Despite my valiant efforts it’s impossible for me to play every game that I want to. For one reason or another, many games that have perked my interest over the years have passed me by, causing me to wonder, what, if anything, I have missed from not giving them a go. Beyond Good & Evil, up until very recently, was one of those games. Since its 2003 release, I’ve heard nothing but praise for this cult classic, and I regularly see fans on the internet passionately expressing their interest in the much troubled sequel. The question remains though, can this game live up to it’s huge hype?
Well simply put; no. I have to admit that after spending six hours with the game, I fail to see why it is still regarded so highly. Perhaps it’s just a case of the game not ageing well, or perhaps its due to the fact that I’m playing the game for the first time and therefore I am not greeted with a warm nostalgic feeling, or perhaps, more likely, it’s because Beyond Good & Evil is extremely overrated.
Despite my generally depressing thoughts surrounding this game, I found the opening hour or so to be actually pretty decent. The characters and game world are both instantly likeable, and I found the story, which focuses on a corrupt government using propaganda to control the population, to be an intriguing prospect. However, the more time I spent traversing the land of Hillys, the more I realised that Beyond Good & Evil flatters to deceive. An inviting world and charming characters, unfortunately, cannot make up for awful gameplay mechanics.
The first problem I have with this game is with its combat. Truth be told, it has about as much depth as a toddler’s paddling pool, player character Jade can either hit enemies with her staff, shoot them with a gyrodisc, or have a partner character stun them by using their special attack. That’s it. The lack of variety makes the combat feel extremely stall and uninteresting. In addition there only seems to be a few different enemy types, and Jade’s dodge mechanic is pretty unresponsive, leading the skirmishes to feel like a chore to play through.
The stealth sections aren’t nothing to shout about either, infact, not only do they appear more frequently than the combat sections, they are also a lot worse in terms of quality. The enemies which Jade is tasked with sneaking by all seem to be imbued with some kind of X-Ray vision, as I lost count of the amount of times I was spotted when hiding behind a solid wall. In addition, in many instances if the player is spotted by an enemy it results in an instant death, and forces the player to restart the entire section again. Although I find this kind of gameplay design to be frustrating, I wouldn’t have as much of an issue as I do with it if the game featured solid stealth mechanics and decent A.I, but Metal Gear Solid this game aint. There is little room for experimentation when it comes to the stealth sequences, it seems as if there are only one or two optimal paths through each area and if the player doesn’t follow them, then tough luck, they’ll just have to try again.
I also encountered a few annoying bugs during my playthrough. One particularly irritating bug involved Jade falling off a platform, that she shouldn’t be able to fall of from, into an abyss from which there was no escape, this resulted in me having to quit the game and continue from when I last saved the game. Seeing as Beyond Good and Evil only features manual saves, this meant in this instance I ended up losing quite a lot of progress. Jade’s partners also suffer from minor bugs, there were many times when Peyj and Double H got stuck on the environment, which made me wish that I could just go it alone.
In addition to the problems I have already mentioned, Beyond Good & Evil is an extremely repetitive affair. Infiltrating the factory area and taking photographs to expose the evil Alpha Sections regime is a pretty cool experience, but when you have to do the exact same thing in the slaughterhouse, which just so happens to be a similar dank looking environment, the game loses a lot of its momentum. Even worse is that as the game approaches its climax, the player isn’t able to progress to the conclusion until they complete a tedious fetch quest, whereby they have to travel the environment finding pearls. It was at this point that I simply had enough, gave up and stopped playing. To be honest I spent the majority of my playtime prior to this moment hoping that the game would get better, instead it just proceeded to get worse.
Maybe Beyond Good & Evil suffers through no fault of its own due to the sheer amount of hype and the cult like status it has been given over the years, but I certainly expected a lot more from it. To me this feels like a very average early 2000’s action-adventure game, and to be quite honest I don’t really have any idea why it is revered so dearly. Whilst I did find the story and setting to be of interest, the rest of the game surrounding it is smothered in mediocrity. After wondering about this game for so many years, it turns out that Beyond Good & Evil is beyond disappointing.