Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: Single player campaign, 2-4 online.
What if you really were really invincible, indestructible, like a modern day Captain Scarlet, only a lot grungier and not a puppet with visible strings? Bryce Boltzmann (yes, that really is our hero’s name) is immortal, made to walk the Earth for 500 years as a punishment for attempting to kill Astaroth, the King of the Demons.
This punishment is dealt out by Astaroth after a battle that cost Bryce an eye and the life of his beloved wife. In the intervening years Bryce has become dependent on alcohol to dull the pain, and has now been recruited by NADA (the National Anti-Demon Agency) to hunt for demons and remove them from the Earth by any means available.
As the most bizarre immortal I’ve ever seen Bryce can literally be torn limb from limb, so that his head, legs, arms and torso are all separate elements. This happens frequently unless you play in an extremely cautious and boring way, and when Bryce’s bodyparts are spread akimbo like this you remain in control of Bryce’s head, and can roll and jump it around the level, accessing areas too small to get into with a whole body and solving simple puzzles. Later on you can also unlock the ability to detach an arm and throw it, attracting the Puppy demons and retaining the ability to fire the weapon in Bryce’s detached hand. Bryce’s arms and legs can even be used as grenades or mines.
The action is often too frantic and up-close for firearms so Bryce is often (and depending on the type of demon) better off using his Butterfly Blade sword, locking on to enemies with the left trigger and moving the right stick up/down or left/right to slash 'em. Bryce also has a kick or head butt (left stick click) but this seems virtually pointless.
All of the weapons are upgradeable and so is Bryce, but the restrictive number of ability slots is a necessary RPG-style annoyance. With every upgrade available Bryce would be too powerful, so while you’ll have to discard some spectacular and handy powers along the way, it’s worth experimenting as you unlock new ones. This does however add an RPG element to an action shooter that didn’t really need it and this need to balance powerful attacks with tough defence and other abilities (like a Max Payne bullet time-style upgrade that automatically slows the action down when you’re in danger) is highly reminiscent of Devil May Cry at times.
Brief lulls in the action while you explore a new area soon come to a clattering end when the demons start to spawn, and the first task is to find their Womb spawn points and destroy them, or they will literally keep coming forever. The levels are a mixture of bland everyday locations, supplemented with some truly awesome set piece moments that are over far too quickly compared to the repetitive nature of the vast majority of the game’s fighting action.
NeverDead’s problems are with the aforementioned repetition in the run & gun gameplay (there’s nothing as clever as Gears of War’s cover mode, so it’s mostly circle-strafing) and its linear, samey levels, uninspiring upgrades and a less than elegant sword fighting mechanic. The game also has regular cut-scenes and the banter is corny and actually quite painful to listen to (I often wonder how they actually get real actors to say dialogue when it sounds so daft or hackneyed), but at least it’s not as bad as the music, which you will need to turn down or off unless your idea of aural pleasure is a particular breed of ear-rending cack most often played in Guantánamo Bay to force confessions from suspected terrorists.
And finally, it may have been intentional but anti-hero Bryce also comes off as a complete umm... wanker, he’s not easy to like and comes with a gobful of frequently repeated wisecracks and a personality and attitude that may have you willing the demons to win.
- Interesting, if contrived gameplay gimmick.
- The gimmick's potential never seems to be reralised.
- Some fussy collision detection.
- The upgradeable firearms are disappointingly weak at the start.
- Twitchy, glitchy camera when in “head” mode.
- Samey, closed-in and linear gameplay feels old.
- Aiming is broken and switches targets arbitrarily.