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Beyond Good & Evil HD (Xbox 360) artwork

Beyond Good & Evil HD (Xbox 360) review

"The Live Arcade download is a perfect way for any of the too many people who missed out upon release to catch up. It has shiny new HD enhancements, and Christophe Héral’s fantastically atypical score is all the sharper. More to the point, it’s an easy way to snag a great game without going outside. I hear there’s wolves out there."

Ubisoft loves secrets. As such, by the time you’ve finished reading this opening paragraph, they will have confirmed and then denied rumours regarding Michel Ancel’s involvement in making a sequel that may or may not be in development or even exist for Beyond Good & Evil. In a way, I suppose, I can’t really blame them; the first game turned up around the launch of the last generation of consoles and was universally adored by critics and consumers alike. Review sites fell over themselves to dribble praise, and the game was quickly championed by the Internet. None of this helped sales -- Beyond was a commercial flop and hundreds upon hundreds of copies sat unsold on shop shelves to the chagrin of everyone.

There’s no twist in the story here; the game isn’t secretly awful. It’s a bright, refreshing adventure set against blue skies and green grass that contrast with the big-brother-esque government, spewing a smog of propaganda over the anthropomorphic population. In the middle of strange disappearances, whispering shadows and the rise of a bully-boy police force-turned-army, is Jade.

Jade rises above the typical slew of female game protagonists by taking on the unique slant of being normal. A down-on-her-luck photo-journalist, she spends her down time sheltering a small pack of orphans together in a dilapidated lighthouse. There’s a lot of orphans around at the moment, and the main reason for this is there’s also an alien invasion besieging the grassy world of Hillys. You learn all about them in the opening stages of the game as they turn up and do their level best to kidnap Jade’s adoptive family thanks to a faulty force field shutting down due to an unpaid electricity bill.

As such, Beyond Good & Evil wastes no time in throwing you headfirst into battle as the coffin-shaped DomZ surge from their meteor-like vessels, snatching up the kids and storing them in their perplex innards. From here, they become biological batteries for the rampaging aliens which you attack through real-time battle. Pumping your attack button allows Jade to smash, poke and prod with a handy bit of flaming scrap-wood she grabs up as she runs to the defence of the kids. With the right combination of button mashing and direction nudging, Jade can spin gracefully, swinging the branch in an unblockable overhead arc or flip effortlessly, cartwheeling into any foes that bar her way. 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.

Which is understandable, as it’s more or less a fighting tutorial. Once you think the danger is clear, huge tentacles rip out from the ground and drag Jade underground to a foe who seems impervious to your flickering branch.

So starts the first of the boss battles that litter Beyond Good & Evil. Jade is quickly equipped with a Daï-Jo staff, and joined by humanoid pig “uncle” Pey'j who‘ll eagerly join the fray. 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. From here, you can issue simple orders to your companion, team up for double attacks or just help each other get around the varied locations.

Because when you’re not fighting the odd alien menace, you’re instead being engrossed by the fantastically complex world Ancel has dreamt up. 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. Armed not only with obscure kung-fu, Jade’s photojournalist side is given ever chance to shine as she’s tasked with cataloguing the varied species of wildlife frolicking around Hillys. Taking pictures of animals as simple of seabirds fluttering across the sky, huge whales surfacing briefly in the many oceans or mutated house-sized bugs trying frantically to eat you earns her some much needed cash that, amongst over things, will allow her to reactivate the lighthouse's shielding or purchase health and attack augmentations.

But what really sets Beyond Good & Evil apart is that, sandwiched in between the 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 Alpha Sections and the underground resistance, the IRIS network, each side claiming the others are nothing more than tools of the enemy. 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 than it seems. She becomes an unwilling hero, trapped by circumstances beyond her control.

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 poses 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.

Jade will struggle on heroically through mammoth odds with an entire race vying for her immediate demise, a race not afraid to play dirty, to reach the apocalyptic and eye-opening finale that sadly takes place all to soon. Things progress all too 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’s something special. Something unique that has yet to be replicated.

Perhaps someday it will. Perhaps Ubisoft will come through on that sequel and Michel Ancel will live up to the grandeur of his title. There’s no certainty there, but I hope it happens.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (April 23, 2011)

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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Masters posted April 23, 2011:

Congrats, Gar. I know how hard it was for you to finally get this thing done--writer's block is a bitch.

This is a good review. I caught one thing: in the third to last paragraph you have "poises" for "poses".
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EmP posted April 23, 2011:

Thanks, Marc. I got annoyed at not being able to write anything, so locked myself in a corner, forbade distractions and did not come out until I had finished all of my outstanding drafts. This was the immediate result -- I'm glad you liked it.

I've gone back and tidied away the typo.
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wolfqueen001 posted May 17, 2011:

Nice rewrite dude. Shame you didn't enter it in the tourney! =P I like how a lot of your content was either completely new or reworked versions of the old with only the strongest bits completely the same. (With the exception of the last few paragraphs, which were almost straight copies and didn't impress me much). It definitely added a nice touch of variety from the other one, and also made it a lot better. Which is great - and impressive in and of itself - because your original was pretty good, too. Overall nice job, and cool addition with the art in the beginning, too. =D

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