When Michel Ancel, creator of the popular Rayman franchise, announced he was making a new game called Beyond Good & Evil, people listened. When Ubisoft started releasing details on the game and screenshots of the work-in-progress, excitement and high expectations ensued. As the game approached release, many questions were on the minds of gamers, such as "would the incredibly outlandish fan-perpetuated hype do justice to the final product" and "how much different would this new adventure be compared to Ancel's past creations?" Well, after having played through this puzzle-solving, stealth, action, adventure opus, we can definitively say that Beyond Good & Evil does, indeed, live up to mounting expectation while delivering an abundantly fresh and original adventure that looks and plays nothing like Rayman.
The lead character in BG&E is named Jade, a young freelance reporter who runs her business out of her home. Jade's pig uncle, Pey'j, is always at her side and helps her through most any problem she may be having, whether it be puzzle-oriented, objective-driven, or just moral support. Both reside in a place called Hillys, which is in a constant state of war against an alien army known as the DomZ. Hillys official protectors are the Alpha Sections, an elite military force, but recent suspicious activity has led some underground groups to believe that the Alpha Sections may have other, more diabolical, plans in store for Hillys. One of these underground groups is called the IRIS Network, and they suspect the Alphas are playing both sides. After Jade's home is attacked by the impending alien menace, she turns her attention to the IRIS Network and shortly falls in league with the underground society. You'll stealthily sneak through Alpha bases, eavesdrop on top-secret conversations and generally unearth the conspiracy for the population at large.
Jade isn't alone in her pursuit to blow the cover on Alpha's plans, however. She's almost always have the assistance of a companion, such as Pey'j, who is often required to pass the game's many puzzles. You won't be able to directly control your companions, instead you simply hit the action button in certain locations and your sidekick will happily perform whatever action is required to progress. Your partner will also help out in the game's many battle sequences, too. Teammates are blessed with good AI, so there is very little technical hiccups that you'll have to endure during the course of the game, and if you're the kind of player who easily gets caught up in heated battles, then the AI's inclination to keep an eye on your health will be most appreciated.
One of the game's main focal points is the inclusion of a camera that can be used at any time during the game to snap pictures of your surroundings. There are a few different functions to the camera. The first being the ability to take pictures of undocumented species and selling them to a scientist that is attempting to catalog every living thing on the planet. Doing this will earn you credits, which can then be spent on a variety of different things. You'll also be able to utilize your camera for purposes of uncovering the alien/Alpha conspiracy by taking pictures of people, places, or things that can be used as photographic evidence.
The combat system in Beyond Good & Evil is pretty straightforward, but remains consistently fun from beginning to end. Jade and her teammates can swing their weapons at enemies, jump, roll, strafe, and an assortment of other moves - the control is very much like a 3D Zelda game. But it's the puzzles in BG&E that take center stage in the experience. Nearly every area will require some serious thinking to overcome, they aren't quite Ico-caliber but they are diverse and entertaining enough to keep you playing without fear of repetition. Some of the puzzles take the form of stealth game play, sneaking around and staying out of view of enemies. While most games use this sub-genre as an obligatory form of gameplay, the stealth sequences in BG&E actually feel like they belong and are perfectly paced.
Your main mode of transportation in and around Hillys is a souped up hovercraft that you can upgrade and customize at various points in the adventure. The hovercraft can navigate the waters with quickness and precision, shoot, and eventually jump. While a good portion of the game's 15-hour lifespan will be spent simply getting from one place to another via hovercraft, the gameplay and feel of these sequences are such that you won't easily grow tired of blasting it around different areas and shooting up bad guys.
Visually, Beyond Good & Evil is an impressive looking game. The outdoor environments in Hillys are all rendered with utmost attention to detail, every area has its own unique style and ambience that really gives players a sense of fantastical immersion. Likewise, the indoor areas are equally polished, though often not quite as striking since they tend to consist of more simpler things such as dirt, walls, and corridors instead of wide open, expansive outdoor environments. There are plenty of little details in BG&E that will really endear you to the game, such as the giant holographic TV screens in towns, the distorted heat wave effect that comes from activating your hovercraft's afterburners, and loads of character models that just look great.
The audio presentation is equally effective, using professional voice acting to purport a good portion of the game's involving, winding storyline - every character's voice sounds precisely like you'd expect them to from looking at them. The music runs the gamut of slow-paced introspective pieces that delicately walk the line between navigation and discovery, and wild, off-the-wall alien rock that would fit perfectly in a kooky Star Wars cantina scene.
Overall, Beyond Good & Evil is a surprisingly entertaining and imaginative adventure that nails nearly everything it sets out to do. Had the game broken the 20-hour mark and cut down a bit on the stealth sequences it could have been an amazing game. As it sits, BG&E manages to remain highly entertaining throughout but ends far too soon.
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