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Review

NeverDead Review

  • Game release: January 31, 2012
  • Reviewed:
  • X360
Aaron Sampson on Google+

Enjoyable highs interspersed with crushing lows make NeverDead as inventive as it is frustrating.

Immortality has its drawbacks. Yes, you do get to live a life free from the health concerns that haunt mortal beings, but the rolling snowball of past regret can incapacitate you in your day-to-day living. Outstanding gifts rarely exist without some drawback, and that frustrating dichotomy is exhibited in NeverDead. Like Bryce, its perpetually living protagonist, NeverDead has abundant strengths. A number of unique elements urge you to continue playing to see how this demon-hunting tale concludes. But the pieces fail to fit together, which results in a rocky adventure in which exciting highs are frequently interrupted by maddening lows. Uneven as it may be, if you can brave the agonizing setbacks, NeverDead delivers enough riveting successes to keep you invested.

Five centuries ago, a man named Bryce Boltzman was born. Through a variety of supernatural events, he was transformed from an ordinary man into an immortal demon hunter. When you live so long that all of the people you love have passed away, finding motivation to carry on is the most difficult challenge of all. Bryce hides his overwhelming bitterness with repetitive jokes that lack the acerbic wit or incisive criticism to make him an enjoyable character. His mortal partner, Arcadia Maximille, is devoid of personality. So though these two characters spend most of the game together, an engaging bond fails to develop. In fact, Arcadia's purpose is unclear. Because she can die, it makes little sense that she tags along with Bryce in his demon-hunting missions, and she frequently needs to be rescued since she's susceptible to the monsters’ snarling attacks. It's an odd pairing, and though there are brief flashes of heartfelt emotion, most of the time the heroes exist as either passive participants or minor annoyances.

The action is able to compensate for the poor cast, at least when it's running on all cylinders. On a superficial level, NeverDead is a typical third-person shooter. Though there aren't any cover elements (nor is there a need for them), the moment-to-moment action is fairly predictable. You have an arsenal of standard guns--pistols, automatics, and the like--and mow down enemies in a variety of predictable locales with equally predictable level design. Corridors lead into courtyards where fights erupt, and the flow continues in this manner until the ending credits roll. Aiming at your foes while running around arenas works well enough, though it's hardly noteworthy. As a pure shooter, NeverDead is functional though nowhere near as exciting as its more prestigious peers. Thankfully, there's much more to this game than tired tropes.

As the title of the game implies, Bryce cannot be killed. However, though neither pain nor death causes him fear, he can still be put out of commission by his abundant enemies. Attacks cause his arms, legs, and even head to pop cleanly from his body, and in your dismembered form, you have to scour the playing field to reassemble those pieces. Obviously, your actions are affected by what part of your body is removed. If, for instance, you lose your left leg to a ravaging puppy, Bryce mutters about his absent appendage while hopping around one-legged. Losing an arm is handled in an even more interesting way. Once disarmed, you can no longer aim your reticle at those attacking you, but because you still have control over your fingers, you can spray bullets wildly from wherever your arm is currently located. This is particularly useful if an enemy is gnawing on your fleshy forearm.

Even in glamor shots, Bryce looks a bit ragged.

If you sustain enough damage, or the enemy lands a clean shot at your neck, you wind up as just a head rolling around. In this form, you can perform a speed roll to travel quickly, but you're pretty much helpless against demonic spawn. You need to quickly locate your torso so you can reattach yourself (assuming you maneuver to your neck stump, which is rather tricky during a chaotic fight) and then round up your legs and arms. If you wait a few moments or nab a power-up, you can regenerate instantly. However, if you fail to find the rest of your body, you can be hit with an abrupt Game Over. There are only two fail states in NeverDead. As a head, you can be eaten by a creature, and if you're too slow to perform a simple minigame, you end up in its belly forever. Otherwise, the only way you can fail is if your partner falls in battle and you don't resurrect her quickly enough. Neither of these situations happens often, so you don't have to worry much about passing into the afterlife.

