Beyond Good & Evil HD Review
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On 03/15/2011 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola
If you people don't go buy this game and encourage Ubisoft to make a sequel, I'm going to hurt somebody (you).
If you missed Beyond Good & Evil last generation, shame on you. The game offered a unique blend of genres and a fantastic story with emotive characters, which created one of the most immersive experiences of the generation. The good news is that Ubisoft has remastered the game in 1080p HD and made it available for digital download via the Xbox Live Arcade, with a PlayStation Network version on the way. Whether you owned it before or never had a chance to experience it, at its extremely low price of $10 there’s no excuse for missing this remastered version.
What makes Beyond Good & Evil so special is the way in which it seamlessly mixes a variety of gameplay mechanisms and plot devices. The game is one part stealth, one part adventure, one part action, one part racing, one part vehicular combat, one part exploration, and one part co-operative play (with an AI). Even though it combines and uses such a wide array of designs, it never feels awkward switching between each one. The entire game flows together so coherently, it’s simply stunning.
The plot and characters complement this design, offering up story you actually care about and characters that display a full range of emotions, from happiness, to despair, to anger, to sadness, and love.
Immediately, players are tossed right into the world of Hillys while the DomZ are attacking. They are after the Hillians primarily for their life force, but also seek to convert some to mindless slaves to do their bidding. Embodying Jade, players must defeat the attacking DomZ and secure the safety of the children housed at Jade's lighthouse. During the attack, players are quickly introduced to a few of the main characters, including Pey'j, Jade's man-pig uncle, and Secundo, an artificial intelligence that assists Jade everywhere she goes.
Shortly after the encounter, players begin to unravel the tale of the Alpha Sections and their allegiance with the DomZ. In conjunction with the IRIS network, Jade takes use of her journalistic skills and her camera to collect evidence of the Alpha Sections’ oppression of the people of Hillys. The Alpha Sections, as we come to find out, are acting in union with the DomZ, allowing them to traffic humans in order to keep fear high and maintain their ironclad grip on the planet under the ruse that they are actually protecting it.
By basing the game around the collection of evidence, Jade is given many venues in which to perform her required task. As players progress through the game they are responsible for directing each and every one of Jade's actions, right down to transporting her to the necessary locations. As you might expect, this provides for a completely open door of gameplay possibilities that Ubisoft and Ancel explored to great depths, as demonstrated by the widely varying missions.
Things start off simple, with fetch quests and ship repairs, but quickly escalate to full-blown missions and photography of both mission critical items and Hillys species (congruent in many ways to scanning in Metroid Prime). Each and every major mission works in a variety of gameplay elements to keep things interesting. For one, players will be sneaking around, avoiding the Alpha Sections troops that litter the areas under their control. In many cases, sneaking involves some sort of puzzle to progress, an interesting twist on the stealth portion of the game. Simultaneously, players will be fighting off other enemies with a fairly simple combat system based around Jade’s staff.
During the missions, players will also have the ability to accomplish side quests to collect pearls, which are ultimately necessary to progress in the game. Species in need of cataloging also come up regularly during missions, which too provide pearls that aid in completion.
Transport is nearly a game unto itself. Players can travel to a large variety of Hillys locales, and at given points in the quest will be forced to lock on and blast giant DomZ aliens from the hovercraft. Races and challenge courses also crop up on occasion and they consistently prove to be an enjoyable side venture to the main quest.
In general, the world of Hillys is living and breathing. Ships are travelling to and fro, Hillys inhabitants picket in the city, bars are packed to the gills, and shops are stocked with eager brokers. While extremely similar sounding to something like Zelda, Beyond Good & Evil always manages to feel more active and alive. Table top games are even available, providing yet another facet to the gameplay. Even better, they have a real effect on the game as you can win precious orbs, which are crucial at the end of the game. Not to mention, the games have an oddly addictive quality to them.
While these huge variances in gameplay keep the game fresh throughout, what really draws players into the experience is being a part of something big. Because the world and characters are so alive, and the story so interesting, you are easily immersed in the game and always eager to explore somewhere new, uncover a hidden truth, and get to the bottom of the Alpha Sections and DomZ conspiracy.
Despite all of the game's successes it does feature a few minor issues. For one, the camera is particularly bad, and unquestionably it has seen no improvement from the original release, right down to the menu options. Rather than having the option to individually invert each direction, players are given only two options: regular or all inverted. Players will need to fight with the stubborn camera, and this is a real shame because it feels as if it could've been fixed in the porting process. Camera issues are extremely infrequent nowadays, and a game as great as Beyond Good and Evil shouldn't continue to be plagued by these problems after being remastered and rereleased.
The game is also incredibly buggy. I had numerous situations where the game hard froze my system, making it impossible to gracefully quit out. Of course, each and every incident resulted in a loss of progress, which was equally as frustrating. A few times I managed to fall through the level, creating a situation with the same data loss issues. While not necessarily a bug, the game does feature a point of no return which will likely leave completionists high and dry.
However, all of these problems can be overlooked because the game is so satisfying and enjoyable - the bugs will likely be patched and the awkward camera is surmountable. The unique blend of gameplay, as well as the characters and plot make the game an unforgettable experience that demands to be revisited again and again.