Beyond Good & Evil HD Xbox Live, PSN Review
If you’re in your mid-twenties, as I am, going back to a game from your teenage years is pretty odd. I’m sure we’ve all revisited games from our childhood, but that’s kind of different – when you’re playing something you’ve not seen for twenty years, you don’t really expect to remember much of it. But a game from only, say, ten years ago? You probably think you still remember everything about it, but do you really?
It’s difficult to play Beyond Good & Evil HD and just appreciate it as a video game. If you’re familiar with the original – or think you are – this HD remake becomes less of a game, and more of a terrifying lesson in just how completely broken your memory is.
Still, some of you might not have played the original. Which there’s absolutely no excuse for, by the way. Released in 2003 for the PS2, Gamecube, Xbox and PC, it received the highest praise from critics and then went on to sell bugger-all copies, because that is the law of interesting video games. Directed by Michel Ancel – he of Rayman and, uh, King Kong fame – it saw you playing as Jade, a photojournalist on the planet Hillys, doing a lot of sneaking around and exposing a fairly horrific conspiracy.
The best way to sum up what makes BG&E so great – and so worthy of a re-release seven years down the line – is that one of your main sidekicks, your ‘uncle’ Pey’j, is a short, fat anthropomorphic pig. He should be completely awful, and yet, by the game’s end, you’ll be hailing him as one of the most likeable supporting characters in a video game ever. In short, the game has the knack of presenting ridiculous characters and situations in such a matter-of-fact way that you find yourself taking it all very bloody seriously indeed.
The game itself mostly involves running around in third person, talking to people, smacking up aliens and other creatures with your trusty staff, or sneaking around mysterious military facilities, taking photographs as you go. Despite the game originally being released on the wrong side of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Jade still controls perfectly, and the combat – largely a button-mashing affair – still manages to be pretty fun, although possibly only because it’s not the main focus of the experience. Even the stealth sections manage to avoid ruining evwerything, as they’re mostly pretty forgiving even when you manage to screw things up. This is nothing short of miraculous when you remember how many crap stealth games came out in the early 2000s. The Metal Gear Solid games certainly had a lot to answer for back then.
Not an awful lot has been done to the game in the process of porting it to the HD consoles. The screen resolution is higher, sure, but the visuals have remained mostly unchanged; we’re told that character models and textures have been improved, but the difference seems mostly negligible. Still, maybe we’re just spoiled, and BG&E is certainly a shining example of the notion that a strong art style will forever trump higher-res textures or more detailed models. It still looks utterly lovely in places, despite a lot of decidedly last-gen visual traits.
The music, meanwhile, has definitely been completely re-recorded. A curious decision, considering it was the one thing that absolutely didn’t need updating, but the new soundtrack is certainly no worse than the original, and the original was totally great. So, shut up.
If you played BG&E back in the day, you’ll most likely be astonished by how little of it you’ve remembered. My entire playthrough was peppered with confusion and self-doubt, as I was constantly trying to figure out if the bit I was currently playing was, in fact, completely new for the HD version. I certainly couldn’t remember playing it before, but I knew I’d played other bits further along in the story. But no, there are no new sections at all. I’m just an idiot with a broken mind.
Still, it’s not all bad; forgetting about 90% of the game’s content just makes it as much of a joy to play through as it was first time around. Indeed, I considered myself incredibly lucky to have somehow forgotten about a few of the game’s excellent set-pieces, and one or two particularly shocking reveals.
BG&E HD is an easy game to recommend, regardless of whether or not you played the original release. It’s not quite as mind-blowing as it was back in the day – looking back, a lot of good games surfaced in 2003, but originality wasn’t too high on the agenda – yet it remains entirely enjoyable and charming throughout, bar a few irritating hovercraft sections.
Supposedly, Ancel is still working with an incredibly small team to slowly bring Beyond Good & Evil 2 to the world without compromising its artistic vision. We can only hope this is the case, as the possibility of today’s Ubisoft producing something so quirky and wonderful as the original seems like a long shot indeed.