NeverDead Xbox 360 Review
Publisher – Konami – Developer – Rebellion – Genre – Action– Players – 1-4 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3
As a gaming concept, NeverDead is delightfully absurd. It has you taking charge of Bryce Boltzman, a demon hunter, and whilst the world of videogames isn’t short of demon hunters, this one however is 500 years old and is able to operate even when he’s missing body parts, of which opens up the potential for Konami and developer Rebellion to offer up some interesting gameplay situations for us to say the very least.
Unsurprisingly, NeverDead never takes itself too seriously, it’s a game where you’re often rolling a head around, or using detached arms to fire guns after all. The exchanges between Bryce and his companions are often amusing, particularly when it comes to the subject of his immortality, and it’s the sense of humour that’s the highlight of what is ultimately just another run of the mill good vs. evil story.
Bryce’s immortality is a key component of the game. It results in a genuinely refreshing take on the health mechanic, that sees your health signified by how many of Bryce’s body parts are still attached. Losing parts will affect him in contrasting ways: the loss of an arm will see him without one of his firearms, whilst losing both legs will force you to crawl. If your entire torso is lost, Bryce is reduced to only his head and, because a particular enemy can eat it, this is when you are at your most vulnerable, resulting in what is essentially a traditional game over.
Body parts can be reattached by rolling into them and after being in a reduced state for so long, the time of which is determined by how whole Bryce is, you’re able to regenerate him to instantly make him whole again, it’s really quite clever and makes for a change from the common recharging health mechanic.
Less inventive is an upgrade system, where you can purchase enhancements and new abilities with XP won through defeating enemies. Whilst there are some enticing things on offer, such as the chance to use limbs like grenades, they’re largely not really very interesting, though it’s nice that you’re able to choose the enhancements that best suit your play style.
You are often joined by Bryce’s partner Arcadia, a woman without Bryce’s abilities, which is to say she can perish in combat. Though she’s smart enough to rarely be a nuisance and can often hold her own in a battle, and when she is downed you are able to revive her, should you be able to reach her on time.
Bryce’s abilities are well utilized outside of combat situations too, allowing you to detach his head to reach and fit through areas that his entire body otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Unfortunately whilst they often bring a new meaning to using your head, puzzles and such rarely go beyond this simplicity and, in spite of the potential with the concept, are never particularly inventive.
Strip away Bryce’s abilities and NeverDead is an ordinary action game with shooting, hacking and slashing and action that is merely adequate overall, lacking the spectacle and feedback and just generally failing to satisfy in the way that the best contemporary action titles do.
On the good side, there’s a reasonable amount of destruction within the environments and it isn’t merely cosmetic and can be used to crush enemies and such, though it can be a bit picky of what can and can’t be destroyed and likely more often you’ll bring things crashing down on enemies when you don’t intend to with stray bullets rather than through choice.
NeverDead can be repetitive too in more ways than one with Bryce himself cracking lots of jokes, it’s just a shame that whilst he has some amusing comments, they however quickly become irritating when you learn that he hasn’t got a lot to say.
Worse is that, whilst competent enough, the basic framework rarely goes beyond shooting things that rarely require different strategy from one another, as well as flipping switches. The occasional deviation from all this comes with timed objectives and some reasonably entertaining boss encounters, though little in the way of grand set pieces, whilst visually there’s a somewhat low budget feel that doesn’t really do anything to help matters.
As with most modern action games, NeverDead has an online component. This takes the form of 13 online challenges, of which are split into competitive and co-op options and can be played by up to four people. There’s a reasonable amount of variety on offer, with Egg Hunt for instance functioning somewhat like Capture the Flag, whilst Search and Rescue tasks you with rescuing civilians, whilst, at the same time, taking on waves of demons. Whilst it’s enjoyable enough and the immortal element brings a new twist to multiplayer, much like the single player there are superior options available elsewhere however.
NeverDead’s most interesting element is without doubt Bryce’s immortality and the relatively inventive approach and playful tone that it has brought to the game, but whilst it has resulted in a more memorable and entertaining experience than it otherwise would have been without it, it’s nonetheless in many ways a wasted opportunity. Ultimately, it’s simply not enough to take NeverDead far beyond a shooter of the most vanilla variety and one that has too many flaws to equal the best of them.