Implementing challenge in a game without death is no easy feat, and it's when developer Rebellion tries to ramp up the difficulty that things take a turn for the worse. Reassembling your body after being dismembered can be a frustration because enemies are apt to repeatedly attack your prone form before you have time to move out of the way. Watching helplessly as your head gets battered around levels is a serious problem, especially when you have to perform a time-sensitive action. Navigation is also clunky. You can destroy the environment to hurt enemies, which serves as an inventive and satisfying strategy. However, battlegrounds get so cluttered with physics-enabled junk that getting around, either by walking on your legs or rolling as a head, is extremely finicky. This is compounded by a petulant camera that sticks on every object and wall you come across. Although you rarely fall in battle, fights often become tedious affairs because simple actions are hampered in so many ways that they fail to coalesce into satisfying action.

This issue of NeverDead’s sporadic difficulty is most evident during the boss fights. Just about every one of the giant baddies you face off against has its own special problem. A multi-limbed boss you battle early in the game is a serious struggle, even though you most likely won't die. The museum in which you do battle is chock-full of so many broken pillars, exhibits, and other odds and ends that simply moving around is an inconvenience. Heck, you won't even be able to see properly half the time. When you get close to the boss (which is inevitable considering how often you get stuck) he spits out a green fog that reverses your controls. Can you say never fun?

In a late-game battle, you have to strike the boss up close in order to deal enough damage. You must hit him when he is vulnerable, but these moments aren't always obvious due to unclear audio and visual clues. If you fail to deliver in that short time frame, he regains his health. All of it. And that's not even talking about the sluggish platforming in another boss fight. Vanquishing these foes carries with it relief rather than satisfaction, and though a couple of them are enjoyable, most just leave a sour taste in your mouth.

NeverDead introduces many novel elements that simply do not work properly for one reason or another. For instance, although shooting guns works well enough, you have a sword that's preferable. Cutting down foes with your blade is one of the most exciting parts of this game. By holding the shoulder button, you gain full control over the sword's movement with the right stick, so you can unleash horizontal slashes, vertical slices, and diagonal cuts with ease.

The sword is ultimately more powerful than the standard guns, but this is balanced by the danger you put yourself in when attacking up close. However, plentiful explosive barrels serve as a deterrent to using your fancy sword. It's easy to miss these red dangers in the heat of battle (they often reside behind other objects, hidden from view), and you find yourself blown sky-high when you accidentally hit one. The upgrade system has the same combination of strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, you can imbue your gun, sword, or movement with added perks, but there are so few ability slots that you can use only a handful of the dozens available.

The arm bone's connected to the head bone.

It's a shame that you don't get to make use of a good variety of abilities at once, because the unlockable perks enliven the action. Because you have such limited spots to work with, you have to focus on one attribute to boost while ignoring other aspects. If you're partial to the sword, you can boost its power and range while adding a special charge attack, but equipping these means you have to ignore upgrading your firearms. Or you could make Bryce more mobile, which comes in handy when you're running away from enemies because neither of your weapons has been supercharged.

Despite the limitations, it's still fun to mess around with the various tools you unlock. Two of them are particularly useful. One triggers slow motion when danger is closing in, which is a life saver in the tougher encounters. The other lets you use your arm as an explosive device. You can rip off your arm and toss it around the battlefield. Horrible hounds chase after your flopping appendages in a sick game of fetch, and once one of them has your arm in its mouth, kablamo! You can finish off a pack of these wretched beasts in mere seconds.

Dismembering yourself can serve as an impromptu attack, or you might need to use that talent to solve puzzles. In between battles, you're left alone in levels with oodles of collectibles hidden in every nook and cranny. Nabbing these items gives you much-needed experience points, but, more importantly, it's just fun to discover where they reside. You may have to pull off your head and toss it in an air duct or find a hidden trapdoor so you can access out-of-the-way spots belowground. There are a few puzzles sprinkled between the action segments that you have to solve to progress, but most of them are ancillary diversions for those who enjoy exploring every inch of the environment. Because the puzzles are optional, the focus is on the action segments, which is one of NeverDead's strengths. However, there isn't enough variety to keep you invested the whole way through. Aside from a brief free-falling segment, you take part in the same basic combat repeatedly, without any novel ideas to inject some diversity.

