Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Totally Played Beyond Good & Evil HD

So by now the word is out - Ubisoft and Michel Ancel's lauded, famously overlooked cult classic Beyond Good & Evil is being re-released in HD next year. Which means that over the last month or so, we've learned that all four of the classic games on my "still-haven't-played list" have been or will be re-released in the near future.

What's particularly cool about BG&E HD is that I actually got to play it yesterday. I attended Ubisoft's Digital Day press event in SF, to which they were kind enough to invite me after I chatted with them at PAX. It was held at 111 Minna, a cool little club/art gallery that's happily located right next to where I teach my Wednesday afternoon Academy of Art class.

I attended the event unsure of what to expect - probably some corporatespeak about Facebook games and synergy, a news of an iPhone port of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood perhaps. Certainly some more about Ubi's already announced XBLA games Dust and Outland, the latter of which I got to see at PAX and thought looked cool. But then, right past the door, we got an embargo agreement, and right on that embargo agreement were the words "Beyond Good & Evil HD."

Whaaaat?? The internet has been buzzing about the Team Ico re-releases for coming up on a year now, but I hadn't heard a peep about this. I have bent over backwards in an effort to play this game - it won't play on a 360 (believe me, I've checked regularly to see if the software updates would finally make it playable), so the only option for me was to download it on Steam and try to run it via Parallels on my Mac.

Which I actually did - I may run Garry's Mod and Portal on my Mac now, but for the first six months of pre-Mac Steam membership, my sole purchase was Beyond Good & Evil. It wouldn't play correctly on my Mac (shocker), so Jade's story sat there on my hard drive, untold.

So long story short, I was pumped to hear the news. And I was even more pumped to see that it was actually playable at the event. Right by the door were three big TVs with the game running, so the very first thing I did was sit down and put the game through it's paces.

It looks amazing - bright, colorful graphics, beautiful textures; fun, fluid control. There were a handful of levels on display, from a jetpack tutorial to an open level running about the civilian district of a futuristic city. The character models were shiny and gorgeous and the sound and voice acting were top-notch.

It might be all the time I spent with Psychonauts, KOTOR, Jade Empire and the rest, but I really love the look of original Xbox games. They're chunky, the HUD is simple and large, and they tend to be more stylized than their über-realistic next-gen counterparts. Which works for BG&E - it looks like a bright, color-drenched cartoon. In fact, I'm not sure I've seen an original XBox game running in HD before - all of the Xbox classic gaming I've done has been via original game discs through the 360's emulator. I've always felt the system had broader, more colorful textures than the occasionally grainy PS2, and seeing Jade's face in HD seemed to validate that. One could almost call the game's look Disney-esque, if one were feeling prone to cliché.

So, that's what I've got to report. The game is coming out in 2011 and it's going to be downloadable, complete with achievement and trophy support via XBL and PSN. And when it comes out, it'll be one more awesome classic that I can check off of my increasingly short must-play backlog.

And don't forget - there is a subtext to the game's announcement. The fact that Ubisoft has invested the time and money in revamping the first game speaks very promisingly about the long-awaited release of the second. Which, I don't think I have to tell you, would make a lot of people very happy indeed.
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