STAFF REVIEW of Beyond Good and Evil (Xbox)

Monday, January 19, 2004.
by kitt

Beyond Good and Evil Box art Have you ever opened a Christmas or birthday present only to find a pair of odor eaters and a 10 pack of tighty whities? Or maybe you found out your uncle Roger likes to wear red lacey things? Let?s face it, not all surprises are good surprises.

Thanks to Ubisoft, Beyond Good & Evil is one surprise that will surely not disappoint. I have to admit, I am a meat and potatoes kind of guy. I like my bloody, violent military games. Very rarely do I venture off into the realm of action/adventure games especially not futuristic, sci-fi ones. For this reason I was skeptical when I first glanced upon this title, but I decided to open my mind, expand my horizons and give it a try. I?m glad I did.

This game proves that a great game is built on more then just great graphics alone. This game succeeds by delivering a complete gaming experience including variety, seamless game play, stunning visuals, a compelling storyline, unique camera angles, superior voice acting and a cinematic quality soundtrack.

In Beyond Good & Evil you assume the role of Jade, a young freelance reporter/photojournalist who along with her sidekick Pey?j the pig, are determined to make their world, Hillys, a better place to live. Hillys is at war with an alien group referred to as the DomZ, good thing Hillys is protected by an elite squadron known as the Alpha Sections, but is it really good? How come the Alpha Sections show up after the DomZ have already left? Questions abound in this unconventional story dealing with such issues as conspiracy, politics, trust, rebellion, free speech and the power of the press.

For the most part, you will be on foot exploring the world of Hyllis, collecting information from characters and searching for photographic evidence on the rumored conspiracy theories. Throughout your journeys you will encounter enemy aliens, thus the game contains a combat element, but it is fairly straightforward and requires very little skill. On the plus side the fighting sequences are fun and the animations are very fluid. Jades weapons of choice are her trusty staff and her camera.

A very unique element of this game is Jades photographic abilities. Pan around, zoom in and take snap shots of the enemy and uncover ruthless plots against the people of Hyllis. On the side, Jade can take photos of various creatures of Hyllis, which she can sell to a local scientist who is cataloging all of the life on Hillys. It?s not as easy as it sounds, because your pictures have to be good, meaning you have to get close and frame the subject matter properly. Capture enough creatures and you can upgrade your photo equipment and earn some serious credits (cash on Hyllis).

The controls in Beyond Good & Evil are very smooth, but take some getting used to, as with any new game, but after a half hour you will feel quite comfortable with them. Some actions in particular require twister like maneuvers with your fingers to get the job done, especially some of the camera actions.

The transition between cut scenes and actual game play are what really impressed me about this game. At times I couldn?t tell when the cut scene had ended and when the game play had started. This consideration really enhances the flow of the game and your involvement in the game is never interrupted, which I feel cut scenes are notorious for doing. I am used to the old formula of a game being broken into game play and cut scene pieces, which really affects the consistency. In Beyond Good & Evil you are in and out of each mode that you hardly notice a difference, creating a seamless gaming experience.

If order to advance in the game you must solve various puzzles and challenges you encounter at the various locals in Hyllis. Be it in caves, or factories, be prepared to do a little thinking. The puzzles are not that complex; but require a keen sense of your surroundings to figure out what to do. It might be to use your projectile attack to push a button or to push a crate onto a lever.

Comic relief comes in the form of your gassy, !&%$@#* scratching trusty side kick, Pey?j, the humanoid pig. Pey?j follows you through most of the game which never becomes a problem, but it is rather quite enjoyable. The odd time he will get stuck, but this never really becomes a problem. He can assist you with various puzzles as well as support you in combat with the click of a button. Pey?j can also carry additional inventory items. It is very important that you watch each others backs, because if he dies, its game over for you.

Getting around is a necessity in this game, therefore Jade relies on her not so reliable hovercraft. The combination of speed, maneuverability, guns and unlimited ammo make piloting the hovercraft another enjoyable element of this game.

As mentioned before, her hovercraft is not so reliable; therefore upgrading your hovercraft requires you to spend pearls at a local garage. Pearls are rare on Hillys, and you will acquire them in various ways, such as by defeating bosses or completing special tasks. You can even purchase a few of them using your credits. There are a lot of pearls in this game, so acquiring them all is a mission in itself.

This game features a lot of ?other? fun stuff that really just adds to the complete package and makes you appreciate the time and detail the developers put into this game. The game menus are unique and interactive; especially the characters inventory menus and pass code menus.

Throughout the game you will stumble across a number mini-games, some of chance and some of skill. There is a variation of air hockey you play against one of the locals. Another is a shell game you play to earn extra credits. One of the most enjoyable you stumble across is a series of hovercraft races, reminiscent of F-Zero.

This game projects a world conceived in the minds of its creators. It is a world of vibrant colours and dark shadows. Unique creatures roam the landscape and lush living vegetation is in abundance. You get the feeling this is a real living world, the environments are interactive, flying creatures are seen in the distance, insects buzz around and the sun reflects off waves in the ocean with great realism. The water and sky effects are stunning and the use of shadowing is very well done.

I think what really makes this game stand out it how believable it all is. The character models express such emotion as jubilation, fear and anger. This combined with brilliant voice acting bring an element of realism and believability to these character not seen in many games.

The camera angles, editing, directing and cinematic techniques used in this game further blur the lines between cinema and electronic entertainment.

The audio component in this game is top of the line. Award caliber voice acting combined with an atmospheric and enchanting soundtrack creates an audio master piece of cinematic proportions. Dramatic changes in tune at each of Hyllis locales assist in directing your perception and prepare you for what?s in store .

Overall: 9.6 / 10
Gameplay: 9.4 / 10
Visuals: 9.4 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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