Review by ConfusedGuy

Reviewed: 04/13/04

An ending in search of a beginning.

''In a world of deception, believe in nothing... except yourself.'' So says Beyond Good & Evil's case, promising a game full of drama and conspiratorial twists. This tagline should be taken with a rather large grain of salt, though, as the game's plot - about which the rest of its success relies - is more hype than depth.
BG&E is a perfect example of a game idea developed too soon. As plot writing typically goes, the premise is rich (if not delved into much), and all but the final portion of the game is missing vital gameplay motivation. But, proving that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the title has also garnered considerable sleeper-hit praise.

You play as Jade, a young freelance reporter on the planet Hillys. Jade and Pey'j, a humanoid pig (more human than pig), live in a lighthouse and protect a number of orphaned children, their parents taken by invading aliens. The invaders - the DomZ - abduct Hillyans on a regular basis, despite being countered by the Alpha Section, a foreign military force dedicated (by its own accord) to fight the DomZ off. But as more people are being abducted, some begin to question the effectiveness, or even motives, of the Alphas. Through a roundabout turn of events, Jade is hired to investigate and expose the conspiracy in a series of journalistic missions into the deepest parts of the Alphas' high-security facilities. There are some twists along the way, and the ending redefines ''surprise,'' but by and large the plot development (especially character development) is slow and scant.

Beyond Good & Evil is a 3D adventurer along the (unfortunate) lines of Star Fox Adventures. The gameplay can be boiled down into five basic aspects: moving/wandering around, combat, items, sidekicks, and photography. You must run through factories, cities, and other foot traffic areas reached by your trusty hovercraft, and later, a spaceship. The game's four dungeon areas are navigated primarily by way of item puzzles, sneaking around enemies (with stealthy wall-hugging and crouching), and simply finding your way through the area. There are occasional fights, and many stealth rooms have the additional option of battle; but in most cases, fighting is a surefire way to get yourself killed. The combat itself is rather dull, with a sum total of four combat moves in the whole game: twirling Jade's staff, a more powerful staff move (which can be upgraded to shoot small homing blasts), stationary first-person shooting via a 'Gyrodisc' launcher, and telling your sidekick to attack. Altogether, fighting is usually very unexciting.

Items are barely worth mentioning. You'll collect and buy them in a variety of locations: some are keys of sorts (items found in a dungeon which must be used elsewhere to progress), some are capacity upgrades (more health), most are replenishment for lost HP. You can also give items to your sidekick, though they're almost always more useful to you than to him. There are two different sidekicks, and you get the second shortly after losing the first; sidekicks can be used as an advancing device vis a vis their special abilities, destroying barriers, helping defeat enemies, or simply holding a switch while you move forward. Photography, whether in taking pictures of critical mission data in dungeons or simply shooting different animals for money from an environmental study, is one of the simpler and more entertaining parts of the game: with the help of the game's map and radar, finding picture targets becomes a quest of exploration and observation.

While the game is well-rendered and sometimes even picturesque - faces in particular are commendably done - most of the environments are drab, boring, uninspiring, even demotivating. The soundtrack is barely even present, with a good track or two, and another handful of mediocre tunes. Sound effects aren't bad, at least, and most of the voice acting is actually pretty good.

At its longest (including collecting everything in the game), BG&E easily clocks in at under 15 hours. What is there to offer in replay value? Well, collecting a few dozen optional items, taking pictures of all the planet's animals, and completing a few extra scattered puzzles and challenges. In an interesting twist on replay, every save file comes with a custom-generated Internet code which can be entered on an Ubi Soft website (http://darkroom.ubi.com/) for an extra challenge and the in-game reward of a new minigame.

Though in some ways a noble effort in innovation, and despite an exciting end sequence, Beyond Good & Evil simply wasn't conceptually developed enough to be a solid title. If the story was fleshed out more, if there was more to it, and if parts of the game went a bit faster, BG&E would be fantastic; but at least in this reviewer's opinion, it falls significantly short of a masterpiece.

Overall arbitrary rating: 6-6.5/10


Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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