The lights are on
Beyond Good and Evil is a critically lauded yet undersold adventure that began in the 6th console gen as a tri-console release on every major platform at the time. Publisher Ubisoft was supposed to go all out on a multi-part series but like everything that doesn't turn into a money dumping machine for Ubisoft, Beyond Good and Evil was promptly axed when the critically acclaimed game failed to dump mountains of cash on Ubisoft's doorstep.Several years and much word of mouth later, Beyond Good and Evil has picked up a cult following from the mouths that have extolled of its perceived awesomeness. Now an alleged sequel is supposedly incoming around the same time Squeenix produces a Final Fantasy game that isn't total shite *zing*My actual review copy of Beyond Good and Evil is a digital download of Beyond Good and Evil HD from XBOX Live Arcade, but seeing as how little to nothing has been altered since the games release a decade ago, this review can (to my knowledge) apply to any and all versions of the game.What really grinds my gears is how some publisher or developer thinks some game or brand deserves an HD remake but then does nothing to improve everything that was busted about the game years ago or bring the gameplay up to modern standards. Unfortunately there is much that is wrong with Beyond Good and Evil. We'll start there.First, it's primarily a stealth game. While the gameplay is varied - there is combat (we'll get to that later), open world Zelda-style structured exploration, even arcade driving sim and on rails shooter - main objectives take place in areas that can be most closely equated to Zelda's "dungeons" and this is where the stealth based gameplay rears its ugly head. Now, for me, if it's not any of the Arkham games and it has stealth in it I don't like it, and Beyond Good and Evil is a pretty shoddy stealth "action" game even for its time.Pretty much the only fail condition in stealth segments is getting spotted, which only entails entering into an enemy's limited cone of vision. Guards will then pursue you but since the game affords no places to hide you'll be caught anyway and sent back to checkpoint with a bit of your health missing. Interestingly, getting caught again won't deplete your health any further ... sometimes at least. It is quite sporadic and the game never seems to adhere to any sort of established rules. In fact, sometimes getting a game over is in your best interest since you'll respawn with replenished health... go figure.In any case, incapacitating guards involves running up behind them and kicking them in the back. If they've got buddies nearby it'll draw their attention and they'll attempt to restore their injured comrade so it's an obvious way to lure enemies to ambush. This is pretty much it, other than moving behind cover. There are no cameras to worry about, no shadows to hide in, no lights to douse. The stealth play is exceedingly shallow. Guards all repeat the same moves through an area over and over with no variation. You'd think it was easy, but the lack of options renders it more of the trial and error approach to stealth that makes it go really bad really fast. And there is no way to recover from getting spotted. You'll just be doing it again ... a lot. Which is pointless. Throw in the shoddy collision detection that makes it difficult to maneuver Jade around corners and you get yourself into situations where Jade gets hung up on a corner with her ass sticking out, visible to every naked eye and armed guard in the room.Another major issue is the camera. Or as I have dubbed it, the "Crappy Cam" (trademark pending). It is one of the worst virtual cameras I have ever had to suffer in a video game. The game *tries* to go with the cinematic approach by incorporating a whole bunch of needless contextual perspectives but it just ends up making the game a pain in the ass to play. The camera doesn't even always operate consistently in certain contexts. Sometimes it's stuck in a contextual mode, sometimes you can do something to unhinge it and regain control and sometimes you just have to move ahead blindly until it repositions. Sometimes it does this freakishly irritating thing where it has only two vertical positions and it will snap wildly between them, which I think is supposed to be the way it works behind cover - not that it isn't any less aggravating and a hindrance then - but sometimes it'll get stuck that way when moving Jade freely, like in the midst of sudden combat where it utterly screws you. Switching between third person and first person camera view is the pits because the first person camera will default to the direction Jade is facing regardless of the camera perspective, and then you'll have to reposition it or reposition her ahead of time if you can manage. The first person camera pans about a pixel per second, so it is dreadfully slow and impossible while sneaking when you have to somehow orient Jade to take a shot at enemies while their backs are turned in a timely fashion. Other times, however, when you switch to first person Jade will snap to look at a corner or the floor or some random place you'd never expect regardless of what's up. Needless to say this is highly aggravating when it