Very few games can combine so many different genres and still be succesful. Even fewer games can cram multiple genres together and become one of the most memorable games of an entire generation. Enter: Beyond Good & Evil. The brainchild from the same man who brought us the Rayman series, BG&E is one of the most spectacular looking, sounding, and playing video games of not only this generation of consoles, but could very well be a benchmark for future consoles as well.
Beyond Good & Evil tells the story of Jade, a photographer/reporter for hire. Living with her Uncle Pey’j (a pig…yes, pig), Jade gets crossed up in a mystery surrounding a war affecting not only her world, but also the people trying to protect it. It’s not a story filled with very many twists or turns, but there are moments that may come as a surprise. Jade will be tossed into numerous situations ranging from stealth, space combat, picture taking (!), racing, and straight out action.
That’s were the game shines. Each segment of the game, whether it be the boat races early on or the massive Star Wars-esque space battle near the finale, would be a great game on it’s own. The stealth segments are simplified compared to the complicated schemes of say, Splinter Cell, but this gives them a feel of other more classic games in the genre. Jade has no night vision, can’t distract guards, and certainly won’t be sniping anybody. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the “realisitc” stuff clogging the market. The simplistic AI may cause some people to shove this to the wayside, but the ones included here are much more gripping and tension filled than any other Metal Gear clone.
Puzzles also make an appearance, but very few are challenging enough to stop a die-hard puzzle fanatic. This keeps the game moving briskly along throughout it’s entire 10+ hour running time, never dragging itself down in complicated junk. Fighting segments are also in the same vein: Simple and easy to master. In fact, it’s probably the best as far as beat-em-up games are concerned this entire generation. It’s spectacular to watch Jade flail about taking out various undead creatures performing moves that would probably take 15 buttons presses in another game. As sort of a side game, their are 150 different species of animals scattered throughout the land. Taking a picture with Jades camera of each one earns cash. There are a numerous places to buy items across the games map and some of these are integral in completeing the game. Pearls are another (and rare) form of currency accepted by the Mammago garage which can help increase your vehicles attributes.
The majority of the game has Jade teamed up with a partner who can help her out in certain situations. Uncle Pey’j helps out for the first half and then players are introduced to Double H, a hilarious take on generic heroes. Controlling them is context sensitive, but never requires anything more than pressing the “B” button. You can also ask them questions which adds to the storyline or may help you along if your stuck.
Helping boost the game up even higher is it’s intense cinematic feel. The entire game is letterboxed (though not in widescreen?) and every 3-D gaming graphical trick is used somewhere. Lighting effects are unparralleled, the textures never appear blocky or blurry, and the performances by the character models really heightens the atmosphere. The entire planet is fully realized down to the smallest of details and the productions values must’ve been incredible. Regardless of the cost, it was all worth it when it was finally put on the disc.
As with the graphics, the sound is also spectacular. The voice acting gets special mention as it’s some of the best heard to date. Full 5.1 sound support means you can hear everything coming at you from every angle and the fight sequences are inredibly immersive with the right equipment. Music, while fairly sparse, is always welcome. The theme in the Akuda bar is addictive and you can’t help but groove along with it.
Is 10 hours too short for a game of this type? After growing up in a generation of games where the average actioner lasted no more than an hour, not at all. The only real problem is the length of the side games (like the boat racing and space battle) which are more of a tease than anything. Lucasarts could learn a few things about how to make a Star Wars flight sim just by playing this one. The only other minor quibble is the camera which can prove to be bothersome once in a while, but almost never in a life or death scenario. It’s also a shame that after the cliffhanger ending we may never get a sequel since the game sold so poorly across all platforms.
Beyond Good & Evil is one of those games so good, you’ll rant and rave about it to everyone you know until they either buy it or you drive them criminally insane. It harkens back to a day in video games when you’d replay a game countless times simply because it’s fun, not because your forced to collect crystal #374,987 to get a “real” ending. It’s simplicty at it’s finest and a very drab, dark world if we are never treated to a sequel.