Friday, July 29, 2011

Byte: Beyond Good and Evil

As part of my self-set homework for this summer's holiday, I've set myself a few targets. I'm acutely aware that my completion rate, even for games that I really like, is pretty bloody woeful - probably only one game in five, at best.

So this summer I want to knock three (less than 1% of my total games collection) games off my "to complete" list. I'm being remarkably self-disciplined, and playing the games in order of priority, with only a bit of cocking about on World of Warcraft to form a distraction. Given that I don't have a very good track record with sticking to targets, I've tried to be realistic by setting a priority that's remotely achieveable for at least two of the games I want to complete, by tackling them in increasing order of length.

Last on the list will be The Witcher 2, which I haven't made much headway with so far - not due to a lack of enthusiasm, but because I can tell it's the kind of game that really requires a lot of singleminded dedication to get through (like its predecessor), and unless I'm on holiday, I don't have a lot of that to spare. Second on my list is a game that ranks in my all-time top 5 games, yet I never quite got around to finishing - Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. In previous playthroughs I've completed about 80% of the game, but like my previous mental block with Deus Ex, I couldn't quite bring myself to finishing the game off - it's one of those games you never quite want to end. However, this summer, I really want to finish it, though I doubt I will play many of the optional missions - I'll just stick to the main story missions, any maybe play around the edges if I have time.

But the first game on my list this summer is arguably the greatest videogame ever to come out of France: Beyond Good and Evil. The long-awaited sequel's been getting some hype recently from (series designer) Michel Ancel about "needing power" beyond the current hardware generation of today's consoles, which hopefully gives some indication as to the ambition of its design. Previously, I'd played through about half the game (completing the Nutrapils Factory section) and really enjoyed it (even the stealth sections - which I traditionally find frustrating due to my chronic lack of subtlety and patience)

Currently, I'm approaching the end of the game (with only the section on the moon of Hillys to go - once I collect enough pearls for the upgrades) and even eight years after I played it for the first time, the game really stands up well, barring a few issues with the 3D camera, which veers on the side of hateful at times. I probably shouldn't say too much until I've actually finished it, but I've loved replaying the game and reacquianting myself with the excellent world and game design. Jade, Pey'j and Double H are really delightful characters. Pey'j, in particular, could be really tiresome if he'd been handled badly, but he's very well scripted and voice-acted, so ends up being quite endearing - especially in light of what happens to him halfway through the game.

In many ways, Beyond Good and Evil is a family-friendly GTA, in that it includes open-world driving elements, third-person combat and a few mini-games thrown in for good measure. The story is also simple but well-executed and engaging, and also judged for pace - since the game can be completed in under fifteen hours (even if you spend a fair amount of time cocking about in the mini-games), there's not much padding to be found (though some of the stealth sections are a bit brutal - particularly the Alpha Sections HQ and the bits in the Slaughterhouse with the insta-kill sentry guns). Overall, though, I definitely made a good decision to revisit the game - it's a real joy to play something that's had so much thought put into every element of the design - though I'll talk more about that when I've finished the game (hopefully) within the next couple of days. I'm just hoping that the finale isn't quite so anti-climactic as I found Deus Ex's, after a similar wait to finally get around to completing it...
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