An immortal can just light himself on fire when it's too dark to see.

The strengths and weaknesses carry over to the online-only multiplayer mode. There are a series of competitive and cooperative challenges available that add a communal spike to the normally solo proceedings. Instead of focusing on just killing each other in the head-to-head modes, you have to complete objectives, which is a smart idea since one-on-one encounters are over quickly and don't require much strategy to prevail. So instead, you round up eggs or race to checkpoints, all while battling baddies and trying to slow your human opponents down. The cooperative matches have horde modes, where you fend off waves of attackers, but they don't add anything novel to separate them from similar modes in other games. There is also a mode where you must rescue civilians, which is extremely hard if you try to travel without friendly chums with you. Ultimately, the multiplayer adds replay value, though it lacks the imaginative spark to be captivating.

When the story finally wraps up, you're treated to a cliff-hanger that would segue nicely into a sequel. Normally, such a perfunctory ending would be frustrating because you want a strong resolution to the events you just played through. However, in the case of NeverDead, it only reminds you of the untapped potential that is the most striking element of this game. The ideas that separate this from other shooters are a lot of fun, but the edges are so rough that it can be difficult to enjoy these pieces. A second game could be used to iron out the kinks. But that's an idea that's not worth dwelling on. NeverDead doesn't have a sequel, and may never get one, so what you're left with is a game bursting with ideas that it struggles to showcase. There are certainly enjoyable elements for those yearning for an experience different from the norm, but be prepared for many rocky moments along the way.

The Good
Clever dismemberment situations
Satisfying sword swinging
Empowering upgrades
The Bad
Tedious difficulty spikes
Sluggish camera
Lots of frustrating movements
6
Fair
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Discussion

32 comments
weijie86
weijie86

Got this during a sales here in France. Thought I would give it a try!


Started off ok, control's a bit clunky, screen tear issue, flawed gameplay mechanics..I endured though and got through to around 75 or 80 percent of the game..All is well until my body was blown to pieces, head flew away...And that's when it AUTO SAVES!! Since the head flew off bound, I had to restart. Restarting from the last checkpoint gets me back to the point where I see the head flew off, and again it went off bound..

Restarting the whole chapter means fighting the Chief again, so I finally called it quit after 6 - 7 hours of painful gaming...


This game is really a piece of shit..in fact I would go as far as to say that this is the worst shit I've ever bought (maybe comparable to Genji)!!


And for your info SHADOW OF THE DAMNED is much much much, way way way better than this game..Don't buy this piece of crap!

electronic_eye
electronic_eye

You gotta wonder what difficulty the reviewer here or others were playing it on, if they were simply using a defective copy or like I said, just didn't "get" they way the game should be played because I definitely didn't experience pretty much any of those problems.

electronic_eye
electronic_eye

I felt like when I was playing it that a lot of people, whether critics or your average gamer, just didn't understand all of the gameplay mechanics very well. It's like, when your head gets dismembered, you don't have to roll it all the way back to your body in every situation! If you wait a couple seconds, almost every time you can just regen your whole body back, no matter how far you are from it or how many enemies are around you! And I almost never had my loose head battered around. Just keep freaking move it if you can't regen yet! Seriously. Also, I almost never had the camera sticking to walls or other objects; only a couple of times it would zoom too close on my head itself but that was it!

electronic_eye
electronic_eye

Finally got a chance 2 try it out and yea, I think it's a lot better than pretty much all the reviews it's gotten. Didn't notice any frustrating movements, no difficulty spikes. I had a few issues with it but they were more with some of the one-liners getting old fast, a little bit of an audio balancing issue and a lack of enemy variety (though the ones that are there are very unique).

