Of all the female protagonists who now inhabit the landscape of gaming, there is one who stands apart: Jade, the central character in Ubisoft's Beyond Good & Evil, exhibits an admirable kind of cosmopolitan verve. She has somehow been freed of genre expectations. With her green lipstick and a powerful sense of loyalty to her family and the people around her, she cuts an idealistic but believable figure against the absurd backdrop of games.
Beyond Good & Evil is a melange of styles, and Jade's personal depth is a reflection of that philosophy. She is not an action heroine, a creature of firepower or a fantasy goddess; instead, she is a journalist with a dash of martial arts training and a lighthouse full of orphans. She is a strong, desirable woman who is not far removed from the possibilities of the real world. Jade is also a protagonist with a strange secret - an essential quality of the sci-fi heroine.
Beyond Good & Evil's world is one of allegorical science fiction. It is a world under siege with a mainstream press and government who are conspiring to alter the perceptions of the people they are supposed to protect. It is a caricatured world with a very serious sense of paranoia, but still has a sense of humor when dealing with serious issues. A pig-man with rocket-boots somehow makes the perfect foil for a confident, independent young woman.
The game itself is determined to be confident and versatile. Even though we are left with that itchy feeling that it could have reached a little higher, it is routinely and intuitively entertaining. Numerous genres are introduced as plot elements: Racing arrives as a social necessity; shooter action appears in travel sequences; melee combat with dramatic slow-motion lets you know that this is a game with a story. Even photography and platform puzzles make sense and do not seem to take place in spite of a narrative.
Beyond Good & Evil avoids Tomb Raider's leaping and jumping repetition. An action adventure with a female lead it might be, but recognizable as a clone of previous genres leaders it is not.
Crucially, Beyond Good & Evil takes big risks by stepping outside the axis of American and Japanese games. It is not identifiable within the aesthetic or thematic trends of either of those cultures, and instead it seems to access the European sensibilities of its parent company, Ubisoft. There's something distinctly French about the game, both visually and aurally. It's a quality that is detectable in other titles from the same stable, such as Rayman (whose producer, Michel Ancel, worked on Beyond Good & Evil) and Flashback. Furthermore, they seem to access something else in France's rich comic book and science fiction materials. The world of Hyllis is reminiscent of the contemporary Mediterranean, as if the Riviera were to be re-imagined by the creators of architecture fantasy <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Cit%C3%A9s_Obscures" target="_blank" title="Les Cit