Release Date: November 11, 2003
Systems: PS2. PC. Xbox, Game Cube
Metacrtic Score: 83
Ask almost anyone who has played “Beyond Good and Evil” and you will almost assuredly hear nothing but praise. While I can understand the hype and following that surrounds the game, I can’t say I agree with it. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to like about the game, but the game play feels so out dated and the controls are so poorly handled on the PC that the act of playing the game simply wasn’t too enjoyable for me. Should I, at some point, get a copy for the PlayStation (it had an HD re release and it may be a part of the PS2 classics that you can buy off the PSN) I will re-review this, but for now, these are my thoughts on the PC version of the game you can buy off Steam.
You play as a young woman named Jade, a photojournalist who also runs an orphanage with her uncle Pey’j. Together they take care of those who have no where to go as a war rages on their home planet of Hillys between the alien “DomZ” and the “Alpha Sections”. Up until now Jade and Pey’j were happy to just raise their shields when the DomZ came and wait for the Alpha Sections to clean up the mess, but one day a radical group “IRIS” tells Jade that the Alpha Sections aren’t what they seem, and may in fact be working for the DomZ. So now it is up to You to find out the truth using only your wits, your bo staff and your camera.
The story is the one part of the game that really shines for me. Jade is one of the most interesting and well rounded protagonist i’ve played as in a long time. She’s not the typical uber-heroic badass most games make you play as but instead just one person trying to make a difference. She’s also expendable and this gives her quest a little more weight. While IRIS may be able to bring down this tyrannical government Jade is only one small part, and is she was to get caught or die on in the field you know IRIS would and could just find another journalist. However, the kids and Pey’j (her main motivating factors) would be pretty screwed. While most games make it to where “only you” can save the world with your “special and totally unique” powers, this game hits closer to home making Jade much more of an every man. Just like all of us, she’d be missed when she was gone, but the cause and the human race would move on without her. And lets face it, in a world were there is nearly no diversity when it comes to game protagonists, it’s nice to see that one of the best is, in fact, a women.
But that’s just what I like about Jade. The world of Hillys is also interesting and diverse in odd and wonderful ways. There are several humanoid species that populate the planit, like a group of Jamaican Rhinos, an Latino AI that helps Jade, and a Chines Waleus who runs one of the shops you’ll need to go too. If anything, this game is one of the best arguments against people who fear “adding diversity for the sake of it”.
Overall, the story is full of interesting characters and a misery worth salving, but not at the expense of the poor controls.
I have a filling that most of my issues are the same as the ones I had when playing “Psychonauts” i.e., I was playing the computer version of a game meant to be played with a controller. Or maybe I just suck at PC games. Either way, the act of playing this was one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had with a game that wasn’t completely broken. The Biggest issue is that camera. Trying to look where I want to look most of the time was simply not an option. In fact, most times I wish the developers had gone the “Silent Hill” route and just had a bunch of fixed camera angles so I would only have to deal with the crappy button layout.
That’s the second issue. Too many of the commands are in odd, unintuative spots, so that even after a few hours of play i’m still hitting the wrong button thinking that it should do something else. The worst offender of this is how close together the “crouch” and “take out camera” commands are. Too often in high stress moments i’d be taking out the in game camera in stead of crouching, causing many stupid deaths. Then, even when I had it right, you have to hold the crouch button too keep your head down, causing even more deaths as my finders slipped off the button (but as I said this may be my poor PC gamer skills in action more so that the games crappy controls).
A good story can make me over look a lot of bad development choices, and this is very much one of those times. However, for being such a classic I still hear people praising, I shouldn’t have to fight with the controls as often as I did.
Game Play: 2/5
Music and Sound:
Everything here is pretty much on par with what should be expected from a PS2 era game, save for the hilariously bad lip syncing, but I found that ease to over look. Jade an Pey’j both have really good actors, and the rest of the voice cast does an honorable job, but the music is completely forgettable. If you can get back into the PS2 mindset, then there’s really nothing here you’ll hate, but I don’t think you’ll walk away humming any of the games tunes to your self either.
Music and Sound: 3/5
Overall Score: 2.8/5
Who is this game for:
I honestly wish I had an answer for this. I guess if you want more female protagonist in your game library you should give this a look, or if you want a more interesting story that your run of the mill game is likely to provide. With everything the game did right I wish I liked it more than I did. Maybe you’ll get more out of it that I did, but I can’t give this the same wholehearted endorsement more gamers seem to.