Almost could convert me back to third person adventures
Ok, let me qualify my comments by saying that Beyond Good & Evil is the first third-person action / platform game I have played in a LONG while. Furthermore, I am a complete first-person adventure / shooter addict. That being said I REALLY liked this game! The story and characterisation are spot on and the game world it just superb. The fact is that I spent most of my time wishing that more first-person games had this sort of imagination! I know, I know, they are completely different kettles of fish. However, it does say a lot that this game left that much of a mark.
Now, while the game content is unquestionably great, the game as a whole is not without its problems. Some of the gameplay and technical aspects are decidedly mediocre. In particular three things really stand out - the camera, combat, and the rather intrusive (although excellently played) cut scenes.
In my experience third-person game cameras are notoriously unstable. Indeed, this is one of the reasons that I like first-person games so much. However, the one used in this game is VERY inconsistent. It seems to change its sensitivity with almost every other room you enter, not to mention whether you are walking or crouching or using a vehicle! Unfortunately in many cases this makes what should be seamless movement into a struggle to see where you are going.
While the basic (some may say intuitive) combat is fun, I did get the impression that it could have done with something else. In other words, combat sections were fun but felt thin. Having said that, Beyond Good & Evil is not really about combat. The rest of the gameplay is very enjoyable (while not especially difficult) and puts your mind to work, rather than your trigger finger. One of the best aspects of the combat system (and indeed the game play in general) is the use of the games NPC allies. 'Buddies' are always there when you need them, but never get in the way when you don't. In fact this game could show many FPS's a thing or two!
Let me be clear, there are a LOT of cut scenes in this game. While really well put together and adding greatly to the story, the fact remains that you spend a lot of time watching the game instead of playing it. At times you really do feel a bit like you are just moving the main character from one pre-recorded scene to the next. This is partly to do with the games minimalist interface (which for the majority of the game is commendable and fun to use). In my opinion a movie is not and never will be a game, and cut scenes just don't make good gameplay. Granted it’s a personal prejudice, but in this case I think it bares fruit. Unfortunately the shear amount of cut scenes does start to feel like laziness on the part of the developers.
But here's the catch, after all the things I have just mentioned I STILL really like this game! It says a lot when great character and world design can lift a game above its game play problems and in this case I think it's more than true. Beyond Good & Evil is fun, and in many ways that is as much as you can ask for. Yes, it's not a classic. However, in a world of sequels and repetition this game stands out as a real breath of fresh air.
* Originally written for my old GameSpot account in Sept' 2004