E3 2011: Hands-on With NeverDead

By Colin Tan on June 25, 2011, 6:52PM EDT
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Konami had a number of interesting games on show this year and amidst the usual franchises like Metal Gear, PES and Silent Hill was, surprisingly, a brand new IP: NeverDead. Developed by Rebellion Developments and directed by Policenauts' very own Shinta Nojiri, NeverDead has a rather amusing take on the concept of immortality. In fact, no matter how many limbs main character Bryce Boltzmann loses, it will never be game over!

Curious by the concept, I gave the game a shot. It's a mix between third person shooter and action adventure. Bryce is armed with dual firearms which, unlike other games that feature the same, expands his line of fire horizontally over an extended period of time, letting him hit more enemies than just the ones within the small crosshairs. When using firearms, the game controls like a standard TPS. Bryce can zoom-aim, action roll and jump while firing.

The game changes up when he switches to his sword. Slashing and thrusting is controlled with the right analog stick. A forward rotation will have Bryce slash forward in a horizontal arc, while a vertical forward rotation will have him cut down vertically. It's quite like the gameplay seen in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty when Raiden obtains the high-velocity ninja blade "“ or, as Konami Europe's Steve Merrett pointed out, a forerunner of the setup seen in Metal Gear Solid: Rising. Needless to say, using the sword was surprisingly satisfying. Enemies get cut in the direction Bryce slashes. A vertical slash cuts a demon in half right down the middle and a diagonal slash cuts diagonally and so on and so forth. You get the picture.

NeverDead - Hopping on one leg

The controls themselves are nothing to struggle with and are surprisingly easy to pick up. In-game tutorials showed me the ropes and away I was hunting demons. That's not the meat of it though. The star of the show is that Bryce was made immortal some five hundred years ago by the Demon King, who is now coming back to wreak some havoc. Clearly, there's a bit of history between Bryce and the Demon King, so he's not just going to sit down and let him have all the fun. It's not all doom and gloom though, quite the opposite actually. NeverDead tosses in slapstick humour that is sure to make anyone giggle. Bryce will be sharing his funny stories with Arcadia throughout the game. It's a game that doesn't quite take itself seriously, which makes it all the more amusing.

Bryce is teamed up with a relatively normal human partner, a private eye named Arcadia. The two of them will be hunting demons together throughout the game and while Bryce is immortal, Arcadia isn't, so it's up to him to keep her from becoming demon fodder. Now, before you say this totally tosses the concept of immortality out the window, the AI is pretty darn smart. Arcadia can handle herself just fine, in fact, during the demo I was, admittedly, not even aware that one of the mechanics was to protect her. I simply went about slaying as many demons as possible and she did the same.

NeverDead - Fetch!

Another key aspect of the game plays into Bryce's immortality. While he can't die per se, Bryce can lose his limbs. All of them. Not to worry though, rolling over lost limbs will re-attach them to Bryce. Or he can sprout another limb simply by holding down the regen button. It's pretty amusing. Bryce can lose just about everything until he's just a rolling head. In fact, he can rip off his own head, arms, legs, whatever, to use to distract the lesser demons. Even as a head, Bryce isn't totally vulnerable. While monsters can eat him up, he has a special rolling attack to do away with any opposition. It's all very comical and it almost felt like I was playing a scene from a certain Monty Python movie.

NeverDead was certainly an amusing experience. The concept of immortality and rolling around as a head is a comical one. Although I have to question just how long the novelty will last. In any case, I'm certainly intrigued by it. There's a fair mix of third person shooting, action adventure and surprisingly strategic gameplay, not to mention an AI partner that's actually useful. Unfortunately, while it is a co-op experience, there is no multiplayer co-op support. Regardless, NeverDead looks to be a rather entertaining and fun premise, and definitely worth checking out. It'll be out later this year on both PS3 and Xbox 360.

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