Review: NeverDead

Note: This review was done using the Xbox 360 version of the game. It is also available on Playstation 3.

Character action games have long been one of the most popular game types around. However, with so many of these games being made each year, every developer needs to find the unique hook to draw in new players. Developer Rebellion must have thought they hit gold when they came up with the idea for NeverDead. The game features a main character that is immortal and possesses the ability to detach his own limbs to be used against his enemies. And as a game concept, there is little arguing that NeverDead is certainly one of the more outlandish ones to have come to fruition this generation. Unfortunately, the rest of the game fails to live up to the high marks set by its pitch.

At its core, NeverDead is a character action game in the same vein as Capcom’s Devil May Cry. The game stars a surly, immortal demon hunter named Bryce and his lovely human partner, Arcadia. Bryce has a huge chip on his shoulder stemming from the death of his wife 500 years ago and his “gift” of immortality, both suffered at the hands of the mighty demon lord. Arcadia on the other hand is a straight laced company girl, always towing the line. Bryce and Arcadia both work for an organization that hunts down demons keeping the public safe from harm. Recently demon activity has picked up quite a bit and of course this can only mean bad things for Bryce and Arcadia.

If the story seems familiar, it is because iterations of it have been done numerous times over the course of the past decade and it lacks even a sliver of originality. Worse than the unoriginal storytelling though is the utter lack of respect the game has for its players. I have been playing games a long time and during this generation developers have begun to handhold more and more, NeverDead takes it to a whole new level treating the player as if they have never played a game before.

Early on in the game an enemy that serves as a body part vacuum cleaner is introduced. This enemy is ostensibly the mechanism used to kill Bryce, because having his head sucked into one of these creatures will prevent him from reattaching to the rest of his body dooming him to a life of boredom in the stomach of this creature. Arcadia explains what the enemy does and Bryce responds with something to the effect of, “I guess that would be game over.” Shortly after that nugget of wisdom Bryce encounters a boss creature that has large glowing patches on its ass end and Bryce’s boss interrupts over the communication channel that Bryce should shoot the glowie bits. Later in the game Bryce comes across a series of tubes that can be rotated using levers and Bryce exclaims, “Looks like a puzzle”. And the game is filled with these moments that slap the player in the face telling them they are too dumb to understand how to play it.

I am honestly not sure what is worse, the insulting way the game guides you through the experience or the fact that the game looks and plays like a launch title for the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. The environments are devoid of interesting artwork and are as generic as the storyline including abandoned buildings, empty museums, police stations, and city streets. The enemy models might leave even more to be desired with only a handful of types each having a few different skins and abilities to make Bryce try out different tactics. Unfortunately, the game can be pretty easily finished by upgrading the damage on both of Bryce’s weapons and spamming simple enemies with the sword attack and taking on bosses and flying enemies with his guns. No further tactics are really needed.

On one hand the simplicity of the combat works in the game’s favor. NeverDead controls fairly loosely with its two standard attack modes of melee and ranged. I quickly found ranged combat to be useless against the standard hordes of enemies because aiming, even with upgrades to improve it, is sloppy. Bryce dual wields his guns and for some reason Rebellion decided it would be a good idea to have these two guns function independently with separate aiming reticules. It feels awkward and I generally avoided using ranged combat unless I had to.

Melee combat though, while more effective, has its fair share of problems as well. The biggest of which is the highly unresponsive control scheme. Instead of mapping Bryce’s sword to a singular button, NeverDead has the swordplay mapped to the right analog stick. Many games have decided to utilize the second stick in interesting ways with mixed results. NeverDead’s attempt may very well be the worst I have ever experienced. To attack the right stick needs to be swiped but I was never able to determine exactly how it should be manipulated because things hardly ever worked the same way twice in a row. Worse still, I often found my Bryce standing amongst a horde of monsters doing nothing because no matter how I moved the stick the sword would not attack. Additionally the mapping of the sword to the right stick strips camera control away from the player leading to more frustrating moments.

On the other hand, the lack of a need to use different tactics is something of a shame because if anything in the game is done well it is the upgrade system. Everything Bryce does in the game grants him experience points which can be spent to purchase various upgrades. These upgrades, as previously mentioned, can be used to level up Bryce’s weaponry but they can also be utilized to unlock more powerful combo attacks and other special bonuses. Unfortunately, as also previously mentioned, the game does not really give players much of a reason to actually spend experience points. After my play through I spent a lot of my experience points to snare an achievement but for gameplay purposes I stopped upgrading after level three.

By now you have probably noticed that I have talked very little about the cool concept the game is founded on, Bryce’s ability to dismember himself. This is because it is such a non-factor in the overall game. Aside from a couple environmental puzzles that need to be solved with a piece of Bryce, the dismemberment is more of a frustrating hurdle than it is a fun gameplay mechanic. Nearly every heavy attack from an enemy will cause Bryce to lose bits and pieces of himself which artificially makes the game more difficult and rolling around a battlefield trying to avoid an army of always replenishing head sucking monsters is far from my idea of fun. In the end, the dismemberment is nothing more than a fascinating bullet point on the box.

Sometimes, after playing a less than stellar game, I sit back and imagine how much better I could do if given the chance. I come up with concepts for games and play mechanics that could potentially be used as evidence in having me declared utterly insane.  I take these ideas, write them down and eventually put them in a shoe box to be forgotten until the next moment of revelation strikes. After playing NeverDead, it is obvious someone at Rebellion has a box just like mine and just like me maybe they should hide that box under their bed and stop pulling ideas out of it because NeverDead is not a good game. In fact it is actually a bad game, potentially one of the worst games to be released this generation, and certainly a front runner for worst game of 2012.

Pros:

  • None

Cons:

  • Insulting to people that actually play games
  • Looks and plays like a launch title
  • Terrible controls
  • Boring design
  • Complete waste of its selling point

1 / 5

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Author: Chris Scott View all posts by
Chris is the Reviews Editor here at Vagary as well as the co-host of The Perfectly Sane Show and the Movie Dudes podcast.He is long time gamer and film fan that also happens to be full of opinions and a desire to share them with others, even if you don't want to hear them.