Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Review

Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary header

The Ubisoft of the early 2000s was a very different beast to the company that we know today. Before the open world sprawls of Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, it was Rayman, Splinter Cell and Prince of Persia that were the company’s cornerstone releases. And then there was Beyond Good & Evil. A critical darling that struggled commercially, it built up a committed fanbase that elevated the game to a cult level. The 2011 remaster for PS3 and Xbox 360 performed much better, such that both the 2008 and 2017 sequel announcements sparked momentary optimism, but the long stretches of silence have turned Beyond Good & Evil 2’s development into a meme and the series has felt doomed to become a relic of the past. Still, a 20th anniversary is as good a reason as any to dust off an old classic and revisit the good old days.

Returning to the world of Hillys inevitable involves a huge amount of nostalgia for me, so wrapped up is this game in my memories of venturing out into the world after graduating from university. Lifting the rose tinted specs to appreciate the game in a wider context, it’s clear that Ubisoft has kept the remaster pretty restrained, while making some necessary quality of life improvements to aid a modern audience and adding a few extras and bonuses for the longtime fans.

Assuming you are not familiar with the game already, BG&E tells the story of a young reporter, Jade, and her attempts to unravel the mysteries and conspiracies behind a sinister alien invasion of her adopted home planet. This planet is populated by a mixture of species from standard homo sapiens to humanoid sharks. Jade herself lives on a lighthouse island and acts as a foster mother of sorts to a group of orphaned children alongside her Uncle Pey’j, who just happens to be a boar. When Jade’s home is threatened and attacked by aliens, she is caught up in an adventure that traverses the land eventually takes her to the moon.

Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary photgraphy

BG&E was always a game that benefited from its striking visual design rather than extreme graphical fidelity. I was worried that the remaster would lose this aesthetic and go for a more heavy-handed approach, but fortunately it has retained the feel and style of the game and produced an update that looks like my memories of the game, rather than the somewhat more jagged reality of 2003. Similarly, the soundtrack has been refreshed and rerecorded by a live orchestra, but not changed. The result is stunning and I’ll be adding it to my gaming playlist.

In terms of genre, BG&E takes inspiration from action adventures such as classic Zelda and incorporates vehicle traversal and stealth sections into the mix. It feels like a game that predicts the open world sprawl of so many contemporary titles, but reins in the scale to still feel intimate and meaningful. The map is relatively small, but it’s packed with secrets and hidden areas that really reward exploration for completionists.

Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Hillys

The controls have been remapped to be more in keeping with modern titles and I found them to be smooth and responsive on PS5. Perhaps the most important improvement is the introduction of an invert option for all game modes, solving one of the biggest complaints the original game faced. The fantastic ring-based keyboard is retained and still feels head and shoulders above all other methods of text entry on controller.

Dating from the golden age of single player adventures, BG&E contains no multiplayer, no online components, and no DLC or microtransactions – all aspects that doubtless feed into my nostalgia for it and its era. That isn’t to say that the 20th anniversary version is barebones though, as there is a wealth of behind the scenes content for fans to look through and enjoy. Seeing the changes the game underwent through development is a real bonus for fans and the connections to the long-delayed sequel can perhaps be better understood this way.

Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary stealth

Playing through the game now also benefits from the inclusion of auto-saves to avoid frustration at some of the more awkward stealth sections – perhaps the one part of the game that has not aged well. At the other end of the spectrum, truly committed players can try out the speedrun mode that completely disables saves and turns the game into a permadeath challenge. There are also the expected range of achievements that reward exploration and completionists. Most of these are fairly standard, but the ones for finishing a speedrun and for beating the final boss without losing health promise to be major obstacles for those wanting a complete set.

Perhaps most exciting of all, however, is a new treasure hunt questline that seeks to bridge the gap between this game and the characters and setting of the sequel. This is probably the clearest indication that that game is still in development somewhere within Ubisoft, with a touching tribute to its Creative Director, Emile Morel, being included here too.

Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary really is the best way to play this classic cult title, bringing it up to date in terms of controls, resolutions and more. The underlying game may show its age at times, especially during the enforced stealth sections, but there is so much charm and character here that it deserves a whole new audience.
  • Nicely updated visuals and audio in keeping with the original
  • Charming characters and setting
  • Lots of extra bonuses
  • Still has the best controller text entry method of all time
  • Stealth sections still drag a little
  • Does show its age in places
Written by
Just your average old gamer with a doctorate in Renaissance literature. I can mostly be found playing RPGs, horror games, and oodles of indie titles. Just don't ask me to play a driving game.

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