Review by SSpectre
"Eight years and a sloppy port bring out the worst in Beyond Good & Evil, but there's still a lot of potential here."
Beyond Good & Evil HD
+ Story and characters are a welcome relief from the norm
+ Capably integrates multiple forms of gameplay
+ Artistic side holds up well, visually and aurally
- Perhaps too many forms of gameplay for its own good
- Old unreliable camera has gotten worse
- Design flaws stand out even more these days
- Not the best port job out there
The original Beyond Good & Evil is not the classic you probably remember it being. Its notorious commercial failure has given it a cult reputation that would have you believe it's one of the best games of the decade, when it's really just an above-average action-adventure punctuated by an original narrative and some baffling design decisions that stick out like a sore thumb.
Of course, the reason it has such a high reputation is because it's very different from much of its genre, and from gaming as a whole, especially now in the era of grey shooters and World of Warcraft wannabes. And don't get me wrong, it deserves success, because it's the kind of game that just needs polish to work rather than a complete retooling. But re-buying the same game wrapped in a sub-par port job doesn't seem like the best way to convince Ubisoft that a sequel is worth making.
The game attempts to blend combat, stealth, vehicle exploration and puzzles into one game, and it does so moderately well across all fronts. The stealth is gripping, the world feels lived-in, and when you're working with an AI partner (which is about half the time), the combat and puzzles are rewarding. The game's biggest flaw, though, is that it tries to do too much. The stealth sections can suffer from AI quirks amplified by the eight years that have passed since the original release, and when you're alone, both combat and puzzles are too simplistic. It's still fun, but only because you haven't seen much like it, even by today.
Its best aspect is its story, and the characters that drive it. Jade (one of the most likeable and impressive female protagonists ever) and her adoptive uncle Pey'j live on the planet Hillys, where they care for children orphaned by attacks from the invading DomZ aliens. The DomZ are supposedly kept at bay by the paramilitary Alpha Sections, but the underground IRIS network uncovers a conspiracy putting the two on the same side. Jade, being a photographer/reporter, quickly gets caught in the middle of said conspiracy. Because of this, large sections of the gameplay are driven by Jade's camera, which, combined with some unorthodox plot twists and a world that successfully feels both familiar and alien, creates quite a unique experience.
Of course, uniqueness only takes a game so far. Eventually the lack of refinement undermines Beyond Good & Evil HD. The camera (the third-person one, not Jade's handheld one) contributes to this aggravation more so than anything else, as attempting to navigate small rooms will cause it to hang up on walls or jump to supposedly cinematic angles at random. Strangely, in one particular dungeon, the camera will only allow you to look through two entirely useless perspectives for certain sections. All of these problems were present in the original game, and not only are they still here, but they're made even worse, because the camera controls have, oddly, been made more sensitive for the port.
Nothing else is really that much of a deal-breaker. The 8-12 hour length is quite respectable for a $10 Xbox Live Arcade game, the non-camera controls work just fine, and the challenge level, which seems too easy at first, also becomes adequate after a little time.
However, I did say that this is a sub-par port. The supposedly improved textures and character models show virtually no difference, the music has the odd habit of cutting out in mid-song or just not playing at all, and some game-breaking glitches are a little too frequent for comfort. The graphical faults are somewhat compensated for by the game's art style attaining a balance of realism and cartoon, though. The more artistic aspects such as character design hold up well, although attempts at realism don't stand the test of time as smoothly. The music glitches are particularly jarring, because Beyond Good & Evil HD has an outstanding music collection, whether it's being emotional, energetic or just plain funny. The voice acting's quality is still quite good even eight years later, often making the characters even more charming than they already were.
Beyond Good & Evil has so much potential that can be addressed in future games, and I will definitely endorse the sequel we're supposedly getting eventually. It's an intriguing story about great characters, and it's got a mountain of ideas backing it up, so try it out if you haven't been able to get your hands on the game before now (which, judging by its sales, you haven't). But if you're already a fan, this re-release will not improve your feelings toward the game, and you may be sending the wrong message to Ubisoft after all.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 03/16/11, Updated 10/04/13
Game Release: Beyond Good & Evil HD (US, 03/02/11)
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