PSN Review – Beyond Good & Evil HD

Beyond Good & Evil was released smack dab in the middle of the holiday 2003 season. While the game released to widespread critical acclaim, its odd cast of characters and low marketing hype did not translate to a commercial success. In fact, it released around the same time as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and XIII, both Ubisoft-backed titles which the publisher poured more marketing dollars into. The game seemed doomed to forever stay a niche, cult classic, but luckily we live in an era of HD remakes that includes Beyond Good & Evil HD. With a fresh coat of paint and some online functionality, does Beyond Good & Evil hold up to today’s standards of gaming? Let’s find out.

Beyond Good & Evil was a wonderful looking game when it first released, and with revamped visuals here much of the original appeal successfully made the transition. There are some unfortunate stretched graphics when you are wandering around large areas, but for the most part everything looks much crisper than in the original. The world of Hillys is a slightly cel-shaded looking place, with fantastic characters that often look like nothing else before them. There are a lot of “sapien,” or humanlike, creatures, such as rhinoceroses who sound as if they were from Jamaica, human-like goats, and of course your character Jade’s uncle, Pey’j, an anthropomorphic pig. Accompanying you in your quest is also a quite evolved AI that goes by the name of Secundo. All voice work is as in the original – excellently voiced and wonderfully scripted.

There are a few new features in this game that attempt to make use of this generation of consoles. The keyword here is attempt. While the game boasts online leaderboards, it only seems to be a marker of who has completed the entire game to 100 percent the fastest, and nothing more. Even worse, although there are filters for this leaderboard to see the all-time high scores as well as your own compared to your friends, all the filters only seem to load the all-time board. There is also a “Making Of” feature accessible from the main menu. This is simply a slideshow of what appears to be concept art – it’s hard to tell exactly what it is because there are no captions or any real indication as to what it is you are looking at. This is a shame, because a documentary about the making of this game would have been a nice treat. The images are not exportable, and the entire feature takes around a minute to run through. There are also trophies, though in this case only 12. It is probably a limitation of the game being sold on the PS Store, and trophy hunters will no doubt 100 percent this game in no time.

Gameplay here remains the same as it ever was – you play as Jade, an orphan who was taken in by her Uncle Pey’j at a young age. You live a peaceful life on the planet Hillys in a futuristic yet simple society. A war has been raging for quite some time, where an invading force known as the DomZ is threatening your very existence. A military group known as the Alpha Sections are doing battle against the DomZ. But all is not as it seems as you soon discover. The story is full of intrigue, politics, action and photography. Yes, photography. Using your camera, you capture incriminating evidence of certain people or groups in order to expose the truth. Think Pokémon Snap (remember that game?) but, well, with a story and characters you care about. Almost eight years later, the story stays just as charming as ever. Uncle Pey’j’s one liners will get a laugh out of most, and Double H, an agent whom you save from certain death, hilariously calls you “Miss Thyrus” after misunderstanding you the first time you meet him. The game just screams character, and you will remember many of the faces you meet long after the credits roll.

The control scheme is untouched here – you move with the left stick, controlling the camera with the right. However, during driving and certain stealth sequences, you can only move the camera up and down. This becomes pretty off-putting at first, though this issue is not game breaking. Combat is still a bit hokey, where you just mash the square button to attack, occasionally using triangle to trigger a super attack courtesy of your uncle Pey’j. It works, but thankfully combat is not the main focus of the game; collecting evidence is. Using your camera, you can take pictures of not just criminals in the act, but also of the local wildlife. A scientist nearby is documenting all the native wildlife she can, perhaps in case the planet is wiped of most life. Your task is to photograph any and all organic lifeforms you come across in your travels, getting paid and receiving awards the more subjects you snap. This really does include every live creature you come across, including Pey’j and boss characters. The names of some of these creatures are pretty inventive, and this aspect of the game provides for some quick cash when you need it.

Audio has been kept faithful to the original, with the addition of surround sound. Now most objects in the world project sound in 5.1 channels, which adds to the immersion of the world. The soundtrack is a delight, especially in areas where there are other NPCs. Sound effects and voicework are well-done, though it is a challenge to tell if the samples have been upscaled anywhere. Regardless, hearing Uncle Pey’j yell out “I’m coming Jade!” as he rushes in to save the day is always a treat.

If you have never played the original Beyond Good & Evil, first, shame on you! Second, you will definitely want to pick this game up. The visuals and audio have been faithfully upgraded and the world of Hillys is as charming as ever. Some attempts to utilize the current generation of consoles are appreciated, but ultimately underwhelming. Those looking to replay some of their favorite moments from the past without hunting a for the game’s disc will enjoy the shortened load times and steady framerate. Really, anyone looking for a fun and intriguing story, unique gameplay and great cast of characters should give Beyond Good & Evil a long overdue playthrough.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Graphics and audio have been given a nice polish and upgrade.

+ Hillys is still fun to explore, the story remains as entertaining as ever.

– Online leaderboards don’t work properly, extras are generally lacking.

8 out of 10