14: Beyond Good & Evil

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Year: 2003
Platform: Windows; Xbox, Xbox 360, GameCube, Playstation 2, Playstation 3

ReviewOne of the most engaging, charming games I have ever played, Beyond Good & Evil certainly earns a spot in my hall of fame. 

The labour of love from Michael Ancel, he takes you to a world where citizens are in a war with aliens and must rely on the powerful military to help defend them from brutal attacks. As a young woman named Jade, you are compelled to help in the war effort when your orphanage is attacked by the aliens. Naturally, however, you go it alone with the help of your “uncle” Pey’j (a pig mechanic, no less). While the plot itself is fairly straightforward (with only some minor twists), the story never slows down. And the characters, backed by some excellent voice acting, carry you the whole way through. It is tough not to care about the people you meet here, which goes a long way in providing an entertaining game.

While there are some adventure elements, this is more or less a strategic action game, accessible to adventure gamers. Enemies are rarely shot at and are mostly avoided by stealth, timing, and distraction. You’ll be doing a lot of crawling, side-stepping, and wall-hugging to avoid detection (and since you are often far outnumbered, it is essential to survival).  What makes this game unique is that most currency (to buy upgrades, health restoration, etc.) is acquired by taking photographs of different species (benign and otherwise) on the planet for archival.  You sometimes have to photograph your enemies before you attack them! 

For those who are comfortable with action games but don’t consider themselves to be experts, there is a reasonable learning curve. Moreover, if you die while on a mission, you will be restored to a predetermined checkpoint (often only one or two minutes back), so even if you are unable to save the game for a while, you don’t lose all of your hard work. My only complaint, and a fairly significant one, is that the PC version does not support game controllers, which is idiotic and unfortunate for those who are not keyboard inclined. I was able to become fairly adept at the controls, but it would have been significantly more comfortable to play with a gamepad.

The game is short, about ten to twelve hours for the average gamer to complete. And while there are secrets to be found, the only significant replay value comes in simply wanting to see the story again. A sequel is in the works (and has been for a decade), though sadly, not for the PC. For those who like the focus of their actions games to be more on story (without endless cut scenes), Beyond Good & Evil will not disappoint.

Contemporary RatingHigh.

Cruelty RatingMerciful. Only reason to save is if you’re a completionist.

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2 thoughts on “14: Beyond Good & Evil

  1. Yaaaaaay! I was wondering if you’d count this. I absolutely adore this game, and last night just about started it again (I picked it up from the PlayStation Network). I’ve watched the development of the sequel with bemused interest for some time now. It seems real, but man, have they gone slowly.

    This thing was a popular failure, which allowed me to buy it for $5 on PS2 years ago. I was immediately annoyed that it was a failure, but it seems the game has picked up a fair enough following since then. A sequel to a game that failed is a difficult thing to market, but if they keep the base happy while not even positioning it as a sequel to the common gamer, I think they could do decent business with it. Plus, the average gamer seems to be a lot more well-rounded now – thanks to PSN and XBLA – than they were ten years ago.

    • It’s really stretching “adventure” but considering the average action gamer in 2003 detested the idea of taking photographs of monsters rather than killing them, I had to give it it’s due.

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