The first time that I learned of NeverDead, it was when I was watching the Pre-E3 Konami Conference last year. It came out of nowhere and looked pretty damn fun. We had an immortal who couldn’t die, clearly designed to have a badass attitude, and an over-the-top action game with Megadeth playing the theme music. Yeah, that was pretty sweet.
Jump to the launch of the title, and bad reviews flood the internet. I didn’t really read them, but the reception to the game was clear. Still, I stubbornly decided to give it a chance. This was meant to be a first impressions post, to be followed by a review later on during the week. However, I ended up finishing the game before I could write my impressions. Welcome to my review of NeverDead.
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Release Date: 3rd February 2012
Platform: PlayStation 3 (reviewed), Xbox 360
PEGI: 18, BBFC: 15
Bryce Boltzmann is an immortal, cursed by the demon king Astaroth after the demon murdered his wife. Five hundred years after the incident, Bryce now works for an organisation hunting demons with partner Arcadia. The game’s plot is fairly simple and predictable. There was not a single unforeseeable twist. This wasn’t because of any form of overshadowing or anything of the sort. No, to the contrary, the game completely lacked any actual development. Plot twists were literally pulled out of the developer’s ass, and Bryce’s character warmed up out of nowhere. The character begins cynical and lacked compassion, and yet two cutscenes later he was a warm and compassionate character, who cared even for strangers.
The underlying plot and characters could indeed be interesting, and in fact I found myself warming up to Bryce as a character, but they were executed poorly. It feels like the story was implemented using concepts, rather than being fleshed out in later design iterations, and that is a shame. As a whole, the story is generally warm hearted and tries to be fun, it doesn’t take itself too seriously either. Falling off a building, being smashed into pieces and your head rolling over to the woman to ask if she’s okay? That’s great. Bryce becomes a character whom I feel compelled to like, but unfortunately I can’t call him a good character. The other characters? I needn’t comment, because they’re more or less background noise.
I’m not going to lie though. Despite Bryce being of particular focus as a character, the story as a whole isn’t really the point in this title. NeverDead’s real significance lies in the immortality as a game mechanic. Unfortunately, it’s this feature which also most prominently lets the game down.
As you fight waves upon seemingly endless waves, Bryce can gradually lose limbs during the onslaughts. Players can lose arms and legs, leaving the protagonist hopping around swinging his sword wildly with one arm. This feature has some very high moments, such as when fighting the third boss. During this battle, the player must throw his arm into the mouth of a giant bee(?) demon, for it to be devoured. Even though the arm has been dismembered, the player still has control over it. Here, the player shoots while his arm is inside the monster’s stomach, allowing him to reveal the weak point to shoot at with his remaining, attached, arm. I like this use of the mechanic, even if it isn’t exactly obvious and the game needs to inform the player. Unfortunately, this example is the only true moment where the mechanic shines.
It’s safe to assume that the inability to die leads to the game becoming significantly less challenging. This is completely true to an extent. While the game rarely challenged my skill, it still challenged my patience. Fairly frequently, a monster would manage to strike Bryce leading to his head to come flying off. The player needs to roll around, avoiding the demons that vacuum your head into their stomach (leading to a game over) and try to attach himself to the body. It only ever takes one hit before you’re left searching for your body. This feature just interferes with gameplay and completely breaks up the flow of the action. It’s frustrating and it’s just tedious. Actually, tedious is an apt description for the entire game, let alone this mechanic.
NeverDead is just incredibly monotonous. Between the lack lustre music (with the exception of Megadeth’s NeverDead track which plays a whole one time during the game) and the incredibly underwhelming variety of enemies, the game just gets repetitive far too quickly. The chapters appear to drag on, and even the battles actually last longer than they should. Whenever the player appears to defeat every enemy in the area, more waves continue to spawn – and the player can’t progress without clearing that area.
Easily the best feature of the game, NeverDead does feature the best destructible environment I have ever seen in a game. Almost everything can be destroyed, and there’s a chain reaction if played right. It’s so seamlessly integrated that I never actually noticed it – despite using it to my advantage on many occasions.
So, the game doesn’t exactly ooze style in its gameplay, being as dull as it is. Does it’s graphic style save it? No, it doesn’t, but it certainly helps it be less boring at times. The game is graphically distinctive, albeit on a subtle level. But that’s actually pretty good.
NeverDead has the occasional redeeming quality, but it just feels like a game that went straight to the implementation stage from the very early concepts. Nothing seems fleshed out, despite some very well polished mechanics such as the destructible environments.
For what it’s worth, NeverDead is a title that seems to have heart, but fails to deliver anything substantial or truly fun. The development team got excited by the concept and went straight into making it. What could easily have been a neat little title has, consequently, become a rather forgettable title. Unlike Bryce, the title isn’t immortal by a long shot and will probably not survive through time. I can’t say I disliked the game, despite finding it ridiculously tedious as I trudged through it; I actually liked the game. I just probably won’t remember it this time next year.
(This is not fact by a long shot. The entire review is strictly the opinion of myself. And for those who really require a score, NeverDead scores 4/10. Whilst the game could have features that make it unique, these are poorly executed. Overall, the game can’t even be considered mediocre.)