Beyond Good & Evil


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Complete Review & Description

For some reason, Beyond Good & Evil did not achieve commercial success when it was originally released in 2003 – this despite a warm reception from the critics. Understandably, plans for a further two titles were on shaky ground. Fast forward seven years, and the action adventure has resurfaced as a sizable (1.68GB) download on Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA), having undergone a full HD cut ‘n’ polish. Will a fresh new look and better exposure see those plans for a trilogy come to fruition?

The game is set in the future, on Hillys – a distant mining planet where animals and humans coexist harmoniously. We can only assume they originated from Earth; the animals look familiar, and their anthromorphic treatment includes classic ethnic stereotypes, such as laid back Rastafarians and Asian shopkeepers. Somewhere along the evolutionary line they’ve also learned to walk upright (four legs good, two legs better), and wear clothing. Keeping the peace and supposedly protecting this melting pot is the Alpha Section; a military dictatorship which uses propaganda and force to keep the populace in line, and blissfully ignorant of their shady dealings. These are rumoured to include involvement in attacks and abductions by an aggressive alien force known as the DomZ… the very thing the Alpha Section is supposed to be preventing.

The game’s protagonist is a self-assured, athletic young woman by the name of Jade. Equally comfortable aiming a camera lens or a punishing blow with her bo-stick, Jade and her porcine uncle (yes, he’s a pig) are hired by an underground resistance network to do some investigative work, and expose the whole conspiracy. As you can probably tell, the plot contains a fair amount of intrigue, which goes a long way towards capturing your interest and keeping you engaged.

It doesn’t take long to get a handle on the controls, and the menus are easy to navigate… although you can’t save the game whenever the mood takes you. Instead you must use specific save points, which are not always located conveniently. The game is technically an action adventure, but there’s a smorgasbord of elements on offer: combat, exploration, platform, puzzles, stealth, plus games of chance and speed. There’s something here for nearly everyone. Generally speaking, games that attempt to please the masses run the risk of spreading themselves too thinly and failing miserably – often due to technical issues or lack of depth and focus. Beyond Good & Evil somehow manages to juggle all of the balls with a fair level of competence.

The action component involves a good deal of running, jumping, ducking & dive rolling as well as fighting DomZ minions and other beasties wanting a piece of you; however the violence and cussing is low key, and there’s nothing to offend even the most conservative gamer. Jade operates alone in some areas of the game; in others she is assisted by a companion, such as her uncle or another resistance operative. These AI controlled tag-alongs help progress the story, but the main contribution of each is a unique special ability, used to assist in combat or bypass some obstacle.

In addition to her infiltration and evidence gathering missions, Jade has been commissioned to help photograph and catalogue native species encountered during her travels. This is just one method of earning credits and giant pearls, which can be used to purchase upgrades for herself, her companions and her vehicle. Initially, a beat-up hovercraft is the only mode of transport, but later on you’ll have access to a spacecraft. Gameplay is linear; however this doesn’t feel restrictive in any way. You still have freedom to explore the surroundings, interact with the inhabitants of Hillys and play minigames.

Visually, the HD version is streets ahead of its earlier incarnation, and the entire game has a cinematic feel. The boss fights in particular make good use of zooming, sweeping camera angles, and FX. A lot of attention has been lavished on the different environments, with effective use of light and shadow contributing to the overall atmosphere. Throw in some great character animation and you really feel as if Jade is creeping through a derelict slaughterhouse, with its dimly lit interiors and rusting machinery. Incidental music (of which there is plenty) is timely, subtle and evocative. An eclectic selection of instruments, styles and languages has been used in the compositions to inject an ethnic flavour. It’s not your typical soundtrack… and we like that. Dialogue is delivered clearly and in character, be it Southern US drawl or Jamaican patois. There’s no need for subtitles, but the option is available.

With its cartoon-like characters, low grade violence, puzzles and boss fights that are not too challenging, Beyond Good & Evil is geared towards the younger set, but that doesn’t mean gamers of a more mature vintage won’t enjoy it. The intriguing plot and engaging gameplay make Beyond Good & Evil well-worthy of the 800 Microsoft points it costs to download. Rumours of a sequel have been circulating since 2008, and there is apparently one in development now. We certainly hope there’s some truth to this; in our opinion the game is most deserving of a sequel… and even if it never eventuates, we won’t forget Beyond Good & Evil in a hurry.



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