel into any foes that bar her way; she'll even break into fluid combos cultivating in a harsh-looking jump-up-and-WHACK! The DomZ will fall quickly, their delicate looking limbs splintering from their main bodies and their transparent stomachs shattering, allowing the captive orphans inside to scamper free. Jade responds perfectly to your orders and the enemy forces stand no chance in the face of your onslaught.

Until the real threat is unleashed. Huge, meaty tentacles straight out of a Zigfried hentai dream gone wrong rip out from the ground and seize our heroine, pulling her into the newly exposed underground lair. It looks like things could go badly for young Jade as she is confronted by a huge circular eyeball supported by a slim stem, but back-up arrives in the form of Pey'j, her adopted uncle.

So starts the first of the boss battles that litter Beyond Good & Evil. A no longer trapped Jade is free to dispense thumping pain with her newly acquired Da-Jo staff, while issuing simple orders to the exuberant Pey'j. This two-character system is excellent for all the right reasons, and the game will often ensure that you pair up to overcome tricky enemies or obstacles, but wily players will notice something peculiar about your robust rescuer as soon as he emerges.

Pey'j is a humanoid pig.

As good as the mechanics of the game are, and hopefully I've impressed upon you the fact they are really good, what makes Beyond Good & Evil shine is the breathtakingly complex world it creates. Pey'j isn't the only hybrid species out there: you'll find a host of others including bulls, goats, sharks and cats. If that wasn't enough for you, Ubisoft have gone to great pains to flesh out their world in all manner of original wildlife to populate their virtual kingdom -- but not without purpose. Once Jade dispossess of her uninvited guests, she'll find herself presented with a contract which will force her to snatch up her trusty camera and try and get documented evidence of several of these life-forms. Complying will earn her some much needed cash that, amongst over things, will allow her to reactivate the lighthouses shielding, purchase health-ups and attack augmentations and typically live up the high life!

Part-time ninja and freelance photojournalist. Some girls get all the fun!

And sandwiched in between this vibrant vicarious world and constantly evolving gameplay is a dark story that contrasts the colourful settings perfectly. Two factions wage war against the DomZ; the militaristic, propaganda-heavy Alpha Sections and the underground resistance, the IRIS network, each side claiming the others are nothing more than tools of the DomZ. It only takes a chance meeting to drag Jade kicking and screaming into the fray when a simple photographic assignment turns out to be more then it seems. Faced with the possibility of a planet-wide conspiracy, it falls on Jade's shapely shoulders to uncover the truth.

To this end, she'll sneak through heavily guarded installations to capture snapshots of damaging evidence; she'll battle strange and alien creatures to get to the bottom of an ever-deepening saga that poises new questions for every answer you'll find, she'll employ the services of both Pey'j and the meat-headed Double H to uncover the truth behind the invasion. Just who are telling the truth and who are the traitors? Jade, and ultimately, you, will have to see this through your photographic lens to believe it and expose it to Hillys before it's too late.

Because what is exhibited here is a non-stop roller-coaster ride that never lets up for a second. Jade will struggle on heroically through mammoth odds with an entire race vying for her immediate demise, a race not afraid to play dirty. It is only through her strength that you will prevail to the apocalyptic and eye-opening finale that sadly takes place all to soon. Things happen quickly in the world of Beyond Good & Evil, all the more so because you won't stop playing. You'll want to uncover that last scrap of evidence, to free that last hostage, to liberate that last weapons stockpile and to photograph that last lifeform. You'll want to save Jade and her world because it is something special. Something unique that has yet to be replicated.

And perhaps that's why multi-Oscar winning directors are happy to place their cherished licenses in the hands of people who can craft these worlds. Because if Ubisoft can replicate but a fraction of the excellence they've produced here, the decision is entirely justifiable.

Rating: 9/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (January 01, 2006)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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wolfqueen001 posted October 31, 2009:

Man. I love this game. I played think I played it for the first time a year or two ago and just found it absolutely captivating. It's one of those where you really do want to collect every hidden thing imaginable because it's just that interesting and engaging.

I think my favorite aspect of the game, and the thing that makes it so endearing to me, is just its utter uniqueness. I've never played a game before that revolved around photographing evidence and countering propaganda before. Or, at least, I've never heard of a game that makes this its main focus. What struck me most about it was just the... idealistic nature of it. The sort of "the power of the people!" approach this game offers. And, as you say, the sheer beauty and thoughtfulness put into the creation of the world is just phenomenal. Science has never been my fort, but taxonomy has fascinated me forever, and the fact that they effectively create entire new species for you to discover is just amazing to me.

