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NeverDead review

Disappointing
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AT A GLANCE
  • Boss battles show small flickers of brilliance
  • Sword combat gets you away from the guns
  • Destructible environments occasionally work
  • The stupid, stupid dismemberments
  • Rolling around as a stupid head
  • Awful, stupid dialogue

At first, NeverDead seems like a standard, straight-up action game. You know the type. Walk into a room, kill a bunch of monsters, the door opens up, repeat. Every so often, there’s a mini-boss. At the end of the level, there’s a big boss. Pretty basic stuff. You attack with dual guns, or a sword. You block. You dodge. And sometimes you get hit.

And that is the moment when everything goes wrong for NeverDead… when the one concept that makes the game unique and original breaks it instead. Protagonist demon hunter Bryce Boltzmann has been cursed with immortality, you see, and with that comes the “ability” to drop limbs like so many leaves off a tree. It’s certainly an interesting gimmick. That is, it would be, if it didn’t completely ruin the game.

Think about it like this: Action games are all about quick reactions and precision. You need to be able to dodge when you need to dodge, block when you need to block. And without limbs, it’s tough to do that. It’s cool to have a visual representation of your failures, but when it only leads to further failures, that’s a problem. Punishing players for mistiming a dodge by chopping off their legs, thus making it impossible to dodge more isn’t interesting design. It’s unfair. It certainly doesn’t help that limbs go flying off Bryce at the slightest bump, which makes most of the game a mad scramble to get your limbs back.

The worst part, though, is when Bryce’s head gets knocked off, which happens at least a few times in every fight. Left as a slow-rolling cranium, he has to reattach to his body before he can keep fighting. As he rolls along, small enemies will attempt to suck him up, leading to a quicktime event that, upon failure, means death for Bryce. It’s one of the most frustrating design decisions we’ve experienced in a while.

This wouldn’t be such a big deal if the general combat design wasn’t so flawed as well. Bryce’s default weapons of choice are dual handguns. Unfortunately for his easily detached arms, aiming is sluggish and imprecise. By the time he manages to get the aiming reticule around to an enemy, there’s a strong chance that another will have snuck up behind him and bitten something off. Of course, that means he’ll miss the first one, leading to a frustrating cycle of aiming, getting whacked, searching for missing limbs, and repeating.

Thankfully, swordplay is a little more effective. Featuring a nice auto-targeting mechanic, aiming isn’t really a problem. Plus, the sword does a heck of a lot more damage than the guns, making the often tedious combat sections go by slightly quicker. You can also take out large groups of enemies by using the sword on the destructible environments, though crushing them with falling sections of buildings isn’t as satisfying as it should be, as it seem to happen at random. There’s very little rhyme or reason to what is destructible, so actually killing anything with debris is tough to do on command.

Boss battles do have occasional flashes of brilliance, but their strength tends to be in their design and not the actual execution. Some are huge, hulking beasts; others are smaller but brimming with personality. Actually defeating them is an exercise in frustration, however, as the fights are long, multi-stage endeavors filled with annoying hordes of smaller enemies, lots of searching for lost parts, and attacking glowing weak points. Serious levels of yawn involved.

To make matters worse, Bryce is one of the most genuinely unlikeable game characters in recent memory. He’s kind of a jerk, but the real reason to hate him are his constant, awful jokes. Occasionally, he’s met with a section where his head must be torn off to sneak through some vents or hop across a thin platform (why he couldn’t just crawl or jump himself is beyond us). During these sections, he spews horrible one-liners about how all the rolling will mess up his hair, his motion sickness, or what we’re pretty sure are Limp Bizkit references. The “jokes” are repeated ad nauseam, making us want to hop into the game and punt the annoying head through the nearest pair of uprights.

There’s little story to speak of, and what is there is poorly told, mostly focusing on Bryce’s job as a demon hunter while intermittently throwing in flashbacks showing how he became cursed with immortality. Supporting characters are bland and just as annoying as Bryce himself. But hey, it’s an action game, so who cares, right? The story is just supposed to string together the action sequences, which is where the strength of the game is supposed to shine. Unfortunately for NeverDead, it seems to have forgotten that essential element. 

More Info

Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Published by: Konami
Developed by: Rebellion Studios
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language

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32 comments

  • Yeager1122 - February 4, 2012 6:13 p.m.

    Yeah saw this coming game just didnt look good even if the general idea around it was unique.
  • thinkBrigger - February 4, 2012 5:16 p.m.

