Hey you! Yes... you, it's all your fault! Why didn't you play Beyond Good and Evil back in 2003? Huh? That's right, there's no excuse. Fortunately, for the foolish folk out there, Ubisoft has given you a second chance to experience what all the hype was about for only 800 MSP (AU$13). It's updated, looks better than ever and still retains everything that we loved about the original. Eight years have passed since Jade and Pey'j first explored the organic world of 'Hillys', and to this day, we're still waiting patiently for a conclusion to their story. Beyond Good and Evil didn't earn enough money for Ubisoft, and even Michel Ancel's name couldn't boost sales. But now you have an opportunity to say sorry and buy one of the most original games of the past decade.
Based on the idyllic planet Hillys, Beyond Good and Evil HD has an intriguing plot full of wonderful characters. The beautiful protagonist, Jade, is accompanied by a not-so-beautiful pig, Pey'j, during a quest to unravel a government conspiracy. When aliens attack, chaos follows immediately afterwards and the mysterious Mr. De Castellac contacts Jade, at which point the story kicks off and you learn more about what's happening behind closed doors. Soon enough you'll be working for the IRIS Network, as they try to discover the motives of your enemey - the 'DomZ'. Missions are activated using discs at specific machines, but you're generally free to roam without any restrictions. Hillys is a character in itself; an original, quaint, self-contained community with plenty of vistas to gaze at. Unlike a nuclear wasteland or a cosmopolitan city, the world of Beyond Good and Evil prides itself on natural landscapes and imaginative inhabitants.
From a visual standpoint, the game holds up extremely well. Aside from the obvious blemishes (two-dimensional trees and textures lacking detail), the team at Ubisoft has done a brilliant job of making Beyond Good and Evil HD feel at home on a big screen. The most impressive part of the visuals are the water effects. After exiting the lighthouse at the beginning of the game, you'll be allowed to navigate the seas on a little hovercraft thingymabob. Carving up waves and boosting across rippling shores might sound trivial, but it's easy to lose yourself in the beauty of it all. A majestic soundtrack, mostly comprising of piano loops, gives Hillys an extra layer of atmosphere that really evokes the sense that you're wired into something special. Jade's animation is still fluid, particularly in combat. She can attack multiple enemies at the same time, stylishly linking combos with the help of Pey'j and his fat arse. Not only is your companion a witty and entertaining character, he's also a vital part of the gameplay.
Beyond Good and Evil HD combines a number of different genres inside a tidy package. There's a solid fighting system, plenty of exploration and collecting, mini-games, races and competent stealth mechanics. Photography is easily the most memorable element, and you won't be able to complete the story without it. By taking research photos of animals, you'll gain valuable pearls and credits. Currency is extremely important around Hillys, it's essential for purchasing items at vending machines and upgrading the hovercraft. Try to pick up as many pearls as possible - many of them are cleverly hidden, but you're going to need lots of them before you can reach the final chapter. Jade's fight against the government is well paced and benefits from this variety. The control scheme is identical to before, and it performs brilliantly, particularly when it comes down to the inventory. Radial menus are everywhere these days, but Beyond Good and Evil was one of the first to use it. Navigation through the menus is smooth and the HUD never interferes with the action. Overall; it looks great, feels great and will definitely please the hardcore fans.
While lots of good has been transferred over to this Xbox 360 version, we're still faced with a few problems. The camera angle isn't too bad, although you can't do a full three-sixty degree rotation around the hovercraft unless stationary, which is irritating during open battles on the water. Similarly when you're fighting indoors, the camera will often get too close to Jade and enemies become obscured. The upgrade here is purely visual, so you still have to deal with a lot of loading screens around Hillys. It would have been nice to travel freely without having to wait between each area. At the very least, these loading times could have been cut down. Finding faults with the gameplay is tricky, but if anything, some of the objectives could have been made clearer. The compass and map will do their best to guide you, but you might feel a bit confused in places. That being said, there's a lot of game in here. The bulk of the story can be completed in ten or so hours, but if you want to see and do everything, then you can almost double that. And trust us, you won't need any encouragement to explore.
Beyond Good and Evil HD is a terrific version of an already great game. The price tag means that it's essential for everyone on Xbox Live, because it's an important part of video game history. Ubisoft hasn't ironed out the flaws that slightly dented the original, but we're hoping that's because their workers are focusing on giving us closure after that cliff-hanger ending. This was an inspiring journey in 2003, and even though fans are going to miss out on that jaw dropping first time experience, Beyond Good and Evil HD is just as relevant in 2011. What are you waiting for? Start downloading it now.