29th April 2011 - Beyond Good and Evil is the newest addition to the recurring trend of “HD” remakes of old popular franchises from the last console generation. Having not experienced the game back when it was on the GameCube and Xbox respectively and have heard of its cult following despite an overall mixed reception back in the day, I was cautiously optimistic at its potential. That being said, the hardest thing about reviewing an old game is whether or not you review it compared to what came out originally or do you hold it up by today’s standards as a downloadable title. The answer is a little bit of both.
The story revolves around the planet of Hillys, a nice peaceful, out of the way planet with nice people, high productivity and arguably the most diverse amount of ethnicity and mindsets since before the Mass Effect series, which is probably why Ubisoft now prides itself on sticking “this game was made by a multicultural team with various religious beliefs” at the beginning of their Assassin’s Creed games. Seeing what they did before, it almost comes off as redundant, like Activision putting up before every one of their games, “we love to make sequels of games you love and slowly wear them down into a crumpled husk of their former selves because that’s the only way know how to make money.” Anyway, you assume the role of Jade, the local owner and caregiver of the local orphanage, just in time for Hillys to get invaded by an unambiguously evil alien race called the DomZ. As the conflict escalates, an intergalactic police force, the Alpha Sections, are sent in to protect the populace from the threat, but something seems off. Shortly after the occupation, Jade is recruited into a secret organization called the IRIS Network, and is told of corruption within the Alpha Sections ranks and is asked to find proof and reveal it to the populace.
The story’s appeal can best be described as an odd mix of Splinter Cell meets Banjo-Kazooie. There’s a conspiracy with morally gray lines on one end, but on the other end, there is some dry wit and anthropomorphic animal creatures all over the place. That being said, BG&E manages to do two things right when it comes to character building and introducing a player to a new world. With Jade, nothing is taken for granted in terms of character development. Her outfit, a bit of a punk look with the hair style and green lipstick, shows her rejection of a society’s expectation of a demure submissive female. The cut scenes depict her as a smart but levelheaded woman, even the beginning shows her maternal side when it comes to protecting her orphanage. All the way down to what she uses in gameplay as tools. She fights with a Bo Staff, a weapon not meant to kill but gets the point across, and makes a living by taking photographs, showing a grounded appreciation for nature. Add all of this plus the fact that she has one of the best mentor figures I’ve seen in a game, an overweight pigman who isn’t just a face at a computer but actually jokes and helps her out in the field, and that she undergoes a well done character arc, and you have a well written, flesh and blood female character, which in this industry is nearly a miracle.
As for introducing a player to the world of Hillys, you are able to earn more money and other resources by taking pictures of many different species of creature as possible in the world. When the photo is taken, it doesn’t drop five paragraphs into a Codex for you to spend an afternoon reading, it just gives you a basic scientific term for the creature IE. Homo sapiens, and leaves it open to interpretation how that branch of evolution came to be. The game prides exploration and, like in a real kind of world, the more you proceed in the game, the more actively defiant the populace becomes.
Unfortunately, with as much BG&E does right, there are some issues involving its gameplay. Between riding around in a hovercraft taking photos, sneaking around in top secret locations, and the occasional fight, Beyond Good and Evil does its best on keeping gameplay interesting, it’s just that some of the areas could use more polish with our current technology. The combat sequences where Jade is staff smashing can feel a bit wooden at times, especially when it comes to using the dodge move, which is more or less a small hop backwards. Some of the puzzles in the game have a bad case of only being hard in terms of the key items being kept away like a scavenger hunt. An example from my playthrough was I was stuck in a factory with the only way out being to grab a fuse and put it into a recently discovered box. I remembered previously that I used a fuse to get an elevator to work and decided to remove that fuse to power the exit door. After shocking myself to death three times, I found out that there was another fuse on the other side of a large device in the exact same room where I got the first fuse, hidden almost like an optical illusion. It’s a small complaint but it still doesn’t help.
Also, in an almost ancestor like role to the Assassin’s Creed method of side quest padding, there was more than one scenario where, instead of sneaking around and hacking my way to the next location like James Bond with breasts, I had to go around and find a number of Pearls in order to get certain upgrades for my hovercraft to proceed which include, no joke, a jump function to get over the Alpha Sections’ security system. Lastly, the stealth hasn’t aged well and once you discover you can take out the patrols coming after you with just two stealth kicks, it hardly becomes a challenge.
Beyond Good and Evil HD really is just the exact same game graphically from before, just with some texture touchups. That being said it still looks fantastic. There are some lip sync issues but it still gets the job done. The art style is appealing enough to not be considered too dark or too campy for anyone who might be playing, and it just lends to this really inexplicable charm the game has overall.
The soundtrack of Beyond Good and Evil is possibly the most diverse I’ve heard in a while. Imagine a bizarre mix of hip hop, Bob Marley, sitar ensembles, and some Zen tracks, and you have the music of Beyond Good and Evil. The sound effects are great, each creature sounds unique, and the voice-acting is very good
Beyond Good and Evil manages to be one of those kinds of games that are still great, despite some of its aging flaws. The characters are great, one of a kind, and the industry as a whole would be worse off if it was never made. At the current price of 1200 Microsoft Points, I’d say it’s a steal.
In short, Beyond Good and Evil is still worth playing, sure it won’t wow some people in terms of graphics or in some gameplay areas, but it manages to hold a certain verisimilitude that is hard to come by these days. Check it out, and get a copy for your friends.
AAG SCORE: 9/10
+ Great characters
+ Great world
+ Fantastic storytelling
- Aged combat and stealth mechanics
- Can feel artificially extended at times
Reviewed and Written By Tyler Chancey