Beyond Good & Evil – Second Opinion

I'd love to agree with Gene. I'd love to because Beyond Good & Evil has aspects that give it the potential to be a really special videogame. Aspects like characters that have character (rather than some outlined archetype straight from the marketing department), a plotline that could have a lot to say about the ambiguity of moral choices, consistently stunning art direction and a refreshingly simple control scheme.

Unfortunately, for all the great individual aspects of Beyond Good & Evil, the whole only meets, and never exceeds, the sum of its parts, especially in the case of the story it tells. The title of the game hints at the subjective notions of morality as put forth in the Nietzsche writings of the same name. When the story actually unfolds, it turns into something far more pedestrian, a story where the roles of Good and Evil are clearly defined and acted out. Considering how well the game manages to express emotion and its willingness to offer more substance than your standard 3D action game, it's disappointing to see that more wasn't done with it. Put simply, the game is astounding at how well it can convey meaning and emotion, but winds up having nothing complex to say.

The game also has a remarkable camera system to go with the intriguing role of a journalist for the main character, but neither aspect is used for anything other than plot advancement. The ability to access and distribute information, and thus, to a certain extent, control information, is a vital part of a journalist's job. In Beyond Good & Evil, the access and distribution of information is rote, the camera just another tool in the player's quest to progress through the set pieces of the game rather than as something to emphasize the importance of context, especially in a volatile political situation. Like the story, it's well-done, but too simple to be truly engaging.

And truth be told, as slick as the controls were, there wasn't anything that kept me coming back to the gameplay. It was surely a feat to cram so many gameplay styles into one control scheme so seamlessly, but in doing so, the gameplay experience became generic. I'd much rather sneak around in Metal Gear Solid or Tenchu. I'd rather bash enemies in Dynasty Warriors 3. I'd rather race hovercraft in Wipeout or F-Zero GX. Just doing all of these things well enough doesn't make Beyond Good & Evil a special experience.

When writing out an opinion that holds a game in less esteem than the original review, it's hard to avoid sounding overly negative. This paragraph here becomes sort of a necessity, a quick shout-out to the reader to indicate that while this review is mostly negative, my opinion of the game is positive. It's important to remember that Beyond Good & Evil is not a bad game. It's an above-average game, one that many people would call "good"-just not great. Rated 7.5 out fo 10.

Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.