There are games you always hear your friends talk about, which can be described as nothing short of a “must play” experience. Sometimes these games go on to be both a critical and sales success, but from time to time one will manage to gain nothing but praise from everybody who plays it and hardly sell a single copy. Beyond Good & Evil is one such game. Sure, years later you would see it on everybody’s top games lists and see everybody clamoring for a sequel, but when the game initially came out there was very little fanfare for it, and thus the game slipped away into obscurity.
With the re-release of the game on XBLA with an HD makeover, the fandom surely rejoiced. However I think the cheers may have been louder from the group I found myself in; those who had never played the game and never found an opportunity to do so. Yes, I come to you with this review having never touched the original game. There will be no comparing it to the original, or rose tinted glasses obscuring my experience with nostalgic memories.
Does Beyond Good & Evil HD stand up today as a game that everybody must play, or was the hype just that? Read on and find out.
The game opens up in a standard enough way by introducing us to the main characters, Jade and her “uncle”, the boar-like Pey’j. The story is actually told in a fairly straight forward and realistic way. Without much background information given it’s revealed that the planet Hillys is being attacked by the alien DomZ, and the militaristic Alpha Sections protect the people who they oppress for their safety. Jade is unable to pay her power bill and takes a job taking pictures for a museum (which sets up one of the key, constant side-missions in the game). It’s not long before she comes across the Iris Network, an underground resistance movement who believe the Alpha Sections are involved with the DomZ, and want you to take pictures to prove it.
The story itself holds up well enough and unfolds at a decent pace. New information is revealed often enough to keep you interested, but neither too often that you get overwhelmed or too infrequently where you get bored. However it seems that outside of the small group of main characters, every other character falls into a very brief description and follows that mindlessly as their sole defining trait. The Alpha Sections are robotic guards, the citizens wander around talking about how much they hate the Alpha Sections, etc.
That’s not to say however that the writing is bad, just a little underwhelming at times. This is redeemed however in that anybody with anything worthwhile to tell you feels like they truly are a real person. Each person you talk to feels as if they really know Jade and has a history of some sort with her. You may not know what this is as the player, but it’s definitely there.
Combat is at first a very simple affair, involving simply pressing the A button over and over again to build up combos. However when you factor in that many enemies will require the help of your ally to expose their weak area, along with the various environmental hazards such as electric beams or pitfalls, there’s more variety than there seems. It’s certainly nothing special, but nothing to be scoffed at either.
The good news is that there’s much more emphasis placed on stealth than on outright combat, and that works rather beautifully. Granted part of the reason it works so well is that the Alpha Sections guards are downright morons. Their field of view is very small, and should you get caught all you have to do is run away for a few seconds and wait while they ‘scan’ the area they last saw you in, and it’s like they never saw anything; back to patrolling their scripted route they go!
Early in the game you gain access to a hovercraft which in addition to being your main mode of transportation will let you participate in a couple of races and some absolutely outstanding chase sequences. The looter chases are some of the best of these sequences I’ve ever experienced in a game and while you’ll probably have to retry a few times, it’s truly an exhilarating rush each time as you barely squeeze through a door or narrowly make it past that laser wall. The controls for the hovercraft are the same as they are for Jade thankfully, so you’ll be driving around with no problems as soon as you get it. Later on it gets an upgrade that makes it even more awesome, though I certainly won’t be spoiling that for you.
While you’re driving the hovercraft you can press the ‘Y’ button to bring up a very handy compass which will put you into first-person view and allow you to see which direction various areas are, so it’s pretty easy to stay on task without getting lost. The same applies when you’re on foot in the notes and information which is handily stored in the pause menu. At one point I had to stop playing for about a week straight due to being busy with other things, and when I came back it only took me a few moments to figure out what I needed to be doing.
Beyond Good & Evil is definitely an odd game, in that it’s better than the sum of it’s parts. While it may sound like I’m ragging on the game quite a bit, this truly couldn’t be further from the truth. Almost every aspect of the game is wonderfully handled, from the charming and engaging story down to the excellent and inventive platforming and stealth sections. While at times the game will scream to you that it’s from the last generation of consoles due to some old cliches and gaming standbys that aren’t used very often recently and a very finicky camera that can cause some very serious frustration at times, it’s still a wonderful experience.
When the short story is over, I found myself wanting more. I found myself truly caring about these characters very early on, even the inconsequential ones who only have a few key lines. Going into the game I knew there was a large clamor for a sequel and was prepared for it, and while I certainly enjoyed the game it’s not until the last moments when the hooks really get into you that give you the desire for more. If you’re a fan of the original, I’m sure this is everything you already loved with a prettier paint job. If you’ve never played it and have been wondering what all the fuss is about, take my word for it: don’t miss this one.
- Title: Beyond Good and Evil HD
- Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
- Developer: Ubisoft
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- MSRP: $10 / 800 Microsoft Points
- Release Date: March 2, 2011
- Review Copy Info: A review code of the title was provided to DualShockers Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.