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Review

NeverDead Review (PS3, Xbox 360)

Spare yourself an arm and a leg.

Regardless of Rebellion’s recent slouch on the development front (2010′s recent Aliens vs. Predator reboot was memorably sub-par) the Oxford studio’s latest project, NeverDead, has drawn considerable attention, mainly due to its bizarre premise.

Set in the present day, the third person adventure title follows the exploits of Bryce Boltzmann, a contracted demon hunter with a conflicted past. Unlike his colleagues, Bryce has been in the profession for over 500 years now. In the early days of his career he came face to face with Astaroth, the demon king who murdered his wife and companion, Cypher, before inflicting Bryce with the curse of immortality.

Five centuries later, Boltzmann now patrols the city and its outskirts for rogue hellions with his partner, Arcadia Maximille. NeverDead eases players into the daily routine of its protagonist, though it soon becomes evident that something much darker is afoot. Responding to a call from the district museum Bryce and Arcadia find themselves escorting stranded pop princess Nikki Summerfield, who is being pursued by demons for reasons unknown.


The flashbacks into Bryce's past, though pretty, fail to give NeverDead any sort of narrative clout.
What starts off as a promising narrative soon boils down to weak characterisation and a straightforward, predictable plot punctuated by brief flashbacks. Though there are moments of plausible humour, the interactions between Bryce and his female tag-alongs are frightfully stereotypical and, for lack of a better description, distinctly Japanese.

Arcadia fills the role of your one-dimensional ice queen, with Nikki fitting the naive, melodramatic archetype we see replicated in dozens of other video games.

For the most part dialogue is clunky and inorganic, two words which coincidently underpin the entire Neverdead experience.

Health bars have been the bane of many a gamer, though in NeverDead it’s not so much of an issue; Bryce can sustain an inhuman amount of damage, the game’s unique damage system substituting that of the conventional health gauge. One-part third person shooter, one-part hack n’ slash brawler you’re going to have a horde of enemies launching themselves at you, and if they strike hard enough, Bryce can end up loosing one or more of his five limbs.

Upon detachment, extremities are flung across the level. Having one or no legs severely reduces manageability, whereas the loss of arms prevents dual wielding and blocking. If you are unlucky enough to be decapitated you assume control of Bryce’s noggin with no powers whatsoever, rolling over your severed limbs Katamari-style in order to restore the demon hunter to his former status.

It’s an interesting mechanic and one you’re likely to have  laugh with at first, but the fundamental flaws are quick to reveal themselves. Though there are vials which can instantly restore Bryce’s “health”, these are often sparse; the rolling method quickly becomes a common practice that soon begins to wear.

Even on normal difficulty, you will find yourself pounded by mobs and bosses. To conquer such situations you need to be fully intact, though this becomes near impossible. As you scramble around the floor looking for arms and legs, you’re likely to get your remaining limbs torn off, resulting in a repetitive, frustrating cycle.

At his disposal, Bryce has an arsenal of unlockable weaponry as well as his Butterfly Blade, a melee weapon that is controlled through the awkward use of motions on the right stick. The gunplay is as basic as you could ask for with a heavy emphasis on running n’ gunning, the sporadic pace of combat making it almost impossible to zoom in and take a shot without getting your arms plucked.

Killing enemies and collecting red tokens will unlock experience points which can then be spent on upgrades and new abilities for Bryce. Minus a few interesting exceptions, there aren’t any game-changers available from the list which happens to be laden with plenty of useless powers such as improved crawling speed and healing bullets.


Multiplayer essentially boils down to wave-on-wave clashes with the demonic hordes. Strangely enough you can play as Arcadia, though at the severe disadvantage of having one weapon and no unique abilities. It's a mess.
To say there is no variation in NeverDead’s enemies is incorrect, but the way you deal with them is near enough universal. If you can’t reach it, shoot it; if you can, aimlessly twiddle the right stick until you eventually have a pile of dismembered demons.

Boss battles are fairly disappointing too, often recycling the same “Hippo” and “Panda” encounters to try and inject a diversion between the seemingly endless waves of demons. The game’s actual bosses are no better, following pattern-heavy conventions and an infuriating difficulty gradient, artificially prolonging each battle to make them seem more substantive.

One of the more redeeming qualities of NeverDead is the inclusion of limb puzzles. On several occasions Bryce will be forced to detach his own head in order to access vent shaft or hard to go get spaces, but unfortunately that’s as intricate as it gets. If Rebellion were to scale back the mind-numbing combat and work in more puzzles and elements of exploration we could have had one of the better February releases here.

