Malik (4/25/04)

Beyond Good and Evil (XBox)

Ubi Soft

Beyond Good and Evil was released surprisingly to almost no notice last year.  Considering the rave reviews from the more commercial magazines and sites, and how this game came from Ubi, who could do no wrong lately (heard of Price of Persia?  Splinter Cell?), plus most convincingly of all, a quick price drop to $20, I knew I had to give in and check out BG&E.

Actually, the real reason I picked up this so easily forgotten game is quite good games have been released on any of the consoles since around February (actually I'd say January since personally I think FF:CC was over-rated).  So, either I could play Xenogears once again (I only play through Xenogears once ever 4 to 6 months...) or I try out something new (as in pick up an old game I overlooked, at the strong risk of throwing another $20 down the drain).  So I tried BG&E.


Well, BG&E starts of rather abruptly.  In fact, when I game first started, I was presented with not only a lack of reason to play, but also a lack of understanding of what the hell I was doing.  Let me elaborate; when you start the game, you are quickly introduced a some female character (according to the instructions, assuming you glanced at them, this would be you and your name would be Jade) who is on some planet and some asteroid-type-things falling from space (called "The Domz") are "attacking".  Then you're in a fight (luckily, they keep the story feeling realistic by not giving you a tutorial...BTW: you have 2 heart containers...the game calls them you have a 50/50 chance of dying really soon).  Then you're falling down a hole and are fighting a boss.

Thank you Ubi for waking up your programmers after the boss fight and telling them to give the player something to work with...after all of that teh gay confusion, including meeting a pig-man named Pey-j (pronounced "Page"), you soon are given a proper introduction to the game (why didn't they do that in the first place and give you the two fight scenes SECOND?).  So, if you can bare with about 15 minutes of confusion, things will definitely pick up.

Ok, that issue with the story aside, things get rather interesting rather quickly.  To give the general idea, you are an orphan in her late teens/early twenties who gets by in life as a freelance photographer, as she and her adoptive uncle (Pey-j, the pig-man) look over an island full of orphans (who's parents died in the Domz attacks).  Speaking of which, the Domz are a sorta twisted mutant style alien life which seems to more or less corrupt other life forms and bring them into the collective existence of the Domz (for you Star Trek geeks, think an organic Borg).  Well, to make ends meet (to pay your electric bill so you can put up defenses to save the kiddies from Domz attacks), you take an assignment for the National Science Foundation to photograph all the animal life of Hillys (the planet you be chillin' on) before anything dies out from the Domz invasion.  Plus you get an unusual extra mission to meet with an mysterious name on an eerily named island off in the middle of nowhere.

From there, the story only picks up more and more, constantly throwing answers to old questions at you and bringing up new intriguing questions and plot twists with almost every step you take; everything from mysterious alliances between government agencies and evil aliens, to secret underground resistance sectors tied in to other sectors of the government.  A good way to explain this story is too say a cross between a Zelda game and Metal Gear Solid. 

Game Play

Just like I said to describe the story, I'd say the game plays a lot like a cross between Metal Gear Solid and Zelda (the Wind Waker to be precise).  A large part of the game focuses on exploration and dialogue with commoners, merchants, and so forth in a standard Zelda style (ever notice how Zelda's world of Hyrule sounds slightly similar to Hillys).  However, once you enter a dungeon (...not counting the first, aka the training, dungeon),  which usually consist of factories, secret alien processing centers, etc, stealth and espionage are you best friends.

In the primary part of the game, you are given a fantasy setting with a wonderfully exotic and exciting world to explore.  As you explore the common areas of Hillys, all you really see are very friendly commoners, exotic merchants with wonderful items to behold, abrupt yet protective soldiers who enforce the law, should know all of this from any Zelda game (and if you haven't played a single Zelda game ever...WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!!?).  In fact, the controls give you all the abilities of a standard Zelda game.  You can swing your stick (just like a sword) or hold the button to charge a super attack, you can roll/dive, you can press yourself flat against walls, you collect heart containers (now call AP), money, you buy more heart far as you'll be concerned, until you get to the second dungeon, you're playing a more maturely oriented version of Zelda (it's a darker world filled with conspiracies...hence, "more maturely oriented"...).

However, once you enter the second dungeon, you are brought into a whole new world of game play as a Zelda style world is given the intense qualities of a Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid.  Gigantic guards are found on every corner patrolling for intruders...aka YOU...Due to Jade wielding the poorly chosen stick (as opposed to a assault riffle or an axe), you are given two ways to deal with the guards;  Instead of acting more like I tend to with Metal Gear Solid (kill as many guards as possible until you can find a hiding spot, and then resume the carnage), you must either sneak by all the guards (this is presented in a puzzle like fashion, as the guards move and patrol in very strict patterns), or you will need to assault the guards.  However, when you assault a guard, you are too weak to tackle more than one at a time (if there are more than one, while you tackle the first, the second will come up behind you and lay you out with an instant kill...they have high-tech energy weapons and you have the all mighty armor known as "clothes"...seriously, this is not a cheap kill since you are warned constantly...FIGHT ONLY ONE AT A TIME), so this option is present only in a few rarer situations.  So usually it comes down to moving against walls, ducking around corners, rolling across open areas, and most of all, being as quiet as possible as you try as hard as possible to make noises far away from yourself (you are eventually given a gun that is essentially no more than a noise-maker than can press switches).

