Most gamers who played the original Beyond Good & Evil back in 2003 have fond memories of it. I was never one of those individuals. I can recall seeing the cases on the shelves inside the GameStops I worked at, but the game never appealed to me. There was something about it that led to me having zero interest in ever playing it, and it was only until the recent House Part XBLA announcement where any desire piqued. Hearing about the HD version and the updates, I wanted to get my hands on it and see what all the fuss was about. Sadly, I ended up sorely disappointed and almost rage-quitting many, many times.
Now, before you all think that I’m about to rip this game to shreds, know that there are things about the game that I did enjoy. However, it doesn’t outweigh the bad nor does it make me able to recommend it without having a guilty conscience. Also, because I never played the original version, my perception of the game or personal feelings aren’t clouded by nostalgia. Sure, I have nothing to compare this game to, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with reviewing a game for what it is (and what it isn’t).
I assume that, back when it originally came out, Beyond Good & Evil was a great title. It had to have been loved by enough people to warrant so many reissues and also for there to be a ton of hope for a sequel. Unfortunately BG&E isn’t the kind of game that can stand the test of time. There are so many fundamental flaws with the game that, had I played it back in the day, I probably wouldn’t have been too impressed with it either.
In the story of BG&E you play as Jade, a strong female heroine, who is a photojournalist and an ass kicker. She lives with her “uncle” Pey’j, who is an anthropomorphic boar, and they take care of orphaned children. The planet of Hillys is under attack from the DomZ, a race of aliens that steal the residents and either drains them of their life force or, by using implants, enslaves them. After there’s an attack on the lighthouse they live in with the orphans, Jade gets recruited by the IRIS Network to help get the truth out there about the DomZ and their connection to the Alpha Sections. So, some of you might be asking me, “Lindsey, so what if the DomZ are having a bromance with the Alpha Sections!” Well, allow me to break it down; Alpha Sections is basically a military dictatorship that has sworn to protect and defend the people of Hillys. One can’t protect a populace if they are in cahoots with the enemy. Through working with IRIS, Jade goes around Hillys taking pictures and having them published so the people can see first-hand that their “protectors” are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing. There are other events that take place, but I’d hate to spoil anything for the gamers out there who haven’t had a chance to beat BG&E yet.
I will say that Ubisoft missed out on a big opportunity to have a terrific female lead, as most females end up relying on their sexuality and other stereotypical things to get ahead. That’s not to say that Jade isn’t attractive, because she is, if you can look past all the green. Towards the end of the game she showed real fragility, remorse, concern, and other emotions that players could relate to while playing BG&E, but because of how mundane the story and plot became in between, it wasn’t enough to make me care about her or what would happen at the end. In the beginning I was neutral about everything, but for a game that is supposed to have a story and a driving force, I didn’t get much of that while playing it. Every once in awhile I would get an email from someone at IRIS with a small piece of information, but everything could’ve been much more fleshed out. I found myself wanting so much more than what was being given to me but that never happened; instead I was left with a ton of questions and very few answers.
To be honest, I’m not too sure what I was originally expecting from the game. Based on what I had seen I thought that there would be a lot of action and combat, but most of what I had to do resembled a poor man’s Splinter Cell. Jade has a melee weapon, known as a Dai-jo stick, and the ability to toss discs (but only if you’re in camera mode). Most of the time I had to sneak around, crouch, shoulder roll, and do other things to get past Alpha Sections guards but really I just wanted to kick their ass and have a fun fight. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Splinter Cell and have an unhealthy crush on Sam Fisher, I also love the entire Assassin’s Creed franchise, but the stealth in BG&E was ridiculous. To disarm the Alpha Sections guards you had to find a place to hide, because if you were seen it was almost always instant death (especially if one of those laser cannons was present). Then, while hiding, you had to switch to camera mode by pressing LB and then look around with your thumbsticks. While in camera mode I had to zoom in on the lime green packs attached to the backs of the guards and shoot a disc at it. If the guard was by himself, I could break cover, run up to the guard, kick him, and be done. If he was having a party with some pals I would still have to hide because one would automatically go over to try and repair the pack on the guard, giving me a chance to hit the pack on the other remaining guard(s).
Major problems with the gameplay arose when I would hit the packs with almost bullseye precision but it wouldn’t register, thus alerting the guards and almost always resulting in me dying. In the event that I would die, I would restart at the most recent checkpoint (fortunately the game auto-saves frequently), but my health would be much, much lower than it originally was. If the game auto-saved at a certain point and I had, for example, 7 hearts of health, why am I starting at the same point again with only 3 or 4? It made no sense and it actually caused me to get stuck in a bind throughout many portions of the game.
