E3 2011: NeverDead – hands-on, limbs everywhere

Game protagonists are already essentially immortal in most cases, because whenever they die, you can just load your last save and continue on your merry way. Immortality is actually a crucial part of NeverDead's protagonist Bryce's character though, and he uses his inability to die to his advantage – as in, he will tear off his own head and throw it at you if you're in his way.

At its core, NeverDead is a third person shooter where Bryce's ability to lose limbs functions as a secondary power. If dual-wielding guns isn't enough for you, you can also tear off either of your arms whenever you want and throw them, then hit the bumper buttons to make them explode like grenades. This technique was particularly effective on some dog-like monsters we faced, who would actually run after the arm as if they were playing fetch, and when they bit into the arm victoriously we'd detonate for massive damage. And don't worry about getting your limbs back – after 10 seconds or so you can simultaneously regenerate all of your missing limbs. Bryce does have a fatal weakness though – certain enemies can swallow his head when it's detached from his body, and if that happens it's game over.

Limb hurling isn't the only weapon at his disposal though – along with two different guns equipped to each hand/trigger (options include pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, grenade launchers and even a crossbow), Bryce can also toggle in a two-handed sword for bloody melee attacks. To use it, you target an enemy and move the right analog stick in the direction you want to slash. On top of that, his guns all have special ammo options, like fire and electric rounds. And if that wasn't enough (there's more!), Bryce can even headbutt his opponents with just his decapitated head. His abilities don't go to waste on the environment either, as we saw that almost everything in the stage we played was delightfully destructible.

So how did Bryce develop this gory ability? Well, his career as a demon hunter began hundreds of years ago, but came to an abrupt halt when he took on a demon lord that critically outmatched him. The demon killed his wife, and then cursed Bryce with immortality so that he would have eternity to ponder the foolishness that got his wife killed. Naturally, he's been seeking revenge ever since, and that's why he's teamed up with his current partner, a woman named Arcadia who works for a group called NADA (National Anti-Demon Association). His motives for working with NADA aren't entirely pure, as he's secretly using the organizations resources to track down the demon who killed his wife all that time ago.

Unlike Bryce, Arcadia is a mere mortal, so if she dies you also get a game over. We were naturally worried about the frustrations that escort-based gameplay usually entails, but Arcadia is actually quite capable, and holds her own in combat. In fact, during our playthrough we stopped several times to just watch Arcadia dispatch monsters on her own without Bryce's help. If she falls in battle, you also have a brief period where you can run over and revive her to keep going.

NeverDead has so many things going on gameplay-wise that it's going to be hard to get too judgmental before we play through the final version of the game, but so far it looks like a fun, if goofy, take on the third-person action shooter genre. Look for our full review when NeverDead releases later this year.

Jun 9, 2011

Life is nature's way of keeping meat fresh.