While discussing our current game rosters with my only in-real-life gamer friend, he acted surprised when I mentioned playing NeverDead. And if you’ve read anything about the reception of this game, you probably know why. Overall, NeverDead has received some lackluster scores. I knew this when I put the game on my rental list. However, the concept behind the game is so unique that I figured it couldn’t hurt to at least check it out & give the game a fair chance. What it worth it?
In NeverDead, you take the role of an undead demon hunter named Bryce Boltzmann. Bryce was “cursed” with immortality by the Demon King 500 years ago, when Bryce tried to kill him with the help of his wife. The Demon King killed Bryce’s wife before implanting Bryce with one of his eyes, making him immortal. The game proper starts in modern times with Bryce working as a sort of mercenary for a demon-hunting bureau alongside a female companion named Arcadia. But when demons start appearing in search of the first medium in 500 years, the only person who is capable of casting spells to kill demons permanently, the duo must work quickly to find and protect this person before they can be used to resurrect the Demon King.
NeverDead is an action game, switching between third-person shooting and melee combat. Bryce can wield a different gun in each hand as well as a sword. Certain enemies are immune to specific types of damage, so you’ll have to switch things up. Also, because Bryce is undead, he can’t die. No matter how many pieces his body is torn into, he can always regenerate. He can even still attack when his limbs aren’t attached anymore. Eventually you’ll be able to tear Bryce apart at will, launching arms and even his head around to suit your needs. You’ll also pick up experience, which you can use to buy new abilities, such as increasing your melee damage or making you run faster. However, you have a limited number of slots, & the more powerful abilities take up more slots.
Story: Overall, the plot of NeverDead struck me as a bit flimsy. It’s easy enough to follow. Demons invade city, protect girl, kill Demon King. But to me, it felt like the story was trying to be more than it was. The characters were trying to be quirky, interesting & have a dynamic relationship, but it just wasn’t there. The evolution of the relationships between characters feels forced. For instance, in the third level, where you’re trying to rescue the medium Nikki from the demons, the game is clearly trying to show how Arcadia grows to like the bratty girl. But the evolution just isn’t there. She just suddenly starts being nice to her. The same is true for the bond between Bryce & Arcadia. While it’s clear they’ve worked together a lot, their “banter” is not interesting, and the sudden closeness they have later in the game seems very contrived. And while we’re on the subject of Bryce, I felt that the game was trying to make him some tragic figure but it never came off too well. It was like his wife’s death was just a footnote they referenced every now & then. It was like, “Oh yeah, & his wife is dead.” So basically, the story is uninteresting & the characters are bland. Score: 2
Gameplay: I really feel like the developers had some great ideas for making a unique experience, but it suffered in the execution. The biggest problem I had is that Bryce comes apart too easily. Hitting me in the face with a table shouldn’t make my limbs go flying in all directions. All of the enemies can take you apart in a single hit. And why can’t I just run over my limbs to pick them up, why do I have to combat roll over them? On top of that, in every enemy encounter there are these pesky enemies called Grandbabies that will suck your head up if it’s unattached. The only way to escape its stomach is to do a QTE, but if you fail it once it’s an instant game over. You can’t even rid the field of the little buggers. You kill one & more respawn. The enemy spawners are a pain as well, taking a ridiculous amount of damage. Also, I don’t like using the right analogue stick to swing my sword. It feels wonky & I ended up just randomly flailing around. But it’s not all bad. Sometimes the game does make good use of Bryce’s undead abilities, like letting you tear off your arm to play fetch with the Puppies to distract them or lighting yourself on fire & then shooting flaming bullets. I also really liked the boss battles. They were fast-paced & all required a unique strategy that wasn’t too challenging to figure out. Finally, I have to give the game credit that they didn’t make the bits with Arcadia feel like a long escort mission. For the most part, Arcadia took care of herself & kept the demons busy while I hacked away at the monster spawners. So overall, the few good point were drowned out by the frustration of combat. Score: 2
Visuals & Audio: The game was pretty standard in both aspects. The cutscenes looked nice, although a few of the demon bosses looked like they were made out of Styrofoam. The level design wasn’t too interesting aside from a few sequences, like the bridge section where you have to dodge cars, but the destructibility of the environments is a nice touch. And I have to give the game credit, although there aren’t a lot of enemy types, they’re all pretty unique. I can’t say I’ve ever fought a walking rocket launcher (it reminded me of the arachnids from Starship Troopers). I can’t recall anything specific about the music, but the voice acting is okay. I especially liked Bryce’s boss, Sullivan’s, voice. Score: 3
Replayability: Low. Once you beat the game you can replay it with your purchased abilities, & there are multiplayer challenges, but I never tried these. I had to force myself to finish the game, so I predict that most people will only make it through once at the most. Score: 2
Overall Score: 2
Final Word: NeverDead is a game that tries too hard to be a lot of things & doesn’t really pull any of them off. It has good ideas but poor implementation. At most I can only recommend it as a rent if you’re curious.
Title: NeverDead Console: 360 & PS3
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Release Date: January 31, 2012