Critical Success, Commercial FlopFighting with MonstersCritical Success, Commercial Flop - RSS 2.0
Your adoptive uncle is pinned on the clammy ground of a wet cave by a rare, snarling creature. The saliva of the vicious snake-like beast drips and mingles with the sweat on his terrified face. The crazed animal's serrated teeth are millimeters from his piggy jugular. He screams for your help, desperately fending off the monster trapping him.
You could help him. You could attack the creature and liberate your uncle instantly from its deadly grip. But what if you killed it? You know people who would pay stupid amounts of money for a photo of this thing. And you need to get that money. Even your endangered uncle knows that. Why would you risk losing this chance? You take a step back, raise your camera's viewfinder to your eye and release a flash at the struggle. You achieve an outstanding photo of the creature. Your name is secured in animal behavior history. More importantly, the money is yours. Only then do you turn your attention to helping your beloved relative and fight off the monster.
This is the sort of ethically warped decision you may find yourself making if you ever play Beyond Good & Evil. In this and many other ways Jade, the central character, reflects the morally gray character of the news reporter.
Beyond Good & Evil was conceived by Michel Ancel, the mind behind Rayman, and developed in the French studios of Ubisoft back in 2003. The game's story puts you in control of Jade, a female photojournalist whose home planet, Hillys, is at war with an alien race known as the Domz. Jade gets recruited by the IRIS Network, a group of free-media activists driven underground by the militaristic government, to take photos for the group. Naturally, the powers that be treat any questioning of their wartime methods as unpatriotic and condemn the IRIS Network for being guilty of nothing less than out-and-out treason.
The elite Alpha Section units of the army are entrusted with the protection of the Hillyan people. But there's something amiss about the Alpha Sections. I mean, apart from the fact they never take their helmets off and march in a manner worryingly reminiscent of a Nazi SS division. So Jade is contracted to investigate these shady characters. With stealthy discretion and judicious photography Jade reports the morbid truth of the Alpha Sections activities.
The game did not sell well. Exactly how badly it performed commercially is not widely known. For a company who made a game centered on a journalist searching for the truth, Ubisoft didn't make it easy for game journalists to get accurate sales numbers. Even six years after its release, no reliable sales figures are available. Michel Ancel was right when he discussed the game's theme of digging for the truth in an interview with GameSpy. "Whether you are on one side or another," he said, "it's very hard to get real information."
Whatever the sales for Beyond Good & Evil, the game captured the praise of any gamer who played it. It easily earned the admiration of the mainstream media; Metacritic averages the scores of 40 major reviews at 87 percent. Many magazines were happy to praise such a fresh take on the adventure genre. Others were doubtless keen to promote a game that presented their journalistic careers in such an idealistic way: the underdog reporter as the arbiter of justice, taking on the might of an oppressive government.