    I think this review is a bit misleading. Is the game good? No, not really. Is it worth playing? Yeah, definitely. While sorely lacking as a game, it's refreshing to see this kind unique take on an action game. The dismemberment definitely gets stale (and frustrating) quickly, but even poorly done it was amusing to see parts of you go flying while attempting to retrieve them. I agree this happens all too frequently during combat, which is definitely repetitive and clunky, but I rarely got annoyed to the point of anger at it. Also having watched previous gameplay footage of the game, I knew it'd be terrible by the time it came out. The game was practically dead out of the gate due to almost non-existent advertising for it. I personally didn't know anyone who hadn't heard of it without me showing them the trailer. I even ended up having to go to three separate stores in my city just to find a retailer stocking it (one of which an employee looked at me like I was idiot for asking if they had any copies). Konami and Rebellion knew this game wasn't going to make the cut between the unresponsive combat, dialogue/story and the onslaught of forgettable... well, pretty much everything. All that said, I've had a blast going through this bit by bit. It's not a game to take seriously or even get that invested in, but a fun way to hang out with some friends or kill a few hours. Hell with a friend around the groan worthy dialogue probably starts getting fun again. As long as you go into the game with the knowledge that in most ways it's not that good, and to just take it as a campy game, there's tons of ways to enjoy yourself. Though it definitely earns most of the scores it's getting (anywhere between 3-5 is an honest assessment). The game still has some merits, but for most people, I think its faults will bury this game along with the torrent of low review scores. If you can forgive its abundance of weaknesses (and there are many), it can still be a nice change of pace in your gaming routine.
  • talleyXIV - February 4, 2012 8:57 a.m.

    I saw it on X-Play and I made a quick judgement, dumb. I was right, as always.
  • aJAWSOMEocelot - February 4, 2012 1:28 a.m.

    GETTING THIS GAME.
  • Hobogonigal - February 3, 2012 11:03 p.m.

    Sad to say it but I predicted this a long time ago... I just couldn't see how it would use the mechanic without breaking the game. Good review GR, I haven't seen a 3 in a while.
  • Hobogonigal - February 3, 2012 11:01 p.m.

    Sad to say it but I predicted this a long time ago... I just couldn't see how it would use the mechanic without breaking the game. Good review GR, I haven't seen a 3 in a while.
  • Hobogonigal - February 3, 2012 11:20 p.m.

    Uh oh, my first double post in a year and a half. Sorry guys
  • Triscuitable - February 3, 2012 10:03 p.m.

    And the soundtrack? C'mon, I was hyped for this SOUNDTRACK, listening to the badass song Megadeth wrote for it.
  • jason-r-cruz - February 3, 2012 9:17 p.m.

    Disappointing, I was actually interested in the concept. Well written review!
  • Gibsonsg527 - February 3, 2012 9:15 p.m.

    Well it was developed by Rebellion so this isn't a surprise at all.
  • RipgutReaper - February 3, 2012 9:12 p.m.

    I'm glad I didn't pre-order this as originally planned.
  • Craza - February 3, 2012 8:39 p.m.

    I was honestly really looking forward to this game. It looked so fun and original. If it could pull off all of these interesting elements, I would have bought it in a heartbeat. I'm really sad to see it came out such a mess.
  • IceBlueKirby - February 3, 2012 7:33 p.m.

    I considered getting this game when I saw it in the store the other day, but I figured I should read up on it first. And now I've read all I need to know...not going to bother trying this one.
  • Shazamin - February 3, 2012 6:55 p.m.

    So u liked it...
  • 04whim - February 3, 2012 6:28 p.m.

    I'd like to say I basically said everything here several months ago. Especially the dismemberment points.
  • bitchassafriBLAMamericANTISTA - February 3, 2012 5:06 p.m.

    ... i was kinda looking forward to this game. as brett-bot would say. "oh well"
  • codystovall - February 3, 2012 4:15 p.m.

    called it! you mean to tell me action, gore and fantastical craziness Plus a pop princess can mix badly...NAwwwwww...
  • robotdickens - February 3, 2012 3:13 p.m.

    Damn... I thought you guys would've at least given it an 8. Oh well. I really do hate frustrating games, but now that I'm older (and can pay for all of those broken controllers) I might play the game.
  • Z-man427 - February 3, 2012 3:12 p.m.

    Not surprised
  • BladedFalcon - February 3, 2012 2:20 p.m.

    Well... can't say I'm really surprised. Sadly, NeverDead always looked like the kind of game you WANT to be good... But it never even looked good. I wanted to be proven wrong, but i guess my issue with the graphics and how it controlled weren't unjustified... Still, definitely a damns shame, specially since I wanted Konami to have a new, decent franchise for once.

Showing 1-20 of 32 comments

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