Oh, Konami. Always trying to branch out with new game ideas. We admire that, but the execution of some of these games leave something to be desired. Case in point – NeverDead, the brain child of producer Shinta Nojiri and the team at Rebellion Developments, had a unique head on its shoulders – literally – and then fell apart at the seams – also literally.
The game features a demon hunter named Bryce Boltzmann, a guy who’s drowned himself in alcohol for years as he’s killed his fair share of monsters. And for good reason, as a demon lord named Astaroth (not to be confused with the SoulCalibur character) has killed his wife and cursed him with immortality. Sure, he can’t die, but for some god given reason, his limbs can pop off with the lightest of contact, making him vulnerable in the heat of battle. That isn’t stopping him, though, especially when Astaroth launches a full scale fight against the city with his demon armada. Thirsty for revenge (and a stable body structure), Bryce and his partner, Arcadia, set out on their mission.
What bothers me about NeverDead is how the gameplay falls apart. It’s not one single aspect of the game that bugs me, but multiple parts that combine together in a spectacularly collapsible manner. It’s repetitive, as you’ll either shoot or slice your way through each stage with barely anything to change it up (save for interesting “head games”, like launching your skull through a basketball hoop); and it’s also extremely problematic. When it comes to guns, they aren’t nearly powerful enough, as most enemies can take a few hits before they finally meet their maker. The swordplay isn’t much better, requiring you to hold down a shoulder button and jerk your analog stick in multiple directions to effectively slash at anything; and then there’s the matter of your limbs completely falling off and lying there. You have to roll over them in order to get them reattached, and with enemies about, that’s not the easiest thing to do.
Worse yet, there are moments when you fall completely apart, and you’re just in control of your defenseless head, rolling around. This introduces the most frustrating part of the game, where you play tap-tap button mash games trying to fend off something that’s trying to eat it. How you can fend it off is beyond me, and why you would want to continue doing so is another question in itself.
The single player campaign does last a few hours, and once you get through it, you can take on smaller missions with friends through online co-op. But considering how miserable the gameplay gets, we can’t wonder why you would drag others into this. Maybe as some measure of revenge or something…
Another problem with NeverDead is its presentation. Some of the demon-infested worlds look okay, and the way you can destroy items in the environment is innovative, but the camera work is awful. By the time you see certain enemies around a corner, it’s too late, and you lose a leg in the process. What’s more, slowdown constantly enters the picture, making it disorienting at times to get a bead on enemies right in front of you. And some of these character designs are truly hideous. Bryce is definitely no Dante.
As for sound, it’s acceptable in some parts, hideous in others. The Megadeth title track is sustainably rock-worthy, and the soundtrack is loaded with equally good death metal. But the voicework is horrible, between the lazy sounding Bryce and the whiny Arcadia. The demons barely make a peep themselves, and the sound effects are typical, at best.
We had high hopes for NeverDead, especially after seeing it at E3, but the end result falls apart as quickly as Bryce does. The gameplay never really develops a structure that leads to any fun, and the presentation’s flaws are hard to overlook. You should easily brush this zombie killer aside in favor of Dante, even if that means reverting back to Devil May Cry 4. Hey, at least you can hit something in that game…
[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]