July 20, 2024

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Review: Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition

4 min read

Ubisoft’s Beyond Good & Evil is a title that wears many hats, an experience that delves into multiple styles of gameplay with surprisingly successful results. Classic action-adventure combat, stealth gameplay, an incredibly unique setting, semi-open world exploration, and a photography mechanic all combine to deliver a game that many still hold in extremely high regard. Despite its underwhelming sales figures when it originally launched back in 2003, the game has endured as a cult classic – and the recently released 20th Anniversary Edition is both a celebration of the title’s legacy and an excellent way to experience Beyond Good & Evil for the first time on modern systems.

Set on the planet Hillys, constantly threatened by an alien force known as the DomZ, players assume control of photojournalist Jade as she embarks on a quest to discover the truth behind the nefarious powers at play behind the scenes – and the nature of the allegedly anti-DomZ planetary defense force, the Alpha Section. Working in the shadows alongside the secretive IRIS resistance group, and on the ground with allies like her uncle figure, Pey’j, Jade’s journey will see her travel to multiple locations in the hopes of acquiring irrefutable photographic evidence and rescuing those closest to her (no spoilers).

Gameplay, as alluded to above, varies between solving environmental puzzles, taking out enemies in close-quarters combat (using Jade’s Dai-Jo staff and long-distance Gyrodisk Launcher), sneaking through enemy territory, and snapping photos of incriminating material. Jade usually travels while accompanied by another individual, and a decent number of obstacles will require you to cooperate in order to progress – pressing two buttons at the same time to open a locked door, for example. Their assistance may also be called upon during combat, sending enemies flying into the air for a moment or otherwise making them easier to take down.

The recently released 20th Anniversary Edition is both a celebration of the title’s legacy and an excellent way to experience Beyond Good & Evil for the first time on modern systems.

Pearls, an important premium currency used for purchasing specific equipment or upgrades to Jade’s hovercraft, can be obtained via story progression, filling rolls of film with photographs of local wildlife, thorough exploration, or by emerging victorious in certain minigames – like hovercraft racing or the tabletop game found within the Akuda Bar. A pearl detector can also be procured in exchange for Materia Crystals, another more frequently seen form of currency found in abundance throughout the many facilities and areas of Hillys (also earned through photos) – enabling you to narrow down pearl hotspots around the map.

Hillys, the primary planet all this action and intrigue takes place upon, is a strange and beautifully bizarre landscape. A world where anthropomorphic animals co-exist with humans, flying vehicles and water-borne hovercraft are common modes of transportation, and the imposing presence of the Alpha Section is seen and felt in equal measure – both on the streets and in the open ocean. Beyond Good & Evil’s art direction has always been one of its strongest and most appealing points, and the improved textures and lighting implemented in the 20th Anniversary Edition only enhance that appeal further.

Visual changes aren’t the only notable additions here. Ubisoft have thrown in a Speedrun mode (with saves disabled), included a bunch of brand-new achievements and re-recorded orchestral tracks, updated the control scheme (you still have the option to revert to the original setup), and implemented an incredibly forgiving and frequent autosave function. For those curious about the development process and history behind the game, an Anniversary Gallery option has also been added to the main menu screen’s bonus section. Here you’ll have the opportunity to follow the entire timeline of Beyond Good & Evil’s life cycle in text, image, and video form – from early conception to full-blown release, even featuring a glimpse at some scrapped levels that didn’t make the final cut.

A bit of a warning, though, if you’re planning on playing this game using a controller. The game has no deadzone sensitivity setting, and is, by default, extremely low – if present at all. This means that if your controller has even the slightest bit of stick drift, it can become a serious annoyance and very noticeable in moment-to-moment gameplay – if wrestling with the already occasionally temperamental camera wasn’t frustrating enough. If you’ve played, for example, Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour on a controller, you’ll know what to expect, as the game suffers from the same problem. The subtitle timing is also often hit-or-miss, particularly in the early cutscenes and dialogue. It’s a small issue, but I think it’s important to bring up.

Of course, this is still very much a title from 2003. Despite this likely being the most accessible version of the game currently available, some of the more dated elements may put off first-timers – like the simplistic combat, the already mentioned camera behaviour, or the lack of a permanent on-screen map. Longtime Beyond Good & Evil fans will definitely get the most kick out of this release, and if newcomers are able to look past the minor aging gripes, I’m certain they’ll ultimately come to enjoy the ride in a big way.

*PS5 Review code provided by Ubisoft | Reviewed by Ryan Pretorius

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