Review by discoinferno84

Reviewed: 07/11/04 | Updated: 04/20/06

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At the end of 2003, Beyond & Evil was the talk of the town. Supposedly it was one of the best games of its genre, with an amazing story and remarkable gameplay. At the time, I figured that all of this incessant blathering was just a result of some over-hyped marketing ploy and would eventually die out within a few months. So I dismissed Beyond Good & Evil entirely, focusing on the more popular titles being released. Man, was that a mistake…The thing was that all this talk about Beyond Good & Evil’s greatness kept on going and never stopped. So when I finally tracked down a copy of this game, I decided to see if any of the praises were justified. Surprisingly, they were.

How many of you gamers out there question your government? How many of you suspect conspiracy on a daily basis? How many of you have watched just a few too many X Files reruns for your own good? If any of these apply, you’ll understand the plot of this game perfectly. You play as the character Jade, an aspiring photojournalist living on the war-torn planet of Hillys. Hillys is under siege by the powerful DomZ invaders. The planet has the Alpha Section to protect the population, but this specialized task force seems to be utterly inept at performing its duties. However, the Alpha Section is enveloped in a web of lies, public deceit, and propaganda. It’s up to Jade to use her journalistic skills to reveal the truth about the government that everyone trusts so much. So it’s time to don your trusty digital camera and set off on a quest of discovery and uncertainty.

Jade is a photojournalist at heart. She even has her own freelance jobs every now and then. And since she loves photography so much, her camera is a key aspect of this game. Similar to the Scan Visor in Metroid Prime, the camera is your main source of information about your surroundings. You can use the camera to scan over objects, learn information and take pictures of the various flora, fauna, and just about everything else in the world of Hillys. In order to get some of your income, you’ll have to take pictures of all the animals still alive on the planet and send them in for scientific research. Also, your mission objectives require that you take pictures of specific buildings, people, or whatever else looks suspicious. However, the camera lacks of the lock-on feature of the Scan Visor. Instead, the controls of Jade’s camera operate just like your own camera. That means that you’ll actually have to spend time adjusting the angle and zoom of the shot, making sure that you get the image that you’re after. But once you’ve had enough practice, operating this camera will be as easy as using a real one.

But Beyond Good & Evil doesn’t just have Metroid Prime aspects buried into the gameplay. This game also has a few qualities from Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Star Fox Adventures, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Splinter Cell, and plenty of other games that we’ve grown accustomed to. The world of Hillys is primarily made up of landmasses strewn across a massive ocean, not unlike the environment found in Wind Waker. That means that you’ll be spending time going to and from different locations using a rocket-powered tugboat. While this is certainly no talking sailboat, the key difference lies with the placement of the locations. For those of you that despised sailing in Wind Waker, don’t worry. The various ports, shops, and houses are all condensed within a short distance. Plus, your boat has quick and responsive controls, and can shoot energy balls and do speed boosts. With so many things to do, chances are you won’t get bored moving from place to place.

Also, this game takes stealth, puzzle, and direct combat aspects and creates a strange but wonderful blend of the different concepts. Remember, it’s your job to uncover the truth about the Alpha Section. That means that you’ll be sneaking into heavily guarded areas where stealth is an absolute vital part of your success. Also, there are a fair amount of simple puzzles for you to solve. Usually these puzzles involve some strategically placed object that can be manipulated, like a lever or mine cart. Some of the time, the puzzles will require the actions of your current computer-controlled partner. Maybe your partner has some sort of tool that opens up doors. Perhaps you have to step on certain switches to activate something. Whatever puzzle comes along, chances are your partner will be more than willing to lend a hand. While the puzzles aren’t very challenging, they offer a nice alternative to simply waltzing through the various areas.

Of course, there will be all sorts of enemies waiting to impede your progress. That’s where Jade’s trusty staff, the Dai-Jo comes in handy. Jade has moves that put Fox McCloud’s formidable staff-wielding skills to shame. With the exception of a single charged attack, there is no real set of button commands. Instead, you can just sit back, button mash, and watch the pretty attack graphics. In a just a few combos with the Dai-Jo, Jade can annihilate any and all adversaries. In the end, this game gives us something that is not limited to a specific genre. When all these different gameplay aspects come together, we are presented with a unique mixture that can appeal to us all.

But that appeal doesn’t end with just the gameplay. For all you graphic fanatics out there, Beyond Good & Evil is rendered with a better than average quality. Not as clear or crisp as some of the games on the Gamecube, but still remarkable. Since Hillys is essentially an ocean planet, there has been a significant amount of attention placed on the presentation of the water. You can see the lights and reflections glimmering off the surface. You can see the faint ripple as aquatic creatures dive in and out of the water. Also, the various towns and ports have a distinctive quality that draws you ever deeper into the environment. You don’t feel as if you’re walking through a pre-determined set of passageways and tunnels. Instead, it feels like you’re actually walking inside the building or on the streets. You can cruise the busy channels of town, or you can look at the surrounding buildings and you drift slowly down the canals. Also, the light qualities change as the hours pass on Hillys. You can just boat around and watch as the sun gradually sets and the town lights turn on for the evening. Despite the fantasy setting, it’s little things like these that make everything seem more real.

Also, the audio quality balances complements of the great visuals. The voice acting is remarkable. Jade sounds like a young woman determined to accomplish her goal. We also have to remember that Jade is human on an alien world. Her trusty companion is a talking pig-man named Pey’j. While this idea seems a little jarring, this not-so-little piggy speaks fluent American slang with a stereotypical Texan accent. But at least the voice acting makes the characters more appealing and helps the story develop. Also, the wide assortment of camera shutter clicking, explosions, boat engines and all other sound effects are presented with great quality. The visual aspects of the game can only draw us in so far, but it’s that mix with the audio that real balances out the overall package.

So where does this leave the latest conspiracy theory? Beyond Good Evil has a decent story that can appeal to the paranoia in us all. It has a blend of gameplay aspects that spans through multiple gaming genres. It has great visuals and audio quality that creates an intriguing environment. If you loved the environment of Wind Waker, check this game out. If you enjoyed scanning your surroundings like in Metroid Prime or Pokemon Snap, give this game a look. If you liked the puzzles and NPC aspects of Prince of Persia or the stealth aspects of Splinter Cell, take a look. If you enjoy fighting off enemies with a mystical stick, here’s an alternative to Star Fox Adventures. And if you’re looking for a high-quality game for a cheap price, take Beyond Good & Evil into consideration. The truth is out there, and it’s waiting to be found.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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