Shin Force | Microsoft Xbox Reviews

Shin Force > Systems > Microsoft Xbox > Reviews

Shin Force ~ Xbox ~
Beyond Good & Evil
Geoffrey Duke
1x DVD
Import / Domestic
Q4, 2003 (USA)
3rd Person
Action / Adventure
Backup 25
HDTV 480p
     > I have to say, Beyond Good & Evil is one of the most enjoyable games I've played in a long time. It's basically an Action/Adventure game with some stealth elements thrown into the mix, which has earned a great deal of critical acclaim among gamers. Perhaps poor timing was to blame (in other words, the game was overshadowed by other more popular games at the initial time of its release), but Beyond Good & Evil's sales left a lot to be desired. Despite some good advertisements when it was released to the gaming public, and despite being released for all the leading consoles, Beyond Good & Evil (BG&E) failed to reach out to mass market gamers. Their loss I suppose; they have no idea what they are missing. When a game of this quality goes almost completely unnoticed, it just proves that many gamers can't appreciate some games for what they are. The man behind the game is Michel Ancel, the same French developer behind the creation of Rayman 1-2. And before I forget, the publisher is of course Ubisoft, the same publisher some of you may or may not remember from the Dreamcast era when it brought Grandia II to gamers outside of Japan. Thankfully, high sales of Ubisoft's Splinter Cell games and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time more than compensated for the poor sales of BG&E, so the publisher won't be reeling too badly from the time and money they lost pouring into the game. However, fans are still wondering if we've seen the last of it, as the game has one of the most refreshing story premises I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing first hand.

     > When we think of photo-journalists, lowlife vultures who pick the flesh off of corpses often spring to mind. The main character of Beyond Good & Evil, namely Jade (a woman who likes to wear green clothes and green lipstick to match her peculiar green eyes) is a little different though. The game is set on the world of Hillys, a planet under constant siege by a mysterious alien race known only as the DomZ who have kidnapped thousands of people for no discernible reason. The Alpha Sections, an elite military brigade present on the planet, has sworn to protect the people of Hillys at all costs, yet the attacks continue with no signs of relenting. Why, is the pressing question on most people's minds. The Alpha Sections also have a habit of showing up after attacks have taken place, and not before or during when they are needed the most. The lead character Jade and her uncle Pey'j (a pigman), have adopted some of the orphans created by this kidnapping spree for no other reason than out of the kindness of their hearts. During a DomZ attack, the shield protecting their lighthouse home goes offline because Jade has simply run out of money to power it. And so the story begins. Later Jade is offered work cataloging all the different species of animals inhabiting Hillys, which turns out to be the solution to all her immediate financial problems. As the plot thickens, Jade sets out to expose the truth regarding the DomZ with little more than her trusty camera and the help of her most trusted friends.

