We have been excited about this game for quite some time now. There is something about Ubi Soft of late that gets us all hot and flustered. The developer of the year in the eyes of many in the industry, the output of this once small company has been both hugely consistent and hugely impressive. So what is next for a company that has achieved so much? In front of us we are faced with Beyond Good and Evil. A massive adventure that aims to delight and challenge in equal modicums, does it succeed? Well you will have to read on to find out...
Beyond Good and Evil all takes place in a wonderfully put together well. You start off at your lighthouse home where you are introduced to the basic, but most integral aspects of this game. The last title to feature a camera in such a prominent way, if memory serves, was Pokémon Snap way back on the N64, and it is photography that is part of the game here. Due to a war being waged against aliens the wildlife of the world is at danger, so if you see something that you have never seen before take a quick picture of it. Why you might ask? Well, photographs you take are automatically sent to a science centre, which transfers money into your bank, which in due course can be exchanges again for items of need to you, such as health and various other upgrades.
When the camera is not of any use to you there is always a rather nifty hovercraft to be called upon. Yes, you did hear us right, a hovercraft. Wind Waker had a talking boat, so surely it makes a crumpet of sense for BG&E to have its very own nautical form of transport. This can be used to travel between the vast worlds of Beyond Good and Evil. Gliding across the water is superbly good fun and the feeling of freedom is superb. Again, this item can be upgraded and eventually you have the ultimate freedom for a videogame, the ability to fly. Freedom is something this game does so well. Being able to fly between worlds and explore things at will is done perfectly and allows you to look down every nook and in between every cranny for as long as you please.
Or you would think, but the thing is you are being tricked into thinking you are free. The story of this game permanently shunts you about in every direction to ensure you don't feel too free; the basic idea of the story is thus. In the world of Hillys, the DomZ have spread panic and fear amongst the population due to their ever-increasing attacks on the planet. The Alpha Section is used to take over military operations and try and prevent an invasion by the DomZ. Still with us here? You play as Jade (hence the lovely green look of the character), a reporter who stumbles across some deep lying and strange goings on inside the Alpha Section. Just what is going on? Well it is up to you to find out. The plot is rather good, we have to admit that. Whilst it isn't the most inspired and mind-blowing thing ever, it certainly keeps you playing and adds a much needed purpose to the game.
The way in this game plays is just as varying and impressive as the environments you play it in. The focus of this game is stealth and exploration. Unlike Zelda, a game it will inevitably compared to, this title relies very little on combat to entertain you. The enemies you do come across are relatively simple to bump off, just hit "A" a lot and stay alert and you should get rid of most that you come across. We admit that us saying that makes this game seem more tedious than listening to Iian Duncan Smith talk politics, but trust us when we say this is exciting stuff. The bosses are very challenging at times, and whilst the game itself isn't the most cranially aching of tasks, there are sections that will get you thinking. The fact of the matter is, combat doesn't feature too much in this game, you can often just puzzle your way out of a situation rather than actually having to get your hands dirty and hit some polygonated arse. Combat is made all the easier as the game locks onto any enemies allowing you to focus on the combat rather than keeping your foes in view.
This is a deep and dark game, as the plot might suggest. Rather than having to kill your enemies you have to out-think them. A lot of your time you are faced with a situation where you are inside something and you need to get out. Rather than go about swinging limbs at people you need to sneak past them using stealth and cunning. Solving various puzzles, and uncovering a secret of two. As a nice twist rather than just seeing something you get to take photos of information or goings on that certain people might not want to become public. We do not want to spoil it for you, so that is all we shall say on the matter.
The layout of the levels is something we have already waxed-lyrical about to a certain extent. The way in which the physical attributes of this game are designed is stunning. The puzzles are challenging and well thought out, the levels are all innovative and highly impressive both visually and in terms of layout. The worlds vary so much and each one is a different experience to the last, making the game always feel fresh and innovative, which it is. The puzzles are so wonderfully worked and whilst some might not be the most challenging they always have a purpose. One enables you to do another and so on, until you complete your objective or penetrate an enemy base or indeed escape from it.
There are certain other more discreet features that make this game a more rewarding and individual experience. In the game's main town or hub you can sign yourself up to two newspapers. From these you are kept informed of the latest propaganda from the world around you. Elsewhere is the very impressive addition of hovercraft mini-games. These are immensely good fun and winning them is very worthwhile as such an occurrence allows you to buy more upgrades, which helps you in your main quest. Rather disturbingly you have a friend with you, named Pey'j. This is supposedly your Uncle, but the small problem of him being a pig poses various biological limitations. Pey'j is a very useful little swine though. He can but-stamp, and open up new areas of the game for you. Sadly the bugger is useless in battle. At other points in the game over people come in to assist you, ensuring that proceedings are kept feeling fresh from start to finish.
The controls are very smooth and simple to use. Everything you do is context sensitive, so Jade will jump, hang and so forth with minimal effort or thought from the player. Using your camera is simple, manoeuvring in your hovercraft is also rather simple, in fact the whole game is kept nice and simple thanks to controls that just let you get on with playing it.
Visually this game is a real looker. The environments are huge and are all beautifully realised. From gorgeous and busy cities to the eerie dungeons, this is a game of visual contrast and excellence. One of the best looking titles on the GameCube, the effects are stunning and one thing that we are still struggling to come to terms with is the sheer scale of the thing, this game is huge. On a smaller scale the attention to detail is perfect helping you to get totally absorbed into this deep and vibrant world.
To go with cinematic visuals Beyond Good and Evil also features a wonderful musical score and voice acting that makes what happens all the more believable. The music is hugely atmospheric and allows you to become totally immersed in a world that oozes character from every section. The amount of care and attention to perfection that has been put into every aspect of the game is highly commendable and makes for a very complete and quite frankly stunning gaming experience.
Innovative and always exciting and new this game plays like a dream. Perfect controls and excellent level design coupled with some lovely puzzles and excellently thought out sequences of challenges enable you to enjoy this game from start to finish.
Wonderfully realised locales and some beautiful backgrounds provide a game that is both artistic and graphically very solid. The depth in detail is also very impressive.
Great voice acting and a hugely atmospheric musical score all add to the ambiance of this title.
The only real letdown for this title. Whilst the worlds within are huge the challenge at times is minimal. There are whole sections that you can just race through very quickly. Whilst the whole thing goes on for a fair old while in the end the amount of subject material here should mean this game is twice the length it has ended up at.
A true labour of love that is an excellent example of gaming class. Zelda with a camera, talking pigs and breasts this aint. Beyond Good and Evil is a title in its own right. Hugely innovative, wonderfully free-form and beautifully produced if this game doesn't get the public attention is deserves we will be very angry indeed. When it arrives in the UK sometime in March buy it, or feel our wrath.