JTKenyon654
JTKenyon654

I've been playing this game for the past few days and I actually like it a lot. definently at least a 7.5 or 8.

electronic_eye
electronic_eye

@mohsenbazi - trust me - shadows of the damned is a lot better.

THExPH03NIX
THExPH03NIX

Bad movments? Seems alright to me! o.O

gamefreak215jd
gamefreak215jd

looks some what like dmc but can't be compared with .but still worth playing ps:the demons look kind of cute.

buster898685
buster898685

i got it today because i dont care about bad reviews i play it for myself and for the least they should have gave it 7.5 give me all the hate you want but this game it good

mattman127
mattman127

The game may be a 6 but the song is awesome! =D

ToTs_00
ToTs_00

This really doesn't surprise since the only hands on preview of Never Dead that I saw was at E3 and the person the person trying it out couldn't finish the demo because there was a part where you had to throw the your character's head in to a fountain and he miss so he had to roll his head back to his body but he couldn't because the head fell off a step and the head couldn't jump high enough to get up it. The moment I saw that I lost any shred of hope for this game.

mohsenbazi
mohsenbazi

I know it would be like this.Konami games are not all bad but this one is a piece of crap.I feel this game is like shadows of damned I don't know if i feel right or not

TimboII
TimboII

Who didn't see this coming? The first trailer I watched a few years ago I think it was looked retarded and terrible. I pretty much figured then it would be crap.

dono14
dono14

Disapointing reviews, Konami games are always hit and miss. Still wouldn't mind trying this though.

Zacmaccraken
Zacmaccraken

I never buy my games based on reviews. It's sad to accept one man's point of view on something and following it like a blind sheep.

deshazerg
deshazerg

@GamerLegend10: You won't get any hate from me. I think your point is very valid.

dainZ
dainZ

my face cringed at the title before the review even came out

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

Shame it only scored a 6...its very unique, but that is unfortunately not enough to make a game good. And there have been quite a few disappointing games recently

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

@Iridescent406 FIFA??? man i hate those games and they release as regularly as cod does. Edit: i wonder how much hate i will get for saying that :(

Ripper_TV
Ripper_TV

It's pretty grim for Konami from now on. If the new Silent Hill turns out to be a disappointment too (which is very likely), then the company may be on the brink of crisis. They haven't released a successful title in how long?

GunBladeHero
GunBladeHero

Didn't expect great things from this one, maybe if I see it on sale on the end of the year I'll give it a try.

55425
55425

مزخرف BAD

white_wind
white_wind

@starfoxou for me 6 = 3 , anything below 7 is the same score, I am not saying reviews should decide for you, but they do help you see the cons of the game.

Dragonborn_1
Dragonborn_1

i wanted this game to be good ! :( too bad it's just another flop that will be forgotten in moments !

starfox15
starfox15

ign.com gave this game a 3.0. I don't know what to think. Either GS was bought off or ign.com wasn't. Or I'm probably wrong and 2 different reviewers had 2 different views on it. In any case, a 6.0 is too low to consider and 3.0 is troubling...

TheRooster31
TheRooster31

A third person shooter game, where you have to kill demons?!! I prefer Shadows of the Damned! thousand times better!

Iridescent406
Iridescent406

@Gelugon_baat We gotta keep it alive some how. I mean, what other game are we supposed to make far-cry comparisons to?

Zacmaccraken
Zacmaccraken

I like it! Really like environmental destruction and the games that add this feature are a great welcome to me. Ohh, and by the way...... i hope COD burn in hell!!!!

NeverDead More Info

  • Released
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    NeverDead takes place during the waking hours of peace and calm, in which the world is under the threat of a demonic plague.
    6.1
    Average User RatingOut of 190 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate NeverDead
    Developed by:
    Rebellion
    Published by:
    Konami
    Genres:
    3D, Open-World, Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language