No amount of goofy dismemberment can rescue NeverDead from being a complete train wreck of an action game.

User Rating: 2.5 | NeverDead X360
For all of time, mankind has pursued the opportunity to live forever. Perhaps it's the natural human desire to learn more about the world, perhaps it's the spirit of progression as a people, but immortality has become a mythic inspiration for persevering minds throughout history. However, it's easily the best example of the "be careful what you wish for," scenario. Would living forever truly put a person's anxieties to rest, or would experiencing eternity be an endless road with nowhere to go? That answer can be clearly defined in Rebellion's NeverDead, the story of undying hero Bryce, where immortality is put into its most negative light seen yet. From its cumbersome controls to its agonizing storyline to its repetitive structure, NeverDead is a complete mess of a game and shouldn't be played by anyone with even a trace of self-respect.

NeverDead's story follows Bryce, a 500 year-old demon hunter cursed with immortality. During his time as a destroyer of the damned, he teams up with a female cop named Arcadia. Bryce's tormented history continuously haunts him, as old enemies rear their ugly heads and demonic minions flood the city. It's up to Bryce to save the day. While NeverDead does possess valid comparisons to Devil May Cry, Bryce doesn't have the slick heroics of Dante at all. He's a badass with no real agenda and no serious personality definitions. Even worse is the supporting cast. Arcadia is the bossiest sidekick you'll find in gaming these days. Every moment she'll yammer on about how Bryce is immortal and should work harder for his due. If you're looking for a real annoyance, try a whiny teen pop star that eventually gets more spotlight than she deserves. NeverDead's story doesn't do too much new, and that would otherwise give it a passable mark, but a terrible supporting cast and an overly straightforward protagonist personality will leave you cringing. It's just bad.

Bryce has two main weapon sets: guns and sword. While this may sound incredibly familiar for anyone who's played Devil May Cry, NeverDead doesn't even come close to the fluidity of Dante's adventure. Aiming your guns is overly sensitive and inaccurate, and while being able to dual-wield a shotgun and assault rifle is pretty cool, the entire gunplay concept is rarely useful in taking out the swarming minions of hell. The swordplay is generally more effective, but the strange input for using the sword is clumsy. Instead of pressing a button to slash, you need to use the right analog stick. Making left-to-right or up-to-down motions with the right analog stick is messy. You're more likely to kill enemies by randomly tilting the right analog stick back and forth than using a finesse-demanding combat style. The combat's end result is clumsy and unfocused.

NeverDead's goofiest gist involves Bryce's inability to die. Instead of falling victim to an enemy attack, Bryce loses his limbs. He can lose his arms (making him unable to attack), lose his legs (slowing his movement), or even become nothing but a rolling head. Bryce can reclaim body parts by rolling over them or fully regenerate using energy gained over time. This quickly devolves from a funny parlor trick to an overused gimmick that becomes much more trouble than it's worth. Enemies will more than often attack Bryce, causing him to burst into individual body parts scattered across the stages. Restructuring Bryce is an absolute chore and you'll frequently find yourself hoping to just let Bryce die to spare you the pain of chasing after your limbs while enemies continuously attack you. You'll likely spend more time reconstructing Bryce instead of actually doing damage to your enemies. The closest players can get to a pure "game over" are the Grandbaby enemies that can ingest Bryce's lone head, forcing the player through a repetitive minigame where Bryce either escapes their hold or is fated to be digested in their guts for all eternity. Ironically, it's done to death. Even the more clever uses of the dismemberment aesthetic like being able to throw your own head to higher areas are overdone. NeverDead makes being immortal and all-powerful tedious and downright boring, something that the very concept should be furthest from.

Your typical NeverDead experience is a linear progression through the stages. You'll wander around a level until the doors close behind you and you're forced to fight a mob of enemies. Defeat the enemies, open the next door, walk to the next battlefield, rinse, repeat. This would all be at least okay if there was at least SOME difference in the design. There are very few enemy types, many of which cause Bryce to burst into individual body parts from a single attack. The all-time worst, though, are the "wombs," which are monster production portals that spit up enemies over and over again until there are destroyed. Wombs also prevent you from progressing until they're dealt with. Taking out the wombs is a pain, as enemies will spawn while you're hacking away at them, making it even more troublesome. There are the occasional puzzles in NeverDead, though calling them true puzzles is insulting to even the simplest of puzzle games. The solution to most "puzzles" is usually using your head (by that I mean ripping off Bryce's head and throwing it to an otherwise unreachable area). There are a few other distractions, like equipping skills earned with experience points, but they are just pointless. There's never a reason to experiment with the skills since random attacks are so effective.

At ten hours, NeverDead also drags on far too long for its own good. The amount of skill progression is flimsy. Enemies rarely become stronger after a certain point and new weapons appear infrequently, keeping the gameplay stagnant and uninteresting. Even the boss fights are boring, where typical patterns can be analyzed easily and those glowing weak points make themselves known so well. The multiplayer is also pointless, suffering from the same control issues that the single-player has. NeverDead doesn't give the player much incentive to persevere through its many imperfections, especially when those imperfections are so blatant and damaging to the game's design.

In addition to its awful gameplay, NeverDead includes a presentation without any trace of coherence or personality. From Bryce's character design to the levels themselves, NeverDead does nothing to distinguish itself from the stereotypical "brown/grey" third-person shooter aesthetic. Levels have terrible collision detection, and despite being destructible to an extent, will bore and frustrate you simultaneously. Glitches abound, textures are scrambled, and the destructibility of the stages seems to be an obstacle more than a creative gameplay element. Neverdead is visually appalling, but the audio, somehow, is even worse. Random pop singing and cookie-cutter metal will frequently appear, complimented by some of the worst voice acting seen in an action game in recent memory. Bryce's one-liners sound off ad nauseum; if you're missing a limb, Bryce will let you know over and over again. No amount of big-name anime and gaming voice actors can save NeverDead from its terrible dialogue and cliched plot. Even having a surprisingly awesome theme from thrash metal masters Megadeth never seems to have any significant impact to the game's abysmal presentation. From a technical or creative standpoint, NeverDead fails at every opportunity.

NeverDead is a disaster. Aside from the initial novelty of being able to roll around as a disembodied head, there is nothing to recommend here. The objectives are repetitive, the combat is bland, the presentation is awful, and the story is abysmal. Rebellion definitely gets credit for trying to spice up the typical action-horror vibe (albeit in a bizarre and ludicrous way), but it makes absolutely no difference when the spice is so poorly implemented. You're better off just playing another typical action-horror game, one that isn't so massively devoid of entertainment. Konami and Rebellion have set a terribly low standard with NeverDead, what is already looking to be one of the worst games released so far this year.