Beyond Good & Evil HD Review
Beyond Good & Evil HD is almost exactly what its title suggests—a high definition version of Michel Ancel's critical darling and financial flop. If you've never played the original game, this is good news for you, as it's still one of the best action/adventure games out there. As wonderful as it is to introduce this game to an entirely new audience, the method in which it's done is a bit lazy.
Aside from achievements and the baffling addition of leaderboards, BG&E HD is essentially the Xbox/PS2/Gamecube version of the game running in 1080p. There are no extras, no improvements to the character models or textures, no gameplay improvements, and no additional areas. If you're a fan of the original, then there's nothing here to justify repurchasing it beyond the nostalgia and joy the game provides.
That said, Beyond Good & Evil was a criminally ignored game that has withstood the test of time. While you will have to make a few concessions for the era in which it was developed, the game feels largely modern, at times even moreso than many of today's games. The way new gameplay elements arise is not unlike a good Nintendo game—think Zelda, before they started treating their audience like morons.
A big part of what makes Beyond Good & Evil such a joy to play is the sheer variety of these gameplay elements. Maybe the combat is overly simplified, and the stealth sections may be a point of contention for many, but there are so many different elements that you're never doing one thing for very long, anyway. Topping off the variety is a hub world that encourages just enough light exploration to make the game interesting without becoming distracting.
What really brings the whole package together and elevates it to a work of art, though, is that the gameplay variety is completely in the service of the story and characters. The plot revolves around Jade, a photojournalist in a world plagued by constant attacks from an alien force known as the DomZ. Her world is protected by a military dictatorship, but a rebel organization is out to prove that the military isn't helping its people, but rather making the lives of the DomZ easier. Enter Jade, whose unique skills make her the perfect candidate for uncovering a conspiracy.
Along with a couple sidekicks, Jade sneaks into secret labs and installations, snapping pictures, fighting enemies, and solving environmental puzzles. Her companions never turn the game into an escort mission. Instead, their presence simply builds a connection between the player and the characters that makes some of the twists and turns later on in the game that much more dramatic.
Originally developed at Ubisoft by Michel Ancel (creator of Rayman), Beyond Good & Evil has a similar but more mature vibe. Yes, there are talking animals among the humans, but it's also a game that will make you care deeply for a talking pig. It has a great juxtaposition of colorful, cartoony art and a story that deals with some heavy themes.
While the higher resolution is certainly nice, and the silky smooth frame rate doesn't hurt either, the few issues with Beyond Good & Evil stem from it being an eight-year-old game. Problems like somewhat awkward camera controls and overly simplistic environments could have been cleaned up and polished. That, or a few bonus features could have been included. It would have just been nice to have something extra for fans of the original to enjoy or an improvement or two for the new generation of gamers.
Regardless, as an XBLA release, concessions like simple graphics or a rough edge here and there aren't exactly gamebreakers. Beyond Good & Evil isn't a short game by today's standards, either. You'll get about ten hours or so out of the quest, much more than you'd squeeze out of comparable download releases today.
While Beyond Good & Evil HD didn't exactly receive the red carpet treatment fans might have been banking on, it is getting a much-needed second lease on life. If you haven't played the original, you no longer have an excuse. Give it a try and join the club of gamers desperately waiting for Beyond Good & Evil 2.