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Beyond Good & Evil 2 will take place in a vast universe

It has been almost 15 years since the launch of the original Beyond Good & Evil and the re-announcement of its sequel this week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the big game trade show in Los Angeles. That might be a record for the time lapsed between an original and a sequel.

But Ubisoft’s upcoming Beyond Good & Evil 2, a prequel to the original, is ambitious beyond most games. The French video game publisher showed the title this week, and I also attended a tech demo hosted by the game’s developers. And that showed that Ubisoft’s Montpellier, France studio is going deep with its characters, story, and the whole universe around them.

Guillaume Brunier, producer of the game, said that a few years ago the team started pasting images of concepts for the game in a room. When it became full of such imagery, Brunier said, “We realized that the walls of the room had our creative vision. That was the game we were going to make.”

Above: Guillaume Brunier of Ubisoft talking about Beyond Good & Evil 2.

Image Credit: Ubisoft

The trailer that Ubisoft released was also meant to convey the scope of the vision. The prequel’s trailer starts with a human-like space monkey named Knox, who pulls a trick on a Mafia-like pig gangster to steal a disk. Knox escapes, and the pig sends an entire police to go after hfim. Knox joins a co-conspirator and they take to the air in a flying motorcycle. They escape, but flying police vehicles and a giant capital ship attack them. The monkey and his partner outwit them and escape into the countryside.

They arrive at a huge ship, deliver their package, and it reveals a vast star system. Then they take to the stars. The camera zeroes in on the eyes of the ship’s captain, and she has jade eyes, the same as the female hero of the first game. The whole point of the demo is to go from the small scene in the cafe to the vast space of the galaxy.

“We wanted all of the art work to be consistent,” Brunier said.

Above: A mother ship in Beyond Good & Evil 2.

Image Credit: Ubisoft

The team also worked on a story, which came from the extension of trends visible today. It assumed that the Chinese and Indian civilizations would become transcendent and be among the first human societies to explore the stars. And it took the trend of genetic engineering, introduced with a technology dubbed CRISPR, used to create artificial humans and animals, said Gabrielle Shrager, narrative director, in a press briefing. And private corporations discover resources in the galaxy that make interstellar trade extremely lucrative.

“As they start colonization of the stars in the 24th century, it is much cheaper for private companies to send genetically engineered beings instead of humans,” Shrager said. “They grow these slaves in labs and customize them to amuse wealthy families. They have created slave labor, and they have no rights.”

Above: Gabrielle Shrager is narrative director for Beyond Good & Evil 2.

Image Credit: Ubisoft

Some characters like Knox manage to escape slavery and they go out into the galaxy to survive with other motley vagabonds, traders, and pirates. The picture of the cast of characters is meant to show the diversity of all of the creatures who are part of the universe, said Emile Morel, associate creative director.

Michel Ancel, creative director, said the team failed in the 2007 and 2008 time frame because the technical ambitions of the game were too big. The team created bits and pieces of the game, but they failed to pull it all together into a working game. Ancel went off on another project, Rayman Origins, and returned to it three years ago.

Above: State of Knox

Image Credit: Ubisoft

“We went to back to start from scratch, and that is part of the emotion behind it,” said Ancel, who wept on stage as he announced the game. “We said we would not go to E3 until we had a tech demo. With this technology, we are going to create a galaxy, solar systems, planets, cities, and, instead of going from small to big, we are going big to small.”

If you die during a mission, you’ll return to your mother ship. If the mother ship is destroyed, you’ll go back to your home space port. You can use a camera to take pictures, which are evidence of what you see.

“At the beginning, you are nobody,” Ancel said.

Above: A statue of Ganesh in Beyond Good & Evil 2.

Image Credit: Ubisoft

Ancel and Brunier showed how you could focus on a big statue of Ganesh in a big city. Then he placed the monkey on top of the statue, and he zoomed out until the monkey was a tiny creature. He pulled out into space and seamlessly zoomed out to show the whole solar system without any delay. They said they created a new game engine to be able to do that.

Above: Concept for a space battle in Beyond Good & Evil 2.

Image Credit: Ubisoft

Players will be able create their own characters to take part in this world, and customize their own ships. And they will be able to travel in spaceships across planets at a speed of 5,000 kilometers per hour.

Since the game is a prequel, it will have characters who may be ancestors of the characters in the previous game. You can sign up for the Space Monkey program to help Ubisoft with beta testing.

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What we’re watching: ‘Raw’ and ‘Feast of Fiction’

Welcome back to Video IRL, where several of our editors talk about what they've been watching in their spare time. This month we're kicking things off with some seasonally-appropriate horror fare, that you can catch right away on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Then it's time for a Gundam throwback before Kris Naudus points out a couple of YouTube food channels perfect for binge eating or binge watching.

Them / Raw

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Timothy J. Seppala
Associate Editor

To get into the Halloween spirit, I've been watching at least one horror movie a day since the end of September -- the lower the budget, the better. Problem is, so many of the American low-budget or indie horror offerings on Amazon and Netflix are crappy Paranormal Activity clones, cheap-thrill gore-fests or uninspired found-footage "documentaries." Whether it's by design or coincidence, I've found that French horror movies have held my attention the most lately. Specifically, 2016's Raw, as well as Them, from ten years prior. They're more psychological thrillers than straight-up horror, but that didn't stop me from being more on edge while watching them one afternoon than I was during A Haunting in Saginaw, Michigan, late at night. Both start with a car crash, but they couldn't finish any more differently.

