I will start this review by saying that I had never heard of Beyond Good & Evil until it arrived in my mailbox. Sure, I had read a few previews when it was announced, but had never delved further than that into this title. So, you can just imagine my surprise as I began playing this little gem not even realizing I was playing an action-adventure classic. I really have to hand it to Ubisoft for keeping pace and producing excellent title after excellent title.
The player will find themselves on the planet of Hillys. Here, humans as well as goats, cows and other animals have evolved to the point where they are basically human but well, with animal heads and bodies. All citizens of Hillys have been gridlocked into a long conflict with a race of alien invaders known as the Domz. The Domz have been abducting the people of Hillys for centuries and no one knows how to stop their evil ways. Not even the Hillys own force known as the Alpha-Section. The Domz are the reason why the character you plays was raised an orphan. You the player will step into the role of Jade, action reporter extraordinaire.
Jade lives in a small lighthouse on the coast of Hillys with her uncle, Pey'j, a hog for the most part. He adopted Jade after her parents went missing thanks to the Domz. Together they offer refuge to the orphaned children of Hillys in their lighthouse. Jade's always willing to take on the toughest jobs that reporting has to offer, the problem is, the job market has been lacking. This is basically where the game gets going. A mysterious message arrives offering a well-paid but dangerous job to Jade. Not only is Jade a reporter, but she also carries a camera as well as the skill of masterful martial arts.
Fighting is a good portion of Beyond Good & Evil, but not so much that it turns into a total hack and slash experience. The game does a nice job of mixing in the use of your camera, which you can use to take pictures of various animals at first to earn money. Your camera will become much, much more important as the story unfolds before your eyes. I'd be doing anyone who reads this a disservice if I revealed anything about the story, but it basically boils down to a massive government conspiracy. Yes, that means there is a rebellion and there are a few plot twists.
Game play is a healthy mixture between stealth, action and exploring. Once you get to a certain section of the game you'll be hiding in the corners watching shadows of those you wish to avoid creep ever closer to you. By no means is this a pure stealth game like Splinter Cell or MGS, however, a lot of the timing puzzles are done very well. Having to hide under fog and wait until four different enemies turn the opposite way is pretty heart pounding. Another cool feature in BG&E is the fact that for a good portion of most of the game, you'll have a companion by your side as you go exploring. In the first half of the game it's your Uncle Pey'j, who will help you in combat as well as lend some special talents to aid you with the game's puzzles.
Controls in BG&E are not configurable which is slightly annoying. The controls aren't terrible difficult to figure out but are a tad awkward. No controller support was disappointing but I soon forgot about it after about a half-hour of gaming. BG&E avoids most of the 'Evil Camera Angle' issues that other 3rd-person games tend to suffer from, just not always. There were a few times where the camera was my downfall, but not often enough to be a negative factor in the game play. Means of transportation in the world of Hillys is done via your old but trusty hovercraft. Controls on the hovercraft are the same as controlling Jade with a few additions for the sequences when you have to battle in your hovercraft. Upgrades are available for the hovercraft for high prices, but the best means of transportation really come available much later in the game when you find out more about your past.
Beyond Good & Evil's graphics are in typical Ubisoft fashion: stunning. While the character models don't have as many polygons as some games, the look totally in place in the game's artistic style. Whatever may be lacking in terms of model detail are surely made up for in silky smooth animation for everything all the characters in the game do. Everything moves, as you'd expect it to. The game's textures also scream quality as they paint a visually pleasing landscape of colorful creativity throughout all the varied and odd locales that populate Hillys. Let's not forget that amazing water either. Watch as it reflects everything around it perfectly in every ripple that your hovercraft leaves. Water psychics act just as they should as the water tosses your craft around on larger wakes and such. Also the game's night to day transitions are absolutely pretty (but still not as nice as Morrowind's).
As always with UBI Soft, the sound is extremely well done, especially in the voice acting department. All of the characters, however minor, are given voices that seem to perfectly match their appearances. Since most of the text within the game is voiced, it is a respectable feat to have spent the time on having each syllable sound right. As with most games lately, the music kicks up during combat and dies out as you end the phase. Background music is ambient and out of the way for the most part. 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.
The criticism/minus point about this game is its length, or lack thereof, it is very short. I beat it in a weekend and the lack of replay value kind of hurts the game a little. This is to be expected since the game is a great story that is worth playing through at least twice, of course when a game is this good, you always want more. Wonderfully done and one of the surprise games of last year in my opinion.
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