Well, could laud this game all day, so now I'll talk about your review. I actually remember reading this around the time you first wrote it. I actually remember thinking Jade was a monkey for some reason because of King Kong comparisons, which in some places seemed a bit odd. They still are a little, though not so much now. The only really strange one is when you say she and Kong have a "never-say-die attitude" which... is only odd to me because King Kong never struck me in that way at all. But, to be fair, I've never seen any movies, either.

Anyway, there are other awkward sentences, too, but not many and they're not really that worth pointing out. I think I had even pointed the main offender out when I first read this years ago, but had a hard time articulating. If you really want to know to fix it, I'll point it out again, but since it's only one sentence, it's not a huge deal.

I really like this review. You did a great job describing the strengths of the game, and they're fun to read about, too. You really do this in such a manner that we get exactly what you're talking about with the kind of emotion, tone or atmosphere involving the specific characteristics described. This review was really sort of a nostalgic read for me in that it reminded me of the game and why I liked it so much. Which I think is why I read it again. I actually really want to go back and play this. I've been toying with the idea for a while and even thought about doing it over Fall Break a few weeks ago but decided against it.

Fantastic game. Everyone should play it.
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zippdementia posted October 31, 2009:

Thank you for being a fan of this one, EmP and WQ. A sadly underplayed game that led to a cancelled sequel. I cry at night.
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Suskie posted October 31, 2009:

Am I the only one who's sick of hearing about this game?
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zigfried posted October 31, 2009:

The thing about BG&E compared to other cult classics, is that it's easy to find and can be had for pretty cheap. They made tons of it. And it gets enough post-release press that plenty of people have tried it.

So even though it sold poorly at release, I think a ton of people have played it. A vocal and influential minority actually got a sequel greenlighted, but the apathy of the majority has spoken. This just isn't a series that "people" want to play more of. The "people" want to see Assassin's Creed II instead.

//Zig
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honestgamer posted October 31, 2009:

Damn straight! Assassin's Creed was awesome! I know EmP doesn't like it, but sometimes he's wrong and this is one of those times. After all, my opinion is fact. I love the setting, love the story, love a lot of the gameplay... It's not perfect, but it's one of those games where a sequel was a welcome necessity.
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EmP posted November 01, 2009:

People who enjoy Assassin's Creed don't deserve to be a creditable source. Frankly, I'm embarrassed for them and their strange love of awful plots, repeatative gameplay and historical sodomy.

And I was wrong once. It was in 1987, and it's long been acredited as someone else's fault.

I picked BG&E up from a bargain bin and, like I do with many, many second hand games, its fate was probably to sit on my shelf forever, unplayed and dusty. I put it in the machine to do nothing more than see if it works, played through the intro and was instantly hooked on the world and settings. I was uncharacteristically gleeful when I heard the sequel was in the works and, now it's dead again, I'm thinking of panning Creed II in a scathing 1/10 review without playing it -- because I can!

As for the revew, I remember releasing it while chatting to Zig and Fact. Fact, bless his grumpy heart, went to try and find a copy of the game. Zig voiced his digust as his cameo role in the review and said he closed it right there and then. There's today's nostalgia story out of the way.

I live in hope that the second BG&E gets put back into production someday. It was far too good a setting to let die by the roadside.
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Halon posted November 01, 2009:

I picked up this game at Direct2Drive a while back for $5. Looks interesting but I'm afraid it will be something that I'll always want to play but never actually get to.
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jiggs posted November 01, 2009:

michel ancel's best work. not a big fan of the western style character designs though but the gameplay was actually quite fun and charming. the scripted events were action-packed. like the rest of you picked it up cheap and didn't play it for like 2 years.
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zippdementia posted November 01, 2009:

Sportsman, it's not actually that long of a game and it's highly engaging. I think I beat it in three days, like maybe 14 hours total or something. You shouldn't let anything stop you from giving it a shot.

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER


My only complaint about the game was the un-ending. It really just... stops.
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wolfqueen001 posted November 01, 2009:

Spoilers continued (I guess):

I didn't have a problem with the ending. It seemed like it concluded things well enough, or at least through the dialogue / cutscene or whatever it seemed that way. Though I will admit it kind of does just end game play wise after beating the final boss.

If I could complain, and I wouldn't even complain about this if the sequel weren't canceled, I would say that the blurb after the credits makes you really want for a sequel. Like really bad. It's really sad and frustrating in that regard.

As an aside, I got this game for my birthday one year... and didn't play it until about two years later. Hahaha. I'm noticing a pattern!
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Suskie posted November 01, 2009:

There is no WAY it's that long, Zipp. I mean, I remember one of the biggest complaints about the game was how short it was. Eight hours, tops.

