Being invincible can’t be all it’s cracked up to be, seeing all your loved ones die and megalomaniacs constantly trying to find new and even more inventive ways to kill you. No-one likes being beheaded, thrown into the Sun or being exposed to a nice chunk of Kryptonite. So… what if you really were invincible? Never dying, no matter what happened to your body. What if you were infinite?
In NeverDead, You play as Bryce, an immortal that has walked the earth for 500 years as punishment for attempting to kill the King of the Demons, Astaroth. How has he spent these years you ask, well… generally getting drunk, ever since the fatal battle cost him an eye and his wife. Now working with NADA, Bryce hunts demons for cash hoping for some redemption to his eternal pain. Of course, being an unstoppable force will eventually get tiresome; even in a videogame, so to add the challenge aspect you have a mortal partner, Arcadia. An AI controlled character whom most of the time you need to protect and revive during fights or it’s game over. But fear not, where these “protect” modes are usually the worst part of many a game, Arcadia manages to hold her own, only really requiring assistance during specific parts of the game.
The action is pretty full on, rarely letting up! This Run and Gun Shooter is all about dual wielding. Bryce is able to use two weapons independently of each other by way of the trigger buttons. Handy, if an arm gets lopped off as you still have one left to dish out the pain. Starting off with a couple of pistols, Bryce picks up weapons along the way, switching them with ease by using the d-pad. You can choose between Sub-Machine Guns, Assault Rifles and Grenade Launchers. It’s quite refreshing being able to hold a rifle in one hand and a shotgun in the other, blasting away at anything that moves.
When the fighting gets all up close and personal you can bring out a swift kick or even a brutal head butt, plus with a tap of the Y button bring out your Butterfly Blade, essentially a giant flick knife that Bryce pulls from his back. Though impressive to look at it is a right pain to use, with you having to lock onto an enemy with the LT and then slash away with the RS, waggling left and right to get few hits in.
With most action games, heroes have a numerous ways of disposing of enemies and send their body parts flying, but in NeverDead, our hero does it slightly differently, with the ability to use his own limbs to rack up a kill count, heck, he will even pull off bits of his own body if it means getting the job done. Initially just a simple pull off of the head to solve a simple puzzle or get to higher ground, as you play though the game Bryce is later able pull of arms to act as grenades or use them as a deterrent for some of the nastier enemies and still pull the trigger from a faraway point. There are down points to this strange ability and that is that Bryce is incredibly brittle, with most attacks on his body resulting in either limb loss or complete dismemberment when it gets busy on the screen, resulting in lots of head rolling trying to locate body parts, which leads to the only way for Bryce to “die”, with small and rather annoying little critters that can eat his head populating most areas, leaving Bryce to rot in their stomachs for all eternity if you fail to escape their grasp. To note there are a few other ways fail a level, either falling out of a level area or Arcadia snuffing it, but it is a very rare occurrence.
Bryce is also able to use his immortality for even more extreme measures, with more and more ways to abuse his body unlocking along the way. Running into flames or breaking open junction boxes powers up Bryce, adding flame or electricity to his attacks for a short period of time and with even more new abilities opening up by obtaining experience when killing enemies, the restrictive nature of how to set up Bryce becomes an annoyance. With every upgrade they are awarded slots, fill up all of the slots and you can’t use all of the other lovely powers on offer. Some are vital like a slow motion warning system whilst others allow to search areas more with a higher jump; some make it easier to regrow body parts and others increase you damage output, you even get the option to make Bryces comments even riskier.
With all of this action to hand the levels are a mixed mess of some rather bland and uninspired designs backed up with some truly awesome moments that are over far too quickly. With battles across a collapsing suspension bridge, jumping off a side of a skyscraper or a fight inside a boss’s guts, all marred by some boring hit a switch moments or a horribly confusing level set in complete darkness requiring Bryce to set himself alight to find a path. Most levels have elements of a destructive environment that are pretty well signposted, with baddies spawning next to pillars or those lovely red barrels near a group of particularly nasty looking beasties.
The demons are an interesting mix and are quite gruesome, but are let down by some extreme repetition and constant spawning thanks to hubs that need to be destroyed quickly before they churn out too many enemies for you to handle; it feels a little lazy and even though in the developing stage for quite some time, the game still feels rushed. Monsters vary from simple Dogs that are general cannon fodder to Spoons that you need to use your sword against, or giant Hippos that generate their own force field, each one has their own attack pattern and weakness and since there are so few, it won’t take long to figure out how to defeat each one.
The ultimate reality is that NeverDead really wants to be Devil May Cry, it has the guns, the sword, the immortal for hire storylines and impassable doors that only open once the room is cleared of enemies. I say “wants” to as it fails on so many counts and though some fun is had, it pales in comparison to a game that is now hitting 10 years old. The ability to hold separate weapons in each hand is cool but there is no real oomph when shooting twin sub machine-guns and the swordplay falls flat, turning the action into a mad flapping of the RS rather than the finger ballet to pull off combos in DMC. With all this action it’s surprising to find boredom setting in quite early in the game. No matter how many special powers you unlock, it’s still a basic shooter, with you running and gunning at anything that moves and without any sort of cover system it is comes across as being very shallow. The novelty of Bryce’s body parts wears off quickly, with battles turning into mass panics of collecting body parts all too often. Also having no type of combo system turns heated battles into a very simple and lifeless act of holding the trigger buttons to shoot indefinitely and occasionally switching to the sword when a specific enemy appears.
The main character Bryce also comes off as a bit of a douchbag, with some awful wisecracks and a terrible attitude that you just have no sympathy for, even after learning his secrets. Bryce is immortal, yet still complains about pulling his head off; he has been around for ages but goes into battle with the most basic of pistols and finally the jokes, groan, they really scrape the barrel. Also a small bugbear, you are playing the game with your rifle and launcher in each hand, during the cut scenes they switch to dual pistols and then back when the action starts again….what’s that about?
To spice up the game there are 13 multiplayer games to try out, allowing you to choose from a selection of in–game characters and upgrade them further by winning matches with horde modes, search and rescue of civilians and egg hunt co-op challenges. How popular this mode will be remains to be seen.
Overall, we have to say Kudos to Konami for trying something different but the ideas got lost behind a rather boring Devil May Cry clone, which is a shame really.
Rating: AverageReview Policy(version tested: Xbox 360)
You can pre-order your copy of NeverDead here (PS3) and here (Xbox 360).