While these two game play formats have been done to death, when they are put together in this level of interaction, it truly is a breath of fresh air on the currently stale geek world.  Especially when the controls are done this well.  The buttons react when you want, how you want...every time.  Even the camera controls (with only a couple small exceptions) how one would expect (by "expect" I mean two, the camera controls are really responsive...two, no 3D game has a perfect camera, so there will be some problems...I simply won't name them all since to say a game is 3D is to say that the camera has's just a matter of how many problems...BG&E has very few).

Fortunately, for the geek on the run (or the working class geek), you are given plenty of opportunities to save your game.  In fact, I've found that if you play with moderate skill, you should hit the next save opportunity within about 20 minutes of the last save.  This is a great relief to me since I usually only have an hour or so I can play games at any given time.

However, after taking into fact that the game is so friendly with saves and offers such a provocative style of game play, there has to be something done wrong...and wrong is the only way to describe the most teh gay aspect of 3D games.  Every 3D action/adventure game has to throw in collecting.  In BG&E, you have certain hovercraft parts you must purchase to unlock the next part of the game (be it jump boosters, advanced weaponry, or rockets to take you to space).  To purchase these parts, you have to use Pearls as your currency.  These pearls are different from your standard money (credits), and are quite rare.  In order to acquire pearls, you pretty much have to do what you would do to acquire Shines on Mario Sunshine, or stars on Mario 64.  In other words, you find some automatically (but not enough to go on in the game, without...) and some bonus missions, such as racing (which starts easy, but ends up insanely difficult, taking enough pictures of the native animals of Hillys (1 Pearl/8 unique pictures), explore hidden areas, etc.  This is all well and good to encourage the player to explore and play extra areas of the game (the same way it's done on all other 3D games), but collecting is required to fully experience the game...thus, if you don't have too much time to throw away, you are simply going to miss certain aspects of the game due to wanting to play for fun and not labor away at collecting...and if you do like collecting in action/adventure games, then all I can say is that I pity you...

The only other possible problem I can think of with the game play is that BG&E tends to be unbalanced in difficulty.  When you try a bonus game (such as a race), you will throw the control at the ground, swear, scream...if you play bonus missions around a significant other...just don't...but when you're playing the normal game segments, you are given almost too little of a challenge.  The only part of the difficulty that is actually done perfectly is the matter of life and death.  When you die (and you will...enough to keep you challenged, but not enough to piss you off too much), you simply come back to life at the beginning of the current scene (if the scene was you sneaking past some guard, you'll respawn in the previous room)...bravo, Ubi...bravo. 


Usually, for me, a games visuals mean next to nothing to the overall experience.  I mean, if a game is fun, what does it matter if the bump-mapping is good, or the mode-7 (I just went old school on all your arses) is breath-taking.  Unless the visuals take away from the experience (like in FFX...ummm, post-apocalyptic world that looks like a brochure for a tropical vacation...yeah...that fits the mood of the game...), I'll still have fun with modest graphics.  However, BG&E is one of those rare experiences for me that the visuals actually added to the game.

In BG&E, everything is given that animated look that does more than just give some lame innovative hype like with Zelda:WW.  The animation is so smooth and detailed that it makes one feel like they are actually playing an animated movie.  However, unlike FFX, the game play gives the feeling that you're in control of the movie instead of just watching it.  Each movement made by Jade is not fully in your control, but also fully animated.  Personally, I don't think this game can be described (in terms of visuals) outside of actually seeing it in action; so, I'll just leave it at this; BG&E is perfectly animated to the level of detail one would see in a major movie release.

Despite the perfection of these visuals, I do have one complaint.  It is minor, but I feel I must say it.  This game is really green.  I mean the whole world is filled with green, the lighting in the various dungeons is usually green, the energy shields sometimes used by various characters are green...quite frankly, with this level of detail and animation, I'd prefer to see the game in to put it...full color.  The visuals are almost wasted by using so little of the other colors.  However, at least I can say that this effect does something that the bright visuals of a game like FFX tends to neglect; it shows that the world is in a sickly state.  So, I guess it does fulfill it's purpose, but much green...


The voice acting is surprisingly fresh and skillfully accomplished.  Usually my biggest complain about audio in games tends to be about the usually stale and dull voice acting.  However, the acting in BG&E give a good deal of flavor to the characters.  Jade has that naive sound in her voice that helps the player see how naive she is when the story begins.  As the game progresses, she tends to sound more forceful and in charge, thus allowing the voice acting to actually show character development.  On top of that, you have such interesting uses of accents to give additional flavor to the game.  You computer is given a Latin inspired accent, which adds to the entertainment of hearing something as mundane as an item description.  Pey-j sounds bitter and grumpy, which is good since he's a bitter old mechanic.  The examples go on and on.

As for the actual sound effects, they are everything one would hope for.  There's nothing that really stands out as unique, but then again, considering the quality of sound effects from Ubi Soft games lately, this is not a bad thing.  After all, if nothing's wrong, why mess with it?

Last of all is the music.  Once again, there's nothing bad I could say about BG&E audio-wise.  The music fits the mood of the game.  If your in an exploration type of moment, then you will hardly notice any background music, but one the shit hits the fan, the music will speed up, get loud, and get your adrenaline pumping.


After playing a good 60% through the game (by my estimates), I think it's safe to say this is a keeper.  I have had nothing bad in terms of playing this game except for the annoying collecting aspects (which every adventure game has to, how could I really complain about BG&E as much as complain about the genre as a whole?) and the uneven difficulty on the side quests.  If it weren't for this difficulty issue, I'd give BG&E a higher score, but as it goes, I have to give BG&E a 8.75/10.