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Beyond Good and Evil HD updates the 2003 original with re-mastered graphics and audio. The game holds up incredibly well thanks to its immersive world and story, but some interface issues mean it can't completely hide its age.
I bought Beyond Good and Evil on the day it was released. At the time I was busy with studies, clubs, a girlfriend and a job so it sat un-played. Slowly I bought more games, and more, until it eight years had passed and I never returned to it. But with others singing its praises, it slowly climbed in my expectations. Then Ubisoft announced that they were to release it on the 360, exactly the same game just rendered in HD and downloadable for a reasonable 800MS points. It was a perfect excuse to try it, but I was scared that it would fail to reach the high expectations set by my mind.
Within moments I was engaged by a plot that set up events without the need of overly lengthy exposition. A militaristic man on a big screen talks of how the foreboding Alpha Section is only hope of protection against the Domz alien menace. It is a threat that was quickly realised as bombs rain from the sky around a small lighthouse where I found my character, Jade, meditating. Projectiles strike all around as Jade and her friend Pey'J attempt to activate the shield that defends the lighthouse come orphanage.
It is at this moment that Beyond Good and Evil gave me its first taste of something different; the shield fails to initiate. But there is no techno-babble about a plasma field drive; instead a gentle female voice informs me that Jade has not paid her electricity bill. It's charming in its simplicity, and establishes that this is a real and practical world where the quest for the money is as essential as any other resource.
Without shields Jade is immediately forced into combat. It speaks volumes to the design that within moments I felt able to hold my own against the Domz, despite their superior numbers and size. I was able to cartwheel and back flip my way through all challengers with a difficulty level perfectly targeted to ensure victories remained satisfying.
The dynamic between Pay'J and Jade feels natural and I completely believe their lifelong friendship.
During this fight Pay'J is prattling away at me and trying to help. The dynamic between Pay'J and Jade feels natural and I completely believe their lifelong friendship. Other characters feel equally appropriate, with the different sentient races of the planet each having their own stereotyped idiosyncrasies' (angry sharks etc) but also with believable individual personalities, in a way that many modern games struggle with.
But the eight years have taken their toll in other (albeit smaller) ways and Beyond Good and Evil HD. Take the camera, controlled by the right stick it creates a rigid-ness that frequently left me feeling detached from the action. In combat an enemy target lock negated this issue, but in open world sections it constantly seemed to fight my progress. Even with the caveat that cameras are still a struggle for developers, here it seemed especially grievous and highlighted the games age.
Menu navigation is the another sticking point. There are layers of graphical interface to be navigated and while radial menus help, having to learn the complex locations of each item is an irritation.
A wonderful story and some well-realised (if not fully voiced) characters.
This may not have been so bad in 2003, but things have changed. With more series turning away from discreet menus entirely to keep you immersed in the world the struggle here made it feel a little antiquated.
Beyond Good and Evil HD contains a wonderful story and some well-realised (if not fully voiced) characters. The failings of its age are unfortunate but serve as an interesting reminder of how much game usability has improved. After years of feeling I couldn't go back I regret I didn't do it sooner.This HD remake is a wonderful excuse to finally experience what turns out to be quite an amazing tale.
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