More often than not, camera mode would have me looking at a wall and when I’d try to look around, Jade ended up coming out of her cover and I had to do everything all over again. I don’t mind dying in games if it’s my fault because it happens. What I do mind is when I have to start something all over again because the game screwed me over. That’s when I want to Hulk out and throw my controller across the room. What I could never understand is that camera mode plays such an important part in the game but it’s so horribly done. Fatal Frame, a game that heavily uses a camera, came out in 2001 and was fantastic. I didn’t see any of the same mechanics here in BG&E, but if Fatal Frame could’ve pulled it off 2 years prior, surely the devs at Ubisoft could’ve taken some notes to prevent such an erratic, inconsistent, and faulty game mechanic. The camera angles are absolutely atrocious, and the way the right thumbstick moves it around at times is mind-boggling. Several instances occurred where the only thing showing was a wall and it took a a bit for me to finally see where Jade was. Those bad angles really impacted my gameplay in areas where having a clear shot of where I was at was crucial, especially if most of the time I am required to be stealthy.
If gamers are wanting to play something where they can level up their character, I’d suggest skipping on BG&E. There are no options to increase your strength or defense, the only new “weapon” you get is the ability to toss discs while in camera mode, and you can only increase your health through finding or purchasing additional heart slots. If Jade is supposed to be proficient in martial arts, I would’ve liked the ability to maybe purchase some new moves with the materia or pearls I found throughout Hillys. Instead I was forced to find pearls so that I could add upgrades to my hovercraft otherwise I couldn’t progress through the game. Not everybody wants to go on a wild goose chase for items as they are just wanting to blast through the story and then do all of the side quests later, but I was actually forced to spend time and search around on my map for pearl locations since I couldn’t purchase any upgrades at Mamago with materia. Also, in order to see where the pearls were I had to purchase an item that would reveal their locations. A similar item had to be purchased if I wanted to see all of the animal locations. Having all of those stipulations and “roadblocks” only made my distaste for the game grow even larger.
In addition to everything, the controls and the way they were mapped out got to me. Using the left thumbstick to move Jade didn’t bother me, because that is the norm nowadays, but the decision to make the X button the primary one was a bad one. In almost every game the A button is used to scroll through conversations, for selecting items or whatever it is you want to do, and for combat. In BG&E, A was only used for Jade to dodge or jump over laser beams. Instead I had to use X whenever I wanted to do anything, and there wasn’t even an option for me to change the layout. There also wasn’t an option for me to adjust the thumbstick sensitivity which was ridiculous. It also became a bit of a pain when I had to do something, like locking on and shooting missiles with my hovercraft, but there was nothing on the controls page that showed me what button to press or what to do. The only way I found out was through Googling it, and that’s pretty sad.
The final straw was when I had to go up against the final boss. Throughout the entire game you have a certain set of controls and, after many painful hours, you somewhat start to get used to them. All of that goes right out the window when you are on stage 6 and 7 of that boss battle. Something happens and Jade gets completely disoriented. The screen gets a bit fuzzy, which is to be expected and adds to the overall seriousness of the situation, but then the controls are reversed. Reversed! As a person who absolutely hates inverted controls with a passion, I found myself wanting to spontaneously combust with rage due to this new twist. For some of you who are used to inverted controls this is probably not a big deal, but a majority of gamers out there aren’t fans of that control scheme so to completely alienate a large chunk of people is unwise.
Now, as I said earlier there were some things about the game that I did like. I loved the way I had to enter in a password on the never-ending spiral. I loved it so much that I wouldn’t mind having that in every game I play; it was seriously that good. The soundtrack was absolutely fantastic, and I found myself going into the Akuda Bar, Mamagos, and the race tracks just to hear the songs. Also, the races were a fun little side quest to do, but the Looters Caverns were sadly not as enjoyable. Finally, the updated graphics were a nice touch. If you look at the way BG&E originally looked to the way it is now, everything has been polished and looks great.
For awhile I didn’t think I was going to beat the game, and it wasn’t because I found it to be too tough or anything like that. I’ve just never had to force myself to play through something I disliked so much, and I’ve played some pretty bad games in my time (example: all of Final Fantasy X-2). As a person who has played through the game, I can’t recommend Beyond Good & Evil for all of the reasons I listed above. As a gamer I can say that, if you are curious about the game, keep what I said in mind so that you aren’t surprised when you find yourself frustrated by the same flaws. I will, however, recommend this to the gamers out there who have played BG&E before because they already know what to expect and everything will appear as a big improvement to them, which is great. I just think that a lot could’ve been done to really push the boundaries of the game and to really give fans something that they’ve been wanting and waiting for. Sadly, the game fell flat and showed that some things are best left in the past.
Beyond Good & Evil is available now on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 800 Microsoft Points. For more information, or to purchase the game, click here.
|Fantastic soundtrack, updated graphics, top notch voice acting, innovative password entry system, fun hovercraft racing||Horrible camera angles, stagnant gameplay, poorly mapped controls, boring story|