A re-release usually doesn’t mark anything important. It’s typically a piece of entertainment that many have seen before, so “who really cares?” is the general response. Yet “Beyond Good and Evil HD,” a high-definition remake of a 2003 game, feels notable for a number of reasons. For one, it’s a game that very few people played or were aware of at the time of its release, so it will feel totally new for many. Secondly — and perhaps this shows how risk-adverse today’s industry is — “Beyond Good and Evil HD” incorporates many different gameplay types in a way that can’t be found in other modern games.
Beyond Good and Evil HD
Xbox Live Arcade
Players take the role of Jade, a female photojournalist living on the once-peaceful planet of Hillys. An alien threat has slowly been abducting citizens to a lunar base, and Jade finds out that the local military is aiding the aliens in human trafficking rather than fighting them off. The rest of the game focuses on exposing this conspiracy.
There are numerous facets to the gameplay, but the basic elements are structured in a very “Legend of Zelda”-type fashion. Massive structures, like a slaughterhouse in which the victims are being shipped to space, serve as dungeons would in “Legend of Zelda,” in which players often enter a room and have to solve an environmental puzzle or defeat enemies in order to proceed. In “Beyond Good and Evil HD” solving puzzles requires astute observations of the surrounding area, critical thinking and sometimes some platforming. Fighting enemies involves simple one-button melee combat with Jade’s wooden staff. There’s also a projectile weapon useful for hitting enemies at long range or hitting a far away switch in a puzzle.
Photography also plays a major role in the game, and is surprisingly engaging. While exploring these factories and slaughterhouses where illicit activity is taking place, players use Jade’s camera to take photographic evidence of the crimes being committed. As Jade is obviously not supposed to be in these places, there are a lot of stealth sequences in the game, which involve sneaking by powerful guards. Unfortunately, “Beyond Good and Evil” comes from a time when stealth in games was in vogue and so it incorporates a lot of it. While there’s nothing inherently broken in the stealth system, it requires a lot of trial and error, and just isn’t particularly fun most of the time. The camera can also be unwieldy and finicky, which can exacerbate the problem.
Luckily, all the variety in the gameplay lessens the tediousness of the stealth. There are hovercraft races, elements of exploration, minigames and more. Near the end of the game there is even space combat, as Jade gains access to a spaceship to pilot to the lunar base. The most impressive part of “Beyond Good and Evil” is that while none of the multitude of gameplay styles offered are particularly outstanding, they are all well done and feel cohesive within the narrative.
Though originally released in 2003, “Beyond Good and Evil” looks pretty damn good in HD. Obviously the textures are not as detailed as modern games, but the colors are rich and vibrant and the game has a nice, clean presentation. The sound design is average, but the music, especially late in the game, provides an appropriate amount of dramatic tension for the gravitas of the situation.
“Beyond Good and Evil HD” is essentially a full retail experience for 10 dollars. The campaign runs about 12 hours, perhaps shorter if players don’t take part in any of the side missions. While it is a re-release, somehow this re-release feels unique in a field of modern games that stick to safe, tried-and-true gameplay formulas. It’s clear that a lot of care went into creating the story and gameplay elements to work in tandem. Those looking for a well-crafted (albeit dated) game should definitely check it out.