I have to give credit to NeverDead. It’s a tricky thing for a game to attempt something different, and NeverDead certainly tries its best to be unique. Unfortunately, not even a soundtrack by Megadeth helps gloss over its many problems and missed potential.
NeverDead stars Bryce, a demon hunter who was cursed with immortality some 500 years back, and is now kind of a burnt-out drunkard living in a slum and working as a mercenary of sorts for a government agency dedicated to taking care of demonic threats. He’s partnered up with an agent named Arcadia, who, with her mini-skirt, low-cut shirt, and ridiculously small submachine gun, is not really dressed properly to battle demons. The pair gets caught up in the evil machinations of a rather flamboyant demon named Sangria, who’s trying to capture a squeaky-voiced popstar named Nikki for some nefarious purpose or other. The story’s kind of disjointed at times and for every scene with Bryce’s humorous quips or an engaging plot twist, there’s one marred with awkward line delivery or a weird plot hole. And sadly, while the rest of the game certainly tries a lot of new things, it fails to deliver on quite a few of them.
To start off, one of the more interesting mechanics NeverDead introduces is the fact that Bryce, as an immortal, can’t take damage or die in a normal sense, but he’s still vulnerable to having his limbs or his head taken off by enemies. You’re not quite out of the fight until you’ve been completely dismembered, and even then it’s just a matter of rolling your decapitated head back to your torso or waiting a few seconds to regenerate your limbs (hopefully before you’ve been eaten by a demon, of course). Through most of the game you’ll often find yourself missing an arm or hopping around on one leg, or having to rip off your own head in a humorous attempt to solve a puzzle or get to a hard-to-reach area.
The dismemberment sounds like an intriguing gameplay mechanic, but in practice it can often reach annoyingly-high levels of frustration, primarily because combat is an unrefined mess. The camera is focused way too tightly on Bryce for the kind of frantic close quarters battles you’ll often find yourself in, and things can get incredibly hectic, making it hard to grasp what’s going on with all the rubble and explosions flying everywhere. All it can take is one wayward smack to send your head flying across the room, and then it’s a dizzying mad dash to get back to your body before you end up becoming an impromptu soccer ball. Given that the environment is also destructible, which can sometimes be to your advantage if you manage to drop a piece of ceiling on your foes, you’ll often have to contend with the game’s physics to avoid getting caught on a chunk of masonry while trying to put yourself back together.
You have a variety of weapons at your disposal, starting with a handful of different gun types, such as pistols, SMGs, and shotguns, along with a nifty-looking “butterfly” sword. Unfortunately, most of the demon minions you face are immune to bullets, so you’ll have to deal with NeverDead‘s tricky melee controls. First, you’ll need to lock onto an enemy with the left trigger, then rotate the right thumbstick to attack, something that doesn’t really feel very smooth to use while demons are gnawing off your legs. You can use the right trigger to block, but it’s never very useful, which made me wonder why melee attacks aren’t just a one button affair. Thankfully, most of the bosses are vulnerable to either ranged or melee attacks, so at least there’s more flexible options available to you in taking them down.
As much as I liked NeverDead for at least being something different, I found myself disappointed that for every interesting or cool thing NeverDead brings to the party, it falls short somewhere else. Whenever there’s an interesting plot point, there’s a scene with poorly-written dialogue. When there’s a fun combat sequence or boss fight, there’s a controller-throwing instance of wrestling with the game’s camera while being eaten alive by some multi-toothed horror.
Bottom Line: NeverDead does try something new and original, but its mechanics are unpolished and poorly implemented.
Recommendation: If you’re in the mood for something different, you can try to enjoy NeverDead, but chances are you’ll feel something’s missing.[rating=3.0]
This review was based off of the Xbox 360 version of the game.