NeverDead is actually a fairly good-looking game. The menus may be criminally basic, as are the loading screens, but there is little to complain about whilst in-game. Character models are a tad over-exaggerated and don’t really fit well with contemporary city setting, but environments achieve a generally favourable aesthetic despite the sometimes narrow and confusing layouts.

In the way of physics, NeverDead has a surprising trick up its sleeve in the way of heavily-destructible environments which don’t only look satisfying but actually add a much-needed tactical element to the otherwise mundane combat.

Pros:

  • Premise is interesting enough to warrant some attention.
  • Visually, you could do a lot worse, even by today’s standards.

Cons:

  • Gameplay mechanics lack any sort of development.
  • The dismember mechanics become tedious and infuriating, fast.
  • A cast of characters you will neither relate with or care about.
  • Menus look ghastly.
  • Online multiplayer is plagued by the same issues present in the campaign.
  • No enough puzzle segments.

To conclude, NeverDead does very little to separate itself from the legion of sub-par, gimmick-tagged titles. The premise of playing as an immortal protagonist who can reassemble parts of his anatomy is likely to catch out a number of curious gamers, but it’s a concept that fails to shine amidst a crowd of poor design choices and a complete lack of narrative engagement.

Score: 4/10

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19 Comments
  1. uncleniccius
    Member
    Since: Jan 2012

    Well, I only heard of this a week ago, and now i’ll never see it lol.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 13:02.
  2. gazo69
    Member
    Since: Forever

    Shame for this, kudos for trying something new though.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 13:04.
  3. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Shame.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 13:06.
  4. jikomanzoku
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    Last Rebellion game I enjoyed was the Rogue Trooper on the PS2 and even that wasn’t mind blowing, just a bit of a laugh with some mates. It’s a shame, as I loved the Jaguar and first PC versions of AVP. A return to form would be very welcome. Really think they could do with building on their brand (do they still own 2000AD?) by farming out a high profile (Judge Dredd mebbe) title or two to a decent dev co. A judge Dredd title of the quality of the Batman games would go down a storm with a wide variety and age range of gamers.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 13:14.
    • OneShotWook
      Member
      Since: Jun 2010

      They do still own 2000AD.Do you not remember the mess they made of the last Judge Dredd game though?fkin terrible.
      When it boils down to it the only decent title they’ve put out was the original AvP so i would imagine it a wise move that they mostly stick with comics.

      Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 17:14.
      • jikomanzoku
        Member
        Since: Jan 2010

        oh i do, hence farm it out. Rebellion have their hands on a lot of good IP but just cant make a decent game any more.

        Comment posted on 16/02/2012 at 19:00.
      • jikomanzoku
        Member
        Since: Jan 2010

        cheers for the confirmation by the way

        Comment posted on 16/02/2012 at 19:01.
  5. jikomanzoku
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    “Katamari damaci, doop dee doo whaa, dadaaa dooo ba-baaa” Nice thing about this review is it made me go listen to the Katamari CD’s again :D

    Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 13:22.
    • Youles
      Member
      Since: Feb 2011

      There’s a CD?!??! Nah, ne na na na na nah nah, ne na, ne ne ne na nah!

      Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 13:32.
      • jikomanzoku
        Member
        Since: Jan 2010

        Hell yeah mate :D I’ve two of them and I assume there are probably more, worth the price of import for “Everlasting Love” alone in my opinion :D

        Look ‘em up on Ebay

        Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 14:18.
  6. Shakugan
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    NeverBuy.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 17:05.
  7. The Lone Steven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    That is a shame that it ended up being bad. Hang on, didn’t the developer say we could use a limb as a weapon?

    I may pick it up when it’s very very cheap as i can see it being a game that i would play when i can’t decide what game to play.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 17:26.
    • Forrest_01
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      I recall the ‘limb weapons’ thing too. No mention of that here though, so i am guessing that either that element was removed, or scaled back so far that it was barely mentionable.

      Also, i take it that this is a bad version of Devil May Cry then (Demon Hunter protagonist/Hack & Slash plus Gunplay etc)?

      Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 17:39.
    • Jim Hargreaves
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      Apologies for the omission.

      Bryce can tear off either one of his arms and throw them. However, aside from one boss battle, the ability has virtually no use whatsoever unless you buy the explosive limb perk/ability thingy. Even then it’s still not as good as the other weapons available.

      Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 18:07.
      • Forrest_01
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        Yeah, that was kinda what i thought – Thanks for the clarification. :)

        Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 18:15.
  8. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    Shame, I was hoping it would turn out much better.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 18:20.
  9. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Looked a bit crap from the trailers.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 19:21.
  10. aerobes
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    Nice idea and I’m still interested but I’ll throw it out of my mind until I see it for under $20.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2012 at 22:49.

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