Published by Konami
Developed by Rebellion
You're playing a third person shooter and you've cleared out the enemies in the area. The only doors you can go through are blocked. There's an open, spark-emitting circuit board on the wall and there's also an open vent shaft at ground level that for one reason or another you can't crawl through. What do you do? It may surprise you to learn that the solution is to shock and dismember your character and then roll his head through the vent where he can reassemble his body and open the door to let his partner through. Bizarre it may be, but in NeverDead dismemberment is a gameplay mechanic you're going to be using an awful lot.
In NeverDead you'll play as Bryce Boltzmann, a 500 year old immortal demon hunter. Whilst Bryce can't be killed however, he has problems literally keeping himself together. You may think that it's a right royal pain having Bryce's limbs coming unstuck from his body so frequently and indeed there are plenty of times when it will irritate you. However, there are some odd positives to having Bryce's arms and legs being freely scattered around. You're still able to fire your guns even when Bryce's arms are many virtual yards away. It's even possible to explode his limbs making them the weirdest explosives you're ever likely to encounter in a third-person shooter. Of course both of these abilities give you some bizarre tactical options and help to spice up the gameplay, which is just as well because some aspects of NeverDead are rather cumbersome.
It's worth mentioning that Bryce has access to a range of different guns in NeverDead and the shooting elements of the game are satisfactory. He even has a sword which can do more damage than some of the guns but this requires getting up close to the demons in order to deal the damage. Throughout the game Bryce will gain XP for killing demons and there are also XP crystals that can be collected as you explore the game world. This XP can be used to purchase new abilities and ability enhancements to give Bryce some extra power. Every new ability takes up a number of ability slots however and you only have a finite number of slots available to you. Thankfully you can reconfigure your additional abilities at any time allowing you to tailor Bryce's enhancements to suit the situation.
The action in NeverDead is fairly satisfying but there are some problems that help prevent the game from being as enjoyable as it could have been. Essentially you'll encounter wave after wave of monsters until you've destroyed their spawn points. There are many monsters to deal with and when they attack Bryce he will usually remove one of his limbs leaving him without an arm or a leg. It can look a little peculiar seeing your character hopping around or having an arm missing but that's nothing compared to when it's just his head that's left. Limbs can be collected by rolling Bryce's head over the dismembered limbs but retrieving his limbs can be an irritating process as the monsters aim to shunt what's left of his body all over the place. Some will even attempt to swallow his head too, which can lead to a game over. The AI of the enemies doesn't seem particularly bright but the sheer number of enemies that you'll face certainly helps to keep the challenge respectable. There are some difficulty spikes here however and at times it can become maddeningly frustrating. Boss battles are mostly OK but some are overly tedious and feel as though they go on for too long.
Just because Bryce can't die, it doesn't mean to say that you can never have a game over. He has a mortal female partner, called Arcadia, and whilst she's more than capable of holding her own against most enemies, there are times when you'll need to protect her because if she dies, it's game over. More interaction between the two characters would have been nice because at times it feels as though Arcadia is there simply to give you something else to worry about rather than part of the storyline. There are times when Bryce's dismembered head will be swallowed by the various creatures you'll encounter. Such moments bring up a simplistic mini-game where you'll have to correctly time a button press. Failure to get your timing right will result in Bryce's head being lost forever and as such it will result in a game over screen.
The game isn't all about shootouts against demonic creatures. There are times where you'll get to do a little exploration and a little puzzle solving. These elements of the gameplay, as I've mentioned at the opening of this review, play on the dismemberment capabilities too and usually involve you rolling Bryce's head around to access areas that would be unreachable for the whole of his body. Bryce can even self-dismember his head and throw it into otherwise inaccessible areas. These head-rolling sections of the game have been fairly well thought out and offer welcome interludes from the all-guns blazing shootouts you'll mostly find yourself engaged in during NeverDead. At times it can feel cumbersome rolling Bryce's bonce through the debris-filled environments but there's no denying that these sections of the game act as a welcome breather.
NeverDead isn't just a single-player experience. There are a series of multiplayer challenges to engage in. The challenges on offer are an assortment of both co-operative and competitive with objectives to complete. There's nothing original in the multiplayer mode but it's enjoyable enough to make you want to come back for more long after the single-player game has lost its novelty value. The only downside with the multiplayer is that it's online only with no support for local play.
Visually NeverDead is a good looking game with decent character models for both the main characters and the demonic enemies. Quite a lot of the environment is destructive (although you'll seldom get to use this feature for tactical purposes). From a technical point, the game is also fine with good animations, a smooth frame rate and decent loading times. The camera is mostly OK but there are times when you're left with a less than ideal view of the action, which can be irritating at times.
NeverDead is subtitled and they are enabled by default. You'll be able to follow the storyline without any problems but there are omissions and the subtitling could have been better. There are no character names for instance during the cut scenes. This doesn't cause any real problems but it's always preferable to easily be able to determine who is saying what. During the course of the game Bryce will crack a variety of jokes which poke fun at his dismemberment with comments such as "I need a hand, literally" and none of these are subtitled. During one of the boss battles, there were audio and visual cues that indicated the best time to attack. The visual cues could have been made clearer in truth. This won't prevent you from emerging victorious but it does add a layer of frustration that really shouldn't be there. During some battles Bryce will be given some advice on how best to attack the enemy and this advice isn't subtitled. Objectives are shown in text as are tutorial messages. Whilst NeverDead isn't a bad game in respect of its accessibility, it could have been a lot better.
With both third and first-person shooters being ten-a-penny these days it's difficult for new games to stand out unless they offer something different. NeverDead certainly does that with the novel focus on dismemberment as a key gameplay mechanic. Having limbs that you can still utilise when they are detached from Bryce's body really adds a twist to this third-person shooter. The game does have its share of problems however and it's not as accessible as it could have been for deaf gamers. There is potential here for a more promising sequel however and the game's rather uncompleted storyline definitely leaves room for one. NeverDead probably won't be the best shooter you'll play this year but there's enough here to make it worthwhile.