Beyond Good & Evil: 20th Anniversary Edition – PS5 Review

I have waited so long to play Beyond Good & Evil. It was always one of those games that was talked with such reverence but I’d never managed to get my hands on it. Now Ubisoft have decided to re-release and update the classic game with a 20th Anniversary Edition. Has it been worth the wait? Not exactly, but I can see where some of the fondness comes from.

The story involves a war between the DomZ and a military dictatorship called the Alpha Sections. It has been pretty constant and the thuggery and oppression is on display within the main city. You play Jade, a photographer who finds herself recruited by IRIS, a resistance group. It’s a pretty simple story with obvious bad guys and motivations. There is some twists and substance towards the climax but, for the most part, I haven’t had to think deep about the plot.

The cast is colourful and have strong personalities. The people you meet feel like a genuine set of specialists with specific skills. The models are very pronounced and I really like the look of them. They’re lively and memorable and the voice performances help sell that. The music also carries an epic feel for a story that definitely escalates in tension.

Beyond Good & Evil is a game trying to wear a few hats. At its heart, there’s an obvious influence from The Legend of Zelda series. It’s a game of explicit dungeons and upgrades that pay distinct homage to Nintendo’s adventure. It’s another series I don’t have masses of nostalgia for but you can see where this game opts to tweak the formula. Particularly for a console audience that may not feel catered for.

For starters, you’ll spend a lot of time with company. This opens up some extra abilities or assistance when it comes to traversal and combat. They can help open doors, activate switches and open up opportunities for quick melee strikes. There’s a resilience to them that doesn’t make them a detriment or a nuisance. It’s also useful to have a second set of eyes on situations or reiterate your objective.

The combat doesn’t have any other tricks. Jade’s nimble enough to switch her attention and she can dodge adequately. Things do become a problem when the game decides to opt for a cinematic camera. In some of the busier encounters, this perspective can be terrible at giving you a view of the action. Some battles encourage environmental kills which can be clever ways to open up new pathways. Otherwise, you’re bashing on the same button and occasionally rolling out of bother.

One thing that surprised me was how heavily Beyond Good & Evil leaned on stealth mechanics. It can feel very rudimentary but your objectives handedly task you to keep things relatively quiet. Each of the main missions has you infiltrate increasingly guarded locations. The first couple of them fly by but they quickly expand in their complexity. The Slaughterhouse especially feels gigantic and labyrinthine. There’s several entry points and each wing has it’s own point of interest.

Loading times are incredibly frequent. They don’t hold you for long but it puts into stark daylight how small each of the game’s areas are. They’re segmented into tiny sections that you can cross into without warning. It builds up. On the flipside, each of these loads do trigger an autosave. You have terminals you can use to create a manual save but checkpoints do the job just as well and twice as often.

Stealth can be essential with Jade struggling to deal with guards in any great number. When she’s alone, discretion is advised. These situations can be very self-contained and there is typically one hidey-hole she can disappear to. It’s basic but it mostly works. Once again, the camera can undermine things. It has the lovely habit of transitioning at the wrong moment. Jade’s field of vision isn’t always ideal, even with the ability to lean around corners.

All this sneaking around is for a good cause and your primary task is one of gathering evidence. Jade has a camera she can use to snap crucial information, codes and even the local wildlife. This rewards you with currency which can be spent back at the city. Refreshing an area respawns that currency so I was never struggling for funds. It felt beneficial to bring the camera out at every opportunity. You have rolls of film to complete and, after completing one, you gain a pearl. Pearls are at a premium and they do play a pivotal role in the final act.

I didn’t chase after them until a late-game objective required dozens of them. I could ease the pain by purchasing pearl and wildlife locaters but this grind really pumped the brakes on the pacing. Pearls can be bought but the majority of them are found within the levels and as rewards for your snapshots.

The remastering process in Beyond Good & Evil: 20th Anniversary Edition has kept things fairly faithful to the original. The resolution has been bumped up and a high, steady framerate has been maintained. I didn’t notice a massive difference between performance and quality modes but it’s refreshing to see both of them feel like viable options. It is showing its age but the polish does make that more tolerable. Unfortunately, the ties to eventual sequel are a little tenuous. There’s one new video diary you can watch but this package is also light on extras. A speedrun mode does at least offer further longevity.

I’m in a better position to appreciate what Beyond Good & Evil was trying to accomplish. The stealth is decent and the locations have a thematic, intricate quality to them. I do wish the game maintained the swift pacing and the camera can be a difficult thing to wrestle with. Devoid of any nostalgia for the original, there’s still a solid execution and the faithful updates have kept that old vision intact.

Beyond Good & Evil: 20th Anniversary Edition
7 Overall
+ Has a lot of neat ideas that are executed well.
+ The remastering is sharp and maintains the bright aesthetic of the original.
+ Tells a straight forward narrative with a lot of charm and character.
+ For the most part, it's a very lenient game.
- Very frequent load times.
- Has an intrusive cinematic camera.
- Pacing can be very uneven.
- Light on additional content with a tenuous link to the sequel.
Beyond Good & Evil: 20th Anniversary Edition is certainly the best way to currently play a slice of Ubisoft's past. The remastering is faithful and it has made me realise some aspects that don't quite hold up. The cinematic camera can really land you in trouble and the late game pearl hunt saps the pacing to a crawl. Despite this, there's a lot to like about it. The levels are well designed and intricate and the stealth is competent. The cast of characters have a great charm to them and I'll be interested to see if the sequel follows this blueprint.

About Mike

Mike gets all the racing games because he understands that stuff even though he doesn't drive.

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