Honestly, I liked BG&E's ending. Jade's story had closure... it's just that they cut to the credits immediately after the conflict was resolved, leaving it up to the player to decide where it went from there. That put off a lot of people, but I like that approach. I guess the cliffhanger-type thing after the credits was a little uncalled for, but whatever.
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Melaisis posted November 02, 2009:

Hey! This review is relative to me, since I played the PC version last week!

And I gave up about 4 hours in.

I'm not sure why I didn't find it compelling. I loved shooting down sea beasts and taking photos of weird, translucent jellyfish in secret caves. But when I was forced into one, claustrophobic, all-too-linear industrial dungeon after another, I got bored. This game held so much potential and squandered it all by forcing me through bloody Quake 4.

More outdoor settings and I'd have been all over this like a poorly phrased simile. The review highlights everything that's good about this game, but I believe it remains unpopular for a reason.
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zippdementia posted November 02, 2009:

Yeah, Suskie, I was gonna say 8, but I couldn't believe that it was really that short. It was though, huh?

The ending... the whole credit thing immediately following the boss just kinda put me off. I guess there wasn't much else to say, though. And at least the music during the credits was incredible. A really amazing soundtrack to that game.
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Suskie posted November 02, 2009:

I've always thought everything about BG&E was done beautifully except for the gameplay itself, which I found shallow and inconsistent. I still like the description I used in my GameFAQs review: "A great game for the wrong reasons."
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zippdementia posted November 03, 2009:

Hm. I'm drawing on memory here, but isn't it more simplistic than shallow? Or is that arguing semantics?

It does beg the question... what exactly is "shallow" gameplay? I'd try my hand at a working definition but I've been defining Generational gaps between educators and students all evening so my brain is a little south...
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Halon posted November 03, 2009:

I'm aware it's short and all. Getting myself to start it is the problem, not finding time to devote to it. Something else is always butting in front of it in my game queue.
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wolfqueen001 posted November 03, 2009:

It does beg the question... what exactly is "shallow" gameplay?

That's actually a really good question. I think it depends on the game in question, to be honest. But I suppose if one were to define "shallow" game play, my impression would be that it's when the play elements themselves don't really lend a whole lot to the experience as a whole or don't really fit in with the theme of the game.

On that note, I would say that BG&E's game play is more simplistic than shallow. But I also think that that's part of the game's charm. Since everything is so fluid and straightforward play wise - everything from combat to stealth to picture taking - it doesn't distract from the overarching theme and tone of the game. Instead of getting bogged down with overly complex controls and things that might make a person just focus on one section alone just to get through it, this fluidity allows people to see the game in its entirety and experience it as one huge picture, which is where the game shines, I think, just because its unique characteristics are so... different from most games of the genre. Or at least as far as my eperience goes.

But maybe Suskie also referred to level design itself with that statement, though I would consider level design to be separate from game play. I'm not entirely sure. But this is an interesting point for discussion.
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zigfried posted November 03, 2009:

Shallow gameplay doesn't challenge the mind. Deep gameplay can be based around simplistic controls; on the other hand, an RPG could have complex mechanics but be shallow if the game never requires you to use any of them.

If playing a game feels challenging or stimulating, then "shallow" probably isn't exactly the right word.

//Zig
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Genj posted November 03, 2009:

Beyond Good & Evil, a game virtually ignored upon released, somehow became championed by the Internet despite not really playing very well. The characters and execution of the game world are fantastic and that's about it. Combat looks pretty but boils down to mindless button mashing devoid of any challenge. The dungeons' puzzles usual require zero thought process. Usually you walk up to some object or platform and get prompted to hit a button to make your partner do all the work. The toughest part of the game is a mirror puzzle ripped straight from Ocarina of Time. Throw in a few easy rail shooting segments, time trial-style platforming, and picture taking and you have a good idea of all that BG&E entails. It's just 6 hours of watered down 3D Zelda.
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Suskie posted November 03, 2009:

I would have said that shallowness is simplicity with a negative connotation (since simplicity isn't always a bad thing) but Zig's explanation works. I certainly hope this isn't another instance where I "missed the point" and failed to congratulate the developers for intentionally doing something wrong.

I pretty much agree with what Genj said and will add that the game's pacing was absolutely terrible. It felt like a weird mishmash of genres and mini-games that didn't really flow from one idea to the next, and forcing players to hunt down pearls and buy hovercraft parts in order to advance the story was ridiculous. "Mandatory side quests" seems like an oxymoron to me, but here we are.

Edit: I'm disappointed you didn't go with the new black licorice-flavored taco, Genj.

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