NeverDead Review

By Darryl Kaye on January 31, 2012

NeverDead is almost a parody of the gaming industry in its current state. There are some bastions of home, but we've entered into an era where like it or not, games are becoming a lot easier to complete. Some even offer you infinite lives "“ it's literally impossible to fail. NeverDead pokes fun at this by allowing you to play as an immortal man who, and here's the kicker, can't ever die. Well, except you kind of can, but the premise is that no matter what the game throws at you, there's always the chance that you can keep on trucking. Is it a great concept? Yes. Has it been done justice? Well, to a degree. You can certainly rip your head off, throw it at people and kill people with your severed arms, but when you aren't doing that, the game may well provide you with a fair few frustrations.

Bryce Boltzmann is your weapon of choice as you navigate through NeverDead's story. You see, many years ago, Mr. Boltzmann was a rather successful demon hunter. That was, until he came up against the demon king Astaroth who killed his wife and cursed him to be an immortal demon. With plenty of time to think about what happened, Bryce now spends his time hunting demons for money and revenge with the help of Arcadia, a rather spunky female investigator.

As the game progresses, you'll learn more about Bryce's past, but quite a lot of it is rather incidental "“ the plot is rather basic. The relationship between Bryan and Arcadia does develop somewhat, but the game's story can only be interpreted as filler "“ there's no deep meaning here, what you see is what you get. To its credit, there is a nice slice of humour thrown in there and you won't be wanting to skip it in order to get to the next gameplay segment. Still, you're unlikely to be gripped to your seat either.

Due to the whole immortality mechanic, you'll learn very quickly that NeverDead is a rather mental game. Half of the time you'll be running around trying to pick up your limbs and the other half, you'll be trying to throw them at stuff "“ it's rather unique. In short, Bryce can have his head, arms and legs chopped off or exploded off. Should this happen, then you're able to control his head, which you then need to roll around in order to re-attach different body parts. This can be a little frustrating sometimes, but this is counteracted by a regeneration timer, which allows your body to grow out from your head "“ rather neat.

Quite a lot of the time, losing a few limbs doesn't make you any less combat effective. You're either able to use two guns at the same time, with each firing independently and with different guns, or a massive sword. If you lose an arm, you can still fire both guns "“ albeit with the ability to only aim one of them "“ and you can still swing your sword. The same applies to losing an arm too, Bryce will just hop around. Losing both your arms and both your legs poses a problem though and this is where things start to get interesting.In order to pick up limbs, you need to combat roll through them, but sometimes you can't get them back quite so easily. There's an enemy type which was introduced specifically to frustrate, and provide the game with challenge. Not only can it swallow your head (game over if you fail a QTE), but also your limbs and you can't get them back until they're killed. It's like trying to chase after a dog that's got something you want.

Problems do come from this system though, as it means you can have a lot of down-time, where you're just trying to survive. Some enemies can do a significant amount of damage to you, causing your body to just explode "“ sometimes right when you've spent the time to regenerate. And there's nothing more annoying than seeing your head fly miles through the air "“ sometimes flying out of the level entirely. Sometimes it's also quite difficult, should only your head have been chopped off, to reconnect to your body. It all depends on how the body falls upon disconnection and sometimes you can't make the head jump high enough.

The combat can also make this mechanic feel a little bit lacklustre, as there isn't a great deal of variety in the standard enemies, the bosses or the weaponry. You will constantly get pitted against similar types of enemies and it does start to get a little bit boring "“ especially when you realise that guns aren't anywhere near as effective as the sword. That's probably a good thing though, as the gun mechanics fall short. There's a lock-on system, but you have little control over it and everything feels very light, there's no impact to anything that happens. The selection of guns is also rather poor, there's nothing unique here to make the combat inspiring.

Level structure also doesn't help, with the "defeat a set amount of enemies which are spawning before you can progress" scenario appearing far too often. The odd puzzle is thrown in, but they feel like an afterthought, often requiring you to rip your head off, or hit switches with your sword.

There's also an EXP system, which allows you to buy different power-ups in order to alter how the game plays. One of which, allows you to enter slow-motion whenever you're about to take damage. It's rather handy if you like using guns, but the fact it's automatic can become rather annoying. Often it will initiate when there's no real danger, but instead, a bit of scenery is falling down.Aside from the great core mechanic, the game's production does have some plusses too. The destructible scenery is one of them. No matter where you are, quite a lot of the world can be smashed up, and you can use this to defeat enemies too. Destroy support beams and the ceiling might even collapse in some instances, or holes will appear in walls so you can find collectables and more EXP shards. The voice acting is also rather good, although the frequency of some of the one-liners will start to grate on you, especially if Bryce is missing a limb.

Where it falls down though, is with its overall quality. The gameplay doesn't feel anywhere near tight enough and the graphics never range beyond the realm of being decent.

Arcadia also has a role to play in proceedings as she'll accompany you through most of the game. For the most part, she's pretty competent and provides a plausible level of support. She never feels too strong, or too weak, but does seem rather dense sometimes. She won't die too many times, but when she does, it'll be because she shot an exploding enemy that was standing right next to her.

From the perspective of replay value, NeverDead's campaign holds a pretty decent length, but there isn't a great deal of incentive to play through it again. There are also the multiplayer missions, which in some instances can make for some great fun.

Final Thoughts

NeverDead has a fantastic core gameplay mechanic, but the rest of the game doesn't do a whole lot to showcase it. Too many aspects of the game never get beyond generic and it's frustrating that more couldn't have been done to help distinguish NeverDead in order to make it the refreshing game that this concept deserved. Yes, you can throw your head at enemies and cause mass destruction, but you're also forced to tackle combat that lacks any real punch and pretty generic progression. This concept still has a lot of potential, but for all its likeable quirks, NeverDead is just lacking.

Core mechanic is mental.
Throwing your exploding limbs at people is rather cool.
Arcadia is a good ally.
Gun gameplay is too weak.
There's no real impact to anything.
Pacing offers no real variation.
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