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Beyond Good & Evil

Platform(s): GameCube, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: Dec. 2, 2003

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Xbox Review - 'Beyond Good & Evil'

by Corey Owen on Jan. 20, 2004 @ 1:44 a.m. PST

Armed with her camera, aikido staff, and resolute investigative skills, Jade sets out to expose the dark secrets behind these alien invasions and to liberate the minds of her deceived people. Pushed to the very edge of her physical and spiritual will, she soon discovers that even these limits are not what they seem … Her quest for the truth knows no bounds.

Every once in awhile a game comes across my path that reminds me why I am a gamer. It creates for you an experience that no other medium could possibly convey and it does so artistically, emotionally, and spiritually while still maintaining the excitement you expect from a game. One such game is Beyond Good and Evil. This game has intrigued me since early in its inception, but never in my wildest dreams could I have expected the masterpiece that was to be. In short BG&E has everything and more that you could want in an action adventure game; great combat, intriguing story, memorable characters, exquisite stylized graphics, and innovation. There's a lot to love in this game, so come with me on the adventure of a lifetime.

You will take on the role of Jade, a young and beautiful reporter thrust into the middle of a war raging between the citizens of Hillys and the invading DomZ. Initially you will take a job photographing all the species of the planet for the local science community. This job will stay with you throughout your journey and is a key gameplay element. Each time you manage to catalog 8 different species you will be awarded either with a camera upgrade, an Mdisk, or a pearl. There is also a special reward should you manage to find all the planets species. These photos will also earn you credits which you can use to buy a multitude of items from health, to ship upgrades, to attack upgrades.

There's much more to BG&E though than just taking photos. Many of the creatures you will be photographing are not of the friendly variety. In these cases you will call on the aid of your trusty Dai-Jo, a staff like weapon, to deal out the pain. Combat is very intuitive and user-friendly. You will only need to use the A button for attacking, but don't let this fool you into thinking the combat is shallow. There are a wide variety of moves that Jade can perform and a few power moves thrown into the mix. While not as impressive as some of the moves from the other recent UbiSoft title Prince of Persia they are still fluid and fun to perform. Later in your journey you will find the Gyrodisk Glove to assist in your combat. This glove allows you to fire projectile Mdisks at your foes. In many cases this will be your only option in battle.

There are also situations where you will have combat in a vehicle. Your main mode of transportation around Hillys will be a hovercraft. This vehicle isn't just for joy rides though. It comes outfitted with a neutralizing cannon. This weapon along with the entire craft will be upgraded as your progress. By visiting the local black market you can purchase upgrades for the hovercraft to aid you in your journey. They won't accept regular currency though so you will have to use the pearls you find along the way to buy upgrades. As mentioned before, these can be rewards given for taking photographs for the science community. This is just one of many ways to procure these precious pearls. Many of them are hidden throughout the world and will require much searching on your part. Some pearls are for sale in the pedestrian district in the local shops. Just wait, there's more.

BG&E also has several minigames you can play to provide you even more variety in the gameplay. There is an air hockey type game where you try to get eight disks on the table to the opponent's side. This game is very simple in concept, but surprisingly fun to play. You can choose to bet a small amount on each game or put the big bucks down for a chance to win a pearl. There are also races that you can compete in with other hovercraft. These races will award you with cash and pearls as well. While these races provide a little variety, they are relatively easy and shouldn't be too great a challenge.

If you like collecting in a game BG&E has that for you as well. Throughout the world of Hillys there are numerous pearls hidden in the environment. Some of these are fairly easy to find, but if you want all of them prepare to do some searching. There is a device you can buy which shows you where on the map they can be found, but the route to these locations is often hidden. In addition to collecting all the pearls you can also take photos of all the species of Hillys. This may be easier said than done as many animals are hidden or require certain tasks to be done before you can even see them. There is also a locator you can buy to help find all the species, but again this doesn't make it easy. Collecting all the pearls and photos isn't required, but it is a nice feature for those who enjoy that type of gameplay.

What great adventure would be complete without a sidekick? On your quest to uncover the truth about what's going on in Hillys you will have at least one sidekick with you at all times. They are usually there to provide you with comic relief and to progress the story along, but on occasion they will aid you in combat. They will automatically fight in battle, but you can get them to perform a super move by pressing B. This is especially helpful when you are surrounded by enemies. You will also need their assistance in many situation to reach places you would otherwise be unable to. This interactivity with your sidekick is done very well and you may forget that it is A.I. driven. It's this level of interaction between characters that really sets this game head and shoulders above others. The situations never seem canned and the supporting cast is phenomenal.

BG&E is all about originality and uniqueness and no place does it shine better than in the graphics department. The sheer number of characters is astonishing, but the fact that each one has a personal style and attitude makes that game so much more believable. The models themselves are very well done, but the artistic touches are what really set them apart. The water effects are astounding and they have a unique cell shaded splash effect that goes great with the realistic looking water. There are a wide range of environments to explore, each with a distinct flair. Environmental effects all look fantastic and bring the various locales to life. The animation is very fluid and really showcases UbiSoft's superb animation abilities.

Not to be left in the dust, the audio perfectly complement the graphics and gameplay to complete the experience. The music fits the tone of the game to a T and can really heighten the drama in many instances. It creates subtle tension when you are sneaking past guards and creates adrenaline filled moments when you are engaging enemies in battle or running from an onslaught of foes. The sound effects also do a great job of immersing you in the environments, especially the numerous electrical effects that you will encounter in the factory setting. Probably the best aspect of the audio though is the voice acting. Here is where the characters really come to life and their personalities shine through. The casting job was fantastic, as each character sounds exactly like you would expect. While Jade's voice acting is done well, the supporting cast features some of the best acting and the majority of the memorable lines.

BG&E is a fantastic game that no gamer should miss out on. Ubisoft continues to pump out some of the best games each year and this one is no different. Combining all the elements that make action adventure games great as well as adding innovation in gameplay and storytelling BG&E will have you wanting more and more. The only real complaint I had with the game at all is the length. It can be beaten in around 12-15 hours, but if you want to get everything you can add a couple hours to that. Drop what you are doing right now and go pick this game up. You'll be glad you did.

Score: 9.5/10


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