Beyond Good & Evil HD: review

  • Format: XBLA (version reviewed), PSN
  • Unleashed: Out Now (PSN version TBA 2011)
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Developer: Ubisoft Shanghai
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://beyondgoodevil.com

Beyond Good & Evil HD is a remake of an underplayed gem. It tells the story of Jade, a freelance photographer who finds herself amidst a government conspiracy she must uncover to save the people of Hillys. You’ll sneak behind enemy lines along with a partner, where it is in your best interests to stay hidden from the patrolling guards. Your mission: photograph suspicious government activity in hopes of persuading the Hillyan people to rise up against the Alpha Sections. Sometimes you’ll want to be as discrete as possible; others, you’ll be forced to fight. Your primary character is Jade, but you can also give commands to your partner to help fight off enemies or to solve puzzles jointly.

The game’s new facelift does not disappoint. Character outlines are now smoother, textures are enhanced, and colour schemes consist of vibrant hues instead of the original grainy palette. The water you often glide across in your trusty hovercraft is especially beautiful. You also spend much of the game snapping photos, which are now crisp and vivid instead of dark and pixelated.

One does not simply walk into Alpha Section HQ.

Photography has been improved in other ways. You’re encouraged to photograph Hillys’ vast wildlife in exchange for precious currency. When you’re trying to photograph an enemy, they don’t exactly sit around and strike a pose. They often run up in your face as you whip out your camera, ruining that once perfect shot right before taking a chunk out of your health. In the remake, the camera automatically zooms out slightly on pictures, making it easier to safely get a usable photo. You can now shift your ‘camera vision’ side to side without having to actually move Jade—particularly useful for shooting at an enemy from around a corner while remaining hidden.

Ironic that a game that concentrates so much on photography has issues with the in-game camera. We quickly noticed in BG&E HD that the camera controls are counterintuitive—whenever we tried to turn the camera a certain way, it did the opposite of what was expected. We therefore promptly set the controls to Inverted; however, the setting combines both the X and Y axes, forcing us to choose between awkward side-to-side and awkward up-and-down camera controls. This may not even bother those who are not already well acquainted with the camera of the original game. When you find yourself in tight spaces, it can be difficult to get the camera to turn the way you want, though when you’re in a passage so narrow that you have to crawl, this is understandable. Camera issues weren’t fixed in the remake, but we only found this to be a minor annoyance.

Downtown Hillys

Gameplay does not rely solely on stealth, and luckily the combat system is improved. Jade is now agile instead of sluggishly swinging her arms around, leaving herself wide open to attack. Gone is the tendency from the original to get ‘stuck’ on one enemy, because combat is now more responsive. This newly improved mechanic is especially prudent for the final showdown of the game. But don’t expect deep combat; it’s a simple, three-button system – one to string together combos, one to dodge, and one to command your partner as needed. Some may preemptively wrinkle their noses at this because it does run the risk of feeling like button mashing devoid of any ‘skill.’ Well timed dodges, implementation of the correct strategies, and cooperation between you and your partner mean combat still feels rewarding.

The level design of the ‘dungeons’ is great and consists of many puzzles, but is also fairly linear. It’s just the right level of difficulty; you may have to stop and think a while on the puzzles, but the dungeons are not so full of branching paths that you must wander through numerous hallways before finding your next destination. It’s straightforward, but not too much so, and makes for good pacing that doesn’t leave players feeling frustrated or bored.

Another of BG&E HD’s strong suits is its fantastic soundtrack. There’s a nice mix of politically charged rap, ambient stealth tracks, peppy mini-game anthems, exhilarating electronic tunes during boss fights, and more, and every track masterfully conveys that area’s atmosphere. Sound quality seems unchanged; but then, the game needed no such improvements.

"D.B.U.T.T. - Don't break up the team!"

Above all, BG&E HD shines in its storytelling. The characters are charming, each with his or her own distinct personality and quotable one-liners; certain cutscenes may coax even the most serious gamer into cracking a little smile or the most frivolous one to deeply sympathise for Jade. Unfortunately, we don’t get to spend enough time with Jade and company; the game is too short. It’s a respectable length of about 10-12 hours (if it’s your first time playing), but the time spent actually developing and explaining the story is far too brief. Players will be intrigued, but there will still be plenty of questions remaining when the credits roll that easily could have been answered if Ubisoft had made those cinematics just a bit longer. The ending raises more questions than it answers which is a bit disappointing, but also sets the game up nicely for a sequel—if it ever sees the light of day, that is.

Even by today’s standards, BG&E HD manages to shine through as a unique and worthwhile journey for devoted fans and newcomers alike. This is simply an experience of which no gamer should be deprived, and for 800 Microsoft points, owners of an Xbox 360 (or PlayStation 3, once it releases on PSN) have virtually no excuse to pass this one by.

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Written by Stephanie T

Having grown up on Star Fox 64, Ocarina of Time, and Pokémon Red, she’s a Nintendo lover at heart but will play almost anything as long as it’s stylish, innovative, rich in story, or any combination of the three. Just don’t try to make her play modern military shooters.

2 comments

  1. Fathead /

    Very nice! I think I’ll get it once I have the points….

  2. KrazyFace /

    I started playing this on PS2 way way back, but then I got my hands on SotC and managed to forget about it! Glad you mentioned the camera issues, I’ve got a real problem when I’m forced to use an uninverted camera system for some reason. Sounds like I should go and pick it back up, I still have the original too so I might just stick with that…

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