     > The visuals in Beyond Good & Evil help to draw you into the futuristic world the game has to offer not because they are real, but because they are surreal. Isn't the whole point of games to have fun by escaping from reality and delving into a world unlike our own away from the drudgery of real life? While not some of the best graphics seen on the Xbox to date, they still manage to impress with relative ease partly due to their unique artistic style. Don't be fooled by the game's cartoony graphics; everything in sight is pure eye candy. Feast your eyes on smooth graphics, and well-designed creatures with equally smooth (uninterrupted) animation that are simply a joy to watch. Everything and everyone is detailed down to the last facet and textured in some of the most vibrant colors you'll ever see. When characters speak (especially Jade) their faces come to life with great lip synching and amazing facial expressions that have to be seen to be believed. The facial expressions easily relay their emotions, and remind us of the standard that 3D games should meet now.  And as if that wasn't enough, there are even some eye-catching reflections rippling on the surface of the water of Hillys that are so good they would inspire anyone to sing even more praises about this already aesthetically pleasing game (truth be told, the reflective water effects seen in this game never cease to amaze me). Also, prepare to face some amazingly surreal bosses, especially the DomZ who are truly alien to your senses (alien in the truest sense of the word). There are also next to no third person camera view issues either (well none that can't be remedied) which sometimes plague these types of games. I must admit, discovering that the Playstation 2 version of this game was downgraded brought a sinister smile to my face (so much for being the most powerful console in the universe). Why settle for anything less than a game in its full glory?
     > This game was clearly developed with a control pad in mind. Moving Jade from place to place has never been easier. In the areas where you're not controlling an upgradable hovercraft, you'll be sneaking Jade past guards (sometimes there's no other way through them) or navigating her over and around deadly obstacles, or collecting items necessary to reach the next place with or without the aid of a CPU controlled companion (whose more powerful attacks you can control when confronted by enemies). The gameplay is a mixture of everything, really. You'll be sent into bases where you must sneak around undetected some of the time, and solve a mild puzzle or two, and engage in some melee combat other times with Jade's deadly glowing Dai-Jo stick (which leaves a nice trail of light behind it on both ends when swung against her foes)... all while gathering evidence of evil deeds by taking the appropriate pictures with Jade's camera. Uncovering the truth is clearly in Jade's job description. Out side of the dungeon-like locales, there's more driving and shooting action to ensure that there's never a dull moment. When taking pictures with Jade's camera, the camera/view naturally switches to a first person perspective (in the time it takes to blink an eye) where you can zoom in and out for more visible, clearer shots. Overall, the controls are responsive (as opposed to clumsy or sluggish) and easy to learn. You'll become used to them in no time. In fact, one of the great things about this game is that it's very easy to pick up and play (you won't spend forever adjusting to the control scheme). The game will always tell you what to do when the time comes to put new skills to the test, so the learning curve is nowhere near as steep as it is in some other games. Needless to say, newcomers will find it quite accessible.
     > Not bad. Not bad at all. The game has sounds suitable for everything which combine with a diverse range of music to create a great atmosphere. In fact, the game's music is simply awesome, especially the boss music which you'll hear soon after starting the game in your first encounter with the DomZ. The aforementioned boss track itself is some kind of futuristic space-opera sung in an incomprehensible language. The term "out of this world" seems strangely relevant in this case, though the other tracks are more down-to-Earth in their instrumentation. The voice acting is also very professional, although not every line of dialogue is voice acted (the dialogue outside of cutscenes) like it is in BioWare's Knights of the Old Republic. That's totally understandable given how much there is.
     > Ever thought you could save the world from evil with a mere camera? Of course not. Here's your chance. Stealth plays a big role in this game in the interior areas you're sent to investigate. You basically go wherever your search for photographic evidence takes you. The puzzles players come across shouldn't prove to be too taxing for anyone, and won't quickly become boring if you're a fan of them. The story is also full of the usual unpredictable twists and turns you'd expect to find in a game like this. Unraveling conspiracies is one of my favorite past times, which is probably part of the reason why I liked this game so much. It's just a shame that the game doesn't last very long, and gives you no real incentive to play through it again once you've completed it, but... that often goes with the territory. Nothing lasts forever; just savor each and every moment as the game inevitably comes to an end. One could argue that the characters -- not the story -- made this game as fun as it is. Jade, Pey'j, etc. all inject the game with a healthy dose of humor, and for the want of a better word, personality. 

     > How anyone can consider this not to be a fun and worthwhile experience is mind-boggling. Why so many games (especially Japanese RPGs) are now forced to fit tried-and-tested molds if they hope to stand any chance of selling isn't something I like to ponder. IMO, bringing games to the masses was the best and worst thing that ever could've happened to them; no one can deny that the games industry has now been enslaved by the tastes of casual gamers (gamers who view games as nothing more than a form of general entertainment). We need games to make new molds every now and then instead of treading the same ground over and over again (of course that might sound a little hypocritical from a guy who wants to see a sequel to this particular game, but the point I've made remains a good one). Beyond Good & Evil strayed too far from tried-and-tested gameplay for its own good, and paid the ultimate price for being different. Am I wrong? While female characters are primarily used to bait in a male audience, Jade doesn't even come close to fitting this stereotype. She just acts natural. It's tragic when female lead characters rarely have any selling power among consumers unless they are half naked porn stars who pose for the camera at every available opportunity (some people might hate me for saying this, but I really doubt that Bloodrayne would've sold as many copies as it did if Bloodrayne were a man). In my opinion, Beyond Good & Evil is definitely worthy of a place in your collection of Xbox games no matter what any critic has to say.

Bottom Line
     > I can't wait to see how supplying the demands of mainstream gamers will shape the future of the games industry. Watching Sega come very close indeed to going under has opened my eyes to the fact that staying afloat comes at a very high price.  Believe it or not, there's a subtle difference between making games that sell, and simply making great games. Times have never been so hard for creative developers eager to keep their heads above the water. In the case of Beyond Good & Evil, the game failing to sell is the equivalent of a culling of the weak in the eyes of mainstream gamers... when in reality it was simply a matter of a great game (by all accounts) being overlooked because the whole package was an exception to the rule. Why this game failed to sell (across all platforms no less) is really a question only mainstream gamers can answer. If you're a fan of story-driven Action/Adventure games like me, then don't miss out on this wonderful experience. It makes a nice change from all those clones of anything that is even remotely popular filling the shelves today. Just don't expect a sequel any time soon. Although stranger things have happened, Ubisoft has no incentive whatsoever to develop one.
Overall: 9.4 | Graphics: 9.4 | Control: 9.5 | Sound: 9.5 | Fun: 9.3
~ Geoffrey Duke ~

[ PIX >> ][ PREVIEW >> ][ :: REVIEW :: ][ SCANS >> ][ WALLPAPER >> ]
[ << BACK ][ TOP /\ ][ FORWARD >> ]