Raw, recently added to Netflix, tells the tale of a vegetarian girl in her first week at a prestigious veterinary school. During a hazing ritual, she's forced to eat a raw rabbit kidney. She immediately gets sick, throws up and wakes herself up that night scratching a full-body rash to near bleeding. This bout with food poisoning is just the beginning, though, and soon protagonist Justine finds out she has a taste for forbidden fruit. As the remaining 70-ish minutes unfolded, I lost track of how many times I clasped my hands over my mouth, agape in shock, to stifle my shouts of "OHMYGODWHATTHEFUCKISEVENHAPPENING?!"

But French director Julia Ducournau balances every body-horror scene either with something pedestrian twisted into being unsettling (like a horse on a treadmill) or with something that makes you ask how far Justine can go before someone confronts her about her new diet. And those questions keep coming right until the credits roll. I can't say I enjoyed watching Raw, but it was a hell of a ride.

The same goes for Them, currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Its focus is narrow, centering on a young couple living in a cavernous farmhouse, terrorized over the course of a night by unseen horrors. The camera never quite gives away who (or what) the perpetrators are, and revealing the twist would be a sin. As with Raw, its atmosphere and overall creepiness won me over straightaway. The scariest part? Realizing that I've probably driven past a shot like the final scene countless times and not thought twice about it. If you're willing to read subtitles, both of these should make you shiver and scream more than The Conjuring 2 on HBO Go could ever hope to.

Mobile Suit Gundam The 08th MS Team

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David Lumb
Contributing Editor

I'd heard that a lot of anime had left Hulu, but I scanned their selection anyway looking for classic shows I'd missed, like the original Mobile Suit Gundam. They don't have that -- but they did have a series I didn't finish the first time it aired on Toonami, the 1996 classic Gundam side story The 08th MS Team. Unlike the franchise's other show released the year before, the massively successful Gundam Wing, 08th ditches the brand's typical pretty-boys-in-unbeatable-robots for a grounded and sobering story about the people who get caught up in wars -- desperate soldiers, civilians and guerrillas alike. It's dirty, honest, utterly humane and gorgeously animated.

It's also a little preachy and melodramatic, and it shows its age with odd sexist moments. While it's still the Thin Red Line of the Gundam universe, I remember it far more fondly from when my 14-year-old self grazed the series on its first American airing. There's something sad in seeing an old favorite for the flawed media it always was. Much like Waypoint's Rob Zacny, I've grown up and seen a lot since I first caught the show as a starry-eyed teen. I still think The 08th MS Team is a wonderful little 12-episode miniseries with a big heart, but I won't revere it so highly -- and will think a little harder about who I recommend it to.

Feast of Fiction / Binging with Babish

Kris Naudus

Kris Naudus
Senior Editor, Database

Back in March, I came home from a trip only to discover that my oven didn't work. The cooking gas in my building had been shut off due to a leak. My building management seemed to be on it, so I made do with a combination of microwavables, toaster oven and Seamless. Unfortunately, weeks and months went by, calls to the city were made and permits were issued, but, even as I write this in October, gas still has not been restored to my building. My landlords eventually threw their collective hands in the air and began installing electric ranges in every apartment, so a few weeks ago I was finally able to cook for myself again.

I am so jazzed to be able to make food. Hot food! Scrambled eggs! Steak! Cookies! I started reading food blogs and cookbooks, and shopping to refill my pantry. I'm halfway through Kenji Alt-Lopez's The Food Lab, a huge 900-page hardcover that talks about the science of how food cooks. On the lighter side, I've also been reading food-themed comics like Delicious in Dungeon and Food Wars. And the latter title (which is also an anime) ended up sucking me into a YouTube hole of food videos that I've been obsessed with ever since.

You see, the very first chapter of Food Wars features the "Gotcha" Pork Roast, a bacon-wrapped potato loaf that hero Soma Yukihira makes to save his family restaurant. It looks pretty tasty, so I searched for recipes and pics online and stumbled onto Jimmy Wong and Ashley Adams' Feast of Fiction, a series that demonstrates how to make various foods seen in cartoons, video games and comics. If you ever wanted to taste Steven Universe's beloved Cookie Cat ice cream sandwiches or Kirby's super-spicy curry, there's an episode for you. One thing I really enjoy is how they also incorporate crafts into it, showing how to make paper wrappers for your Reptar chocolate bars or genuine-looking Ecto Cooler Hi-C boxes.

I've been marathoning through the episodes, which the YouTube algorithms have definitely picked up on at this point, throwing food show after food show into my suggestions. One that caught my eye was Binging with Babish. Where Feast of Fiction mostly sticks to the realm of kids' cartoons, anime and video games, Binging with Babish is a little more mainstream, covering foods from popular media like Mad Men, Seinfeld and House of Cards. Still, there's a bit of overlap -- both Babish and Feast have done their own takes on the Ultimeatum from Regular Show and Krabby Patties from SpongeBob SquarePants. But the recipes are different, and I watch the shows for the personalities. Feast of Fiction is pretty silly (and there's a cute dog), while Binging with Babish is a little more subdued. Not that Babish can't be ridiculous as well -- the Moist Maker is one of the most ridiculously complicated sandwiches I have ever seen, basically asking you to cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner.

Sadly, I still haven't done a lot of actual cooking since getting my stove back. I'm having too much fun watching other people do it instead, with the added bonus that I don't have to clean up the mess.

"IRL" is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they're buying, using, playing and streaming.