Beyond Good & Evil: 20th Anniversary Edition Review – Sneaking Into Our Hearts

Revisiting a classic

Beyond Good & Evil: 20th Anniversary Edition on PlayStation 5

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Sometimes, it’s easy to forget just how far games have come in such a short time. It feels like we’ve been spoiled by modern gaming to the point where what came before often feels unimpressive by comparison. As such, it can be hard to judge older games or remasters on their own merits.

Even going back to revisit some of the classics, it’s amazing how clunky and unrefined they feel by comparison. Beyond Good & Evil: 20th Anniversary Edition takes one of the PS2’s hidden gems and brings it to the current generation of gaming. However, it doesn’t quite modernize the game as much as I was hoping. It feels like a PS2 game. While it’s a great PS2 game, it doesn’t feel quite as fluid as modern titles, which is somewhat to be expected.

This isn’t a remake. This is a remaster, and it sticks very closely to the original. You play as Jade, a plucky young photojournalist/orphanage manager on the planet Hillys. Hillys is under attack by the DomZ, and Jade is recruited by the resistance group Iris. Iris believe that the militaristic dictators The Alpha Section are involved in a recent spate of disappearances, and ask Jade to find proof. To this end, Jade infiltrates Alpha Sections facilities with her trusty staff and camera to uncover the conspiracy.

Beyond Good and Evil 20th Anniversary Edition Jade with an orphan
Image Source: Ubisoft

Despite its faithfulness, there are a few changes. The increased resolution makes everything feel far crisper and clearer than ever before, while heightening the cartoony feel. It’s not at the same level of other remasters, such as The Last of Us or the Zero Escape series, but it still works.

There are a few new cosmetics and a new sidequest where you can uncover more of Jade’s backstory. However, the changes are mostly cosmetic. The new sidequest is a nice touch, but I would have liked to see more updates in that vein elsewhere.

Let’s take the game’s AI into account. AI has come a long way in the last twenty years. As such, it’s disappointing that the enemy AI is rudimentary. While you could argue this works as Beyond Good & Evil is largely a stealth game, it did make me wonder what sort of government facility would have guards simply give up after I duck down a hole with no exit directly in their eyeline. The ally pathfinding is also decidedly subpar. At times I’d be pinned by an enemy and see one of my allies running desperately towards me, only to be blocked by an obstacle they couldn’t figure out how to get around.

Combat is relatively simple too. You press one button for a basic attack, hold it down for a charge attack, press another to command your ally to attack (and despite having two allies they both have the same slam attack), and you can shoot disks while aiming your camera. There’s occasional vehicular combat which mixes it up a bit, but it’s often frustrating. More than once, I found my tracking lasers locking onto allied craft instead of the enemies I was trying to attack.

Perhaps the most dated gameplay mechanic is the collection sidequest. The game is separated into five “main” missions, and between those missions you have to upgrade your hovercraft. To do this, you need pearls, and you’ll need over 70 to complete the game. After a while, this did feel like padding to an extent. Yes, I enjoyed a lot of the mini games and the mini dungeons, where the pearls were hidden. However, given how it was near-compulsory to complete so many, I think they could have been incorporated better.

The world itself is small, and the game can be completed in around 10 to 12 hours. Without trawling for pearls it would be much shorter too. Even something as simple as adding some new photo opportunities would have made the game flow better. At times, Jade will even comment on what she’s seen while sneaking into an Alpha Sections base, but doesn’t seem to think it’s worth letting the population know what she’s seen.

The pacing of the game is also absolutely brilliant, pearl-collecting nonwithstanding. The story itself moves at a quick pace, and during missions it feels like there’s barely a moment wasted. The facilities you infiltrate are largely linear, but still manage to feel deep and intricate. Yes, they can get a tad samey, but they also feel meticulously designed, with a real sense of cohesion. They felt like massive 3D puzzles where everything is linked together in a very intentional way.

Beyond Good and Evil 20th Anniversary edition sneaking around an enemy
Image Source: Ubisoft

Even the small world added to this effect. While its contemporary Ratchet and Clank relied on smaller open worlds which often felt disconnected, I never got the sense here. Everything felt cohesive and linked together seamlessly, despite the loading screens.

As for the story itself, it’s absolutely brilliant. There are moments in the original game that are still talked about even now, like the infamous lighthouse scene, and the game excels at making you care about Jade, her friends, and her wards. The game isn’t as “big” as something like Ratchet and Clank – more Signs than War of the Worlds – but that only serves to make it feel more intimate. Even Jade’s skillset is smaller: there are only two weapons, and once you’ve found them, that’s it. Jade rarely unlocks new skills or tools, she simply takes on the threat with what she has available to her.

So does the game work? Absolutely yes, but I do think some younger gaming fans might struggle. Beyond Good & Evil: 20th Anniversary Edition is a very nostalgic game, and represents what was so great about the PS2 era, but ultimately gaming has come a long way since then.

Players expecting a more non-linear approach to stealth gameplay like in Dishonored, or even Metal Gear Solid, might walk away disappointed. If you’re not familiar with the original you should walk in with an open mind. In fact, many of the game’s failings are only really “failings” when we compare the game to the current era, and they’re far outweighed by the positives.

Yes, a ground-up remake would have been better. It would give us far better graphics, smoother gameplay, and perhaps better music. The AI in particular needs improvement, but that shouldn’t get in the way of your enjoyment of the game. Beyond Good & Evil: 20th Anniversary edition might not have the same effect as the original did, but it’s still a brilliant game, and a great way of experiencing one of gaming’s biggest cult hits.

Beyond Good & Evil: 20th Anniversary Edition
Beyond Good & Evil: 20th Anniversary edition might not have the same effect as the original did, but it’s still a brilliant game, and a great way of experiencing one of gaming’s biggest cult hits.
Pros
  • Gripping storyline
  • Nostalgic gameplay
  • Lovable characters
Cons
  • Significant padding
  • Dated presentation
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, PC.

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Author
Image of Lewis Rees
Lewis Rees
Lewis is an author and journalist based in Wales. His first novel, Wander, came out in 2017. Lewis is passionate about games, and has travelled to events worldwide to host and present panels at games conferences. In his spare time he loves reading, writing, and escape rooms.