Beyond Good & Evil Soundtrack
Beyond Good & Evil Soundtrack
Ubisoft’s Beyond Good and Evil was one of those games that failed to sell well despite near-universal critical acclaim. Released on all three major platforms in 2003, the game’s charming combination of adventure, puzzles, and RPG action impressed everyone who bothered to pick up a copy, but the title soon filled bargain bins regardless, putting plans for a trilogy of games on hold. A truly international production that shipped with multiple language tracks, Beyond Good and Evil‘s music — by French composer Christophe Héral — was as unique as the game itself.
The most interesting and unusual thing about Héral’s work is the sheer variety of vocals that lend a quirky, contemporary flair to many of the song. From the calypso vibes of “Mammago Garage” to the funky “Akuda Propaganda” and the bizarrely kooky “Fun and Mini-Games,” Héral’s themes are a hoot, performed in a bizarre mélange of Spanish, French, and English. Many tracks without singing include a capella work, with vocal beatboxing mixed into much of the sneaking and battle music. “Behind Enemy Lines” and “Fear the Reaper” may sound like they use techno samples, but on closer examinations much of the music is just a human voice reinterpreted. There’s even some classical choral work in “Dancing with DomZ” and “Sins of the Father” while a guttural chorus of alien voices brilliantly punctuates several battle tracks.
Héral also creates beautiful music for the more peaceful and contemplative sections of the game, with tracks such as “Home Sweet Home” and “Hyllian Suite” bursting with melody and a certain world music sensibility. The wistful piano in “Thoughtful Reflections” is especially affecting. The final track, “Redemption,” ties all the various threads together, with moving instrumental performances and a wordless boy soprano (Héral’s son Patrice) building to an explosive choral rendition of the main theme. Sound quality is generally excellent, with orchestral performances by the Orchestre de Création du Languedoc mixed with Héral’s synths and vocalizations.
The game’s commercial failure meant that no official album was released. Héral himself rectified this when he released an officially sanctioned suite of music from the game as a free digital download on his MySpace page. Héral’s arrangement contains most of the important music from the game, but in many ways is hardly an ideal listening experience. In fact, it occasionally seems more like a fan-made game rip than an official release from the composer.
All of the tracks that accompany cinemas and cutscenes (except the finale, which has nothing but music in the game) are riddled with sound effects. This is especially disheartening in the opening movie, the first track of the album, and incredibly annoying when the cinema and its embedded sound effects are part of a suite with effects present in some places and absent in others. One would think that, as the composer, Heral would have had access to clean versions of his music, but sadly this is not the case. Most of the suites are well put together, but several have editing problems. The worst of these is “Dancing with DomZ,” which features some of the best music on the album and is completely butchered by not one but two horrible, jarring transitions. Heral was obviously trying to combine multiple short tracks into a cohesive listening experience, but it’s disappointing that it’s done without panache in so many places.
The lack of a good album release is the one thing that keeps Beyond Good and Evil from a top rating. The music is incredibly creative, but there’s no perfect way to hear it other than playing the game. Perhaps the highly anticipated sequel will ofer a more accomplished soundtrack.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Alex Watson. Last modified on January 22, 2016.