does this. Behind the wheel of the hover craft the camera does not move independently of the direction of the vehicle unless the vehicle is still, and then it pans at the speed of snail. Needless to say, the camera is a complete mess and hinders pretty much every aspect of gameplay from stealth to action to sightseeing. In enclosed spaces (which is every indoor space) the camera gets hung up in corners or crammed behind wandering NPCs.Next we have the combat. Jade engages in melee with a quarter staff. Hit the attack button to unleash continuous combos in the direction you're facing. When enemies crowd you (which is all the time) Jade can often end up suddenly facing to attack a new target that has just slid up along side whatever she used to be hitting. Players have absolutely no control over this. There is no manual way to target enemies other than to point Jade in the general direction of whatever it is you want to smack and let her pick. Like stealth, combat is extremely shallow. Hit it until it dies is the be all and end all of it. Jade can sidestep and backflip but dodging is spotty especially when the camera and the controls aren't reading from the same page. The sidestep is little more than a half foot shuffle in either direction. The backflip, however can leap tall buildings in a single bound and have you standing across the map in no time. Since enemy attacks are horrendously feeble, the only way to get hit is to ignore one until it smacks you from behind. Sometimes you just can't help this so there are a lot of cheap unavoidable hits only because the player ought to be taking some damage I guess.So from a gameplay standpoint, the fundamentals are busted. Still, there are some things left to be desired, although they hardly amount to what I would consider saving graces.First, the art direction is pretty decent. The sci-fi oceanic world of Hyllis is highly detailed with lots of movement that makes it feel like a vibrant living place. While the overworld is not all that large, it is largely open to exploration. Secrets are not very well hidden. Getting to them is often the tricky part. Treasures can be hidden behind challenging hovercraft races and courses that require agility to avoid getting burned by deadly lasers. The alien inhabitants of Hyllis are mostly anthropomorphic avians, goats, cows, otters and various other derivatives which really isn't all that imaginative. Still, every NPC is granted some semblance of personality as well as a unique visual look to make them feel like they're given a place in the world.As for the HD remake, the game is not as ugly as 6th gen games were ... which is about all that can be said for it. There are some water reflections that look nice which is good since water is everywhere on Hyllis. More polys and cleaner textures make for an over all more pleasant look, or at least less hideous to look at.For the most part, the main cast of characters are pretty well written. Protagonist Jade still stands as a textbook example of how to portray a female character admirably in a video game. She is attractive without being overly sexualized. She fights, she solves puzzles, she's an all around good character. Not all that compelling to me but she's good. Sidekick Pey'j, the anthropomorphic pig, is by far the most interesting and expressive character. But surprise surprise, as is always the case he is the first to go. Everyone else is pretty flat. There really isn't much of any one else anyway though really. The other companion character is given all the personality of a moss covered rock. Oh, and he has amnesia because somebody has to.The narrative is pretty basic. Corrupt military government in league with a hostile invading force leads populace to believe they'll deliver them from the threat of extermination while simultaneously leading them to slaughter. Jade, as an undercover agent for a group of rebels, is sent on a grand total of three missions in the entire game in order to gather photographic evidence and convince the Hyllian populace to revolt. There is, of course, some grande secret involving Jade because something has to be all about her. Throw in some not-so-impossible-to-see-coming twists for good measure, and you've got yourself a narrative that succeeds as a premise at best. At the very least it doesn't suck.Honestly, I fail to see what is so great about Beyond Good and Evil that warrants such critical acclaim and sadness over its lack of sales and its subsequent cancellation as a series. The game just isn't all that good. It is agonizingly tedious with scant few redeeming qualities to make it come out smelling better in perspective. There are a whole big two characters who are at all notable, and Jade is only noteworthy because she isn't a female protagonist with F cup boobs and she doesn't dress in latex bondage gear. Not exactly a point in her favor. This just makes her the exception to the norm. Everything else about it wreaks of incompetence or mediocrity although the writers seem to have a pretty clear idea of what sort of fiction they wanted to create and it shows. Unfortunately, this is hardly enough to save it from being an utterly unenjoyable video game.
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