I just finished playing Beyond Good & Evil for the GameCube this evening, and all I have to say is: Wow! Where did this game come from? It rocked.
I picked this game up at GameStop for $18 used because it looked cool and the story sounded interesting. I was right. Way right. You play Jade, a freelance photographer on the planer Hyllis. As the story begins, Hillys is again under attack by the DomZ, for unknown reasons and the Alpha Sections try to defend the planet. Jade and her companions come under attack by the DomZ and the game begins with two fighting scenes, which are basically tutorials. Shortly thereafter, Jade will be recruited by the Isis Network to help them gather photographic proof of the connection between the DomZ and the Alpha Sections. And what a story it is. I can’t say much more without giving away a lot of the story line, but is very engrossing.
BG&E is an over-the-shoulder adventure game like Splinter Cell or the Tomb Raider games. Most of the action takes place in and around the city of Hillys with a lot of interior dungeon-style crawls with some outside adventures thrown in for good measure. All of the settings are very well done. They look great, in fact the whole game looks great, and take place in caves, a factory, a slaughter house, and on a moonbase among others. Along the way, you not only control Jade but up to two other companions. You need them to help solve some of the puzzles in the game. Aditionally, all the cut-scenes are done using the game engine. Usually these are triggered while you are in the middle of the action and lead to some incredibly cinematic views of the action. This gave the action a feeling of having done something spectacular and cool. I was very impressed. Big thumbs up for the environments.
The characters themselves are all nicely done and are memorable. You have to interact with just about every NPC you meet, either to talk to them or to take their picture for the species catalog of Hyllis you are helping to produce. Each photo gets you cash money and the occasional pearl. In fact, part of the fun is trying to photo every animal in the game. I think I missed 3 that I could count. Again, nicely integrated into the overall story.
The music also shines. Each section has its own music and its own style. You get Irish-sounding strings, pounding rock rhythms, and orchestral scores. Each helps to flavor and atmosphere to whichever location you are in. I especially like the music in the Akuda Bar. Thumbs up again.
Playing a FPS on a console is usually an excersie in frustration, especially since I’m used to a keyboard and mouse. This isn’t as much of an issue with this game, and I think the whole over-the-shoulder genre works well on a console’s controller. Which leads me to my first negative. The camera. Usually the camera is fine. You use the analog joystick to move it around. But, sometimes, it just won’t move to where you want it to go. It will be stopped by things in the environment or, sometimes, for no apparent reason. But this is a minor glitch. Another is the save system. I’m used to being able to save at any time. Not so in BG&E. You have to find one of the disk readers that are scattered around the world to be able to save. Fortunately, these are usually located just before each of the really interesting, intense sections. But still a pain when you want to quit but you can’t find a reader. Thirdly, the opponent AI is very poor. You can pick a guy off, run off, and come back in a minute and everything will be back to normal for the remaining enemies, except the don’t seem to notice one guy missing. They also tend to rush at you and don’t do any covering tactics or work together in any way. I’m not complaining though since they were tough enough without this without being frustatingly difficult. Unlike the last boss where there is a ‘trick’ employed to make it more difficult to beat him. Lastly, the game was too short! I played for about 12 1/2 game time hours, which roughly translated into 16-18 hours real time, before I finished. I really wanted it to keep going. This is no Knights of the Old Republic in length. And in reality, these aren’t enough to dampen my enthusiasm for playing.
So, I give BG&E a 4.5 out 5 stars. With just the little nits keeping it from 5. I think its the best game for the GameCube so far, I haven’t really played Metroid Prime, and its one of the best games I’ve ever played.