In the hunt for the truth, is it truly possible to look beyond Good and Evil?

First released in 2003, Beyond Good and Evil (BG&E) was very well received by critics and gamers alike.  Winning multiple awards and award nominations, including the coveted ‘Best Adventure Game’ and ‘Best Story’, it held high expectations on the public release [1].  While BG&E received numerous accolades, the unit sales did not reflect this, nor did the sales reflect on the actual quality of the game.  As Ubisoft and other developers focused on an inundation of well known titles entering the market in 2003, such as Rayman 3 and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon [2], BG&E seemed to be overlooked in regards to sufficient promotion and advertising.  While the original sales dwindled, BG&E managed to develop a cult following of diehard fans.  With a sequel in the works and a rumoured release date of late 2016 or early 2017, BG&E has been re-released in HD across all gaming platforms.

Set on the graphically stunning Hyllis island, BG&E explores the struggles of a township that has been torn apart by a war with the “Domz”, an aggressive and heartless alien race.  Hillys itself is beautifully designed, even when compared to games a decade on.  From the reflective shimmer of the ocean, to the muffled sounds of boat horns, and even the gentle humming of fireflies during the night cycle, Ubisoft has managed to develop a captivating and immersive environment that instantly engages the player.

Our heroine, Jade, owns and operates an orphanage filled with children that have lost their parents in the war, while moonlighting as a hard-hitting investigative reporter.  Teamed up with her Uncle Pey’j, a smart-mouthed pig and caretaker of the orphanage, they receive what seems like a relatively innocent job offer to capture a photo of a rare animal.  Through this job they are thrown into a world of conspiracy and cover-ups, as they are lead on a dangerous and tireless mission to overthrow a corrupt and evil government, the Alpha Sections, with the help of IRIS, the rebel faction within the town.  While on the hunt for the truth, Jade learns that things are not always as they seem, with the mysterious disappearance of her parents linked to IRIS operations, and the curious manner in which her Uncle Pey’j acts as soon as IRIS is mentioned.

The initial sequence introduces you to Jade and the orphans outside the lighthouse, with a Domz attack almost immediately.  As Jade attempts to

The first Domz attack on the lighthouse.

The first Domz attack on the lighthouse.

raise the protective barrier around the lighthouse, being an electric force-field, the power cuts out as they are 350 units short on the last power bill.  The Domz attack the lighthouse, and the orphans collapse into a hole and rise within the Domz themselves.  Jade instantly realises that the only way to free the orphans is to destroy each one of the Domz.  It is through this encounter that we learn the fighting schematics, with basic and special attack combos.  The controls are simple and easy to operate, with a dodge available, and all attacks limited to one button, holding it down longer to execute the special attack.  This limits the token tiresome button mashing that tends to develop during fighting encounters.

Once the initial boss is defeated during the last fight of the sequence, something enters Jade’s psycho karma and she collapses, only to be woken by Pey’j in the lighthouse with the “Vorax”, dangerous flying fish creatures, swarming around outside.  This is when we are introduced to Secundo, the

Meet Secundo, your hotheaded AI dictionary!

Meet Secundo, your hotheaded AI dictionary!

AI assistant that exists within the computer connected to her bag, who informs them about the Science Centre requiring photos of the different fauna living in Hillys to create an inventory.  Secundo tends to be an in-game dictionary, explaining each item as it is collected for the first time. This diminishes most of the accidental use of items that tends to happen during games the first time they are played.  One of the orphans informs Jade that they found her camera, and she learns how to operate the camera controls, ready to get snapping for desperately needed units and the black market form of currency- pearls.  While camera controls are straightforward, focusing tends to be very sensitive and difficult to master when capturing faster-travelling animals.  It can be frustrating, especially for those that prefer to finish the game in its entirety.

The traverse from the introduction to main mission is seamless, with an instantaneous job opportunity from what Jade eventually learns is the Hillys faction of the IRIS network.  This plummets Jade, Pey’J and eventually “Triple H”, another reporter for IRIS, into exposing the Alpha Sections as traitors and publicising how they are assembled with the Domz into co-ordinating the most beneficial attacks to kidnap the citizens of Hillys.  Using a

Bracing for a sneak attack, one of the many fighting methods.

Bracing for a sneak attack, one of the many fighting methods.

mixture of stealth and shooting sequences to traverse through the Nutripals Factory, Slaughterhouse and eventually the moon, Jade obliterates her enemies using a staff for melee based attacks and hand discs for ranged attacks.  The three locations are graphically unique within their design, and while you are fighting the same enemy, every encounter seems fresh as you are required to use a different method of attack on the Alpha sections each time, from sneaking passed to re-directing their attention, as well as face to face combat.

During quite a heartbreaking scene within the Nutripals Factory we are introduced to the Beluga, a spaceship that Jade must eventually use to free Pey’J from the grips of the Domz on the moon.  It is here that the musical score must be mentioned. The emotional masterpiece that the developers have implemented throughout this scene especially, and during consecutive heart-wrenching moments is enough to bring the most emotionally tenacious player to tears.  It is only through rescuing Pey’j and the other captives that Jade is able to print her evidence in the IRIS newspaper, informing the public about the Domz control over the Alpha Sections, returning peace and harmony to the island of Hillys.

Verdict

With a consistent use of witty humour, stunning graphics and appropriately challenging boss fights, BG&E will become a game that you will return to for many years down the track.  BG&E has an immersive environment, loveable characters and a timeless soundtrack with a Sunday afternoon vibe while on the island, that changes during combat, offering almost a musical sigh of relief once the enemies are defeated.  With a somewhat miniscule price of USD 9.99 (AUD 13.97) on Steam, and similar prices on respective PSN and XBOX live, it is definitely worth purchasing, and will be one purchase you will not regret.

 

[1] Ubisoft- Beyond Good & Evil. Retrieved 20/02/2016 from https://www.ubisoft.com/en-US/game/beyond-good-and-evil-hd/
[2] Ubisoft- Company. Retrieved 20/02/2016 from http://au.ign.com/companies/ubisoft