E3 2011

E3: NeverDead

| 10 Jun 2011 20:54
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You can tell NeverDead is a Japanese title, because it is absolutely nuts.

After viewing the game's baffling trailer during Konami's pre-E3 conference, I knew I had to seek out NeverDead on the show floor. It's every bit as frantic and insane as I hoped it would be.

In NeverDead you play as demon hunter Bryce Boltzmann, a dual-gun wielding, sword-slashing quasi-zombie who can kick ass while hopping on one leg. One of NeverDead's most interesting features is the ability to rip-off Bryce's limbs and use them to your advantage.

Early on in the demo, Bryce is attacked by a pack of demonic hounds which - like all good demonic hounds - love the taste of savory zombie flesh. So, why not rip-off your limbs and chuck them across the screen, sending the dogs in its direction. While the dogs gather around your arm, press the shoulder button and watch Bryce's limb explode along with everything around it. No worries, however: Pressing in the left analog stick regenerates his limbs. That's anatomically correct. I think?

Later in the level, you must infiltrate a room by using your head. Literally. After removing your head, you toss it into a fountain which shoots it over the gate. Once inside, you regenerate your body and open the gate for your A.I. partner. If all of this sounds incredibly amusing and silly, it's because it is. With a heavy metal soundtrack and self-aware, cheesy dialog, NeverDead is fully aware of its stupidity without being obvious about it. I chuckled every time Bryce ripped-off his head and shouted, "For the win!"

The game's combat resembles Devil May Cry on the surface, as you shift back-and-forth between swordplay and dual-wielding gunplay, but the controls of each and the transitions between the two are nowhere near as polished and fluid as Capcom's series. The gunplay is decidedly different. Each gun has its own trigger and on-screen reticule, but they line-up to become one when standing still. It makes for a game that doesn't control like others, but that's not necessarily a good thing, in this instance.

The swordplay is even more cumbersome. After pulling out my sword and pressing every button on the controller, I was ready to call the game broken. Then, in disbelief, I discovered you control the sword with the right thumbstick - immediately, I'm reminded of the late 90s when developers were still coming to grips with the idea of a second thumbstick. To say the least, this odd control design makes the swordplay a chore rather than a visceral thrill.

NeverDead earns good-will for its silly premise and offbeat design, but its controls hold it back from becoming more than a curiosity. Regardless, heads will roll later this year.

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