NeverDead review

NeverDead is a new franchise published by Konami and developed by Rebellion and features protagonist and 500 year old cursed demon hunter Bryce Boltzmann working for an agency to rid hotspots of demon invasion. The game offers a third persons action game but with a twist in that Bryce cannot be killed. With such a unique spin on a popular gaming theme, does immortality work or is it a gimmick that fails to impress.

Gameplay has Bryce and his obligatory and somewhat weak sidekick Arcadia work together to tackle demon infestations within a modern city. Primarily it involves a repeated process of killing enemies by use of swords or various firearms, however from experience and unless a requirement the melee combat is much more rewarding than using the pea shooter like weapons on offer. Bryce can dual wield weapons but sadly ammo has to be found for them and due to the large numbers of enemies that spawn in continuously unless you knock out the spawning creature, you’ll be eating up bullets pretty rapidly. There are ammo packs which can be collected, but for the more powerful arms, these aren’t as plentiful as hoped. Switching between guns and sword is as easy as pressing a single button, but there’s no real flamboyancy such as being able to perform combos. So at a basic level it’s merely shoot and evade roll, or hack, slash and evade roll. There is a lock-on which snaps to the nearest foe and allows you to circle an enemy but this can be awkward when there are many critters coming from all angles. The sword play requires deft movements using the right thumb stick giving players control over power and direction of strikes.

What sets the game apart from similar action themed games is the fact that Bryce’s immortality plays a large part in the gameplay. What happens throughout each encounter – aside from some massive destruction of the scenery – are moments when attacks or the environment leave Bryce worse for wear. This translates to losing an arm, or perhaps both, losing legs or even the entire body leaving a head. Once this happens Bryce has the task of rolling into the dismembered body parts to regain them. Sounds easy, but the game constantly throws in little enemies who serve one purpose but to eat any body parts including the head. Once the head has been sucked in, player are then required to complete a mini game of hitting a button at the right time or die and have to start at the last checkpoint. It’s a bit cheap and basically means Bryce can die after all – the same can be said if his partner gets killed. Therefore the effect of being immortal is somewhat lost.

Bryce’s limbs do play a pivotal role in how levels are navigated. Aside from killing set numbers of enemies to open barred doors, there’s a minor puzzle element where throwing body parts to reach higher places, or using the head only to navigate through vent shafts is key to progression. These parts break up the action sequences but are in no way taxing enough to be considered a distraction. There’s some interesting scenarios to tackle, but ultimately they become tiresome after a while as you perform the same actions over and over.

Bryce is able to upgrade his character abilities by spending XP gained from killing and completion of tasks. Standard options such as increased weapons of blade power are on offer and are something to work towards when fighting the masses of low level enemies and boss characters. You’re able to replay levels over and over to effectively farm XP if you desire.

Graphically the game looks pretty polished with some neat lighting and soft looking tones. There’s some weird designs for the enemies, but then again this is about demons and so is fitting. Bryce and his companion are well animated, and the CGI cutscenes aid in filling in the story which looks at Bryce’s past endeavours when he was younger. There were moments of slowdown when things got hectic, and on one occasion a head fell through the floor and excited the level requiring a restart. The biggest issue is the head getting stuck in debris, or the camera not giving enough view when up close to larger foes. This causes problems and makes it tough to see what’s happening as you’re dismembered for the millionth time.

The audio is pretty solid with some neat banter between the two leading characters and one starlet later on in the game. That said, the music can grate and despite Megadeath providing their talents to the main theme, the rock inspired soundtrack will either have you reaching for the mute slider, or turning up the speakers. The rest of the audio is standard fare, but Bryce’s repeated comments when dismembered does get repetitive.

NeverDead offers a reasonably lengthy single player campaign, which will keep you entertained through its varied locales and changing demons. There’s a multiplayer component as well but unless you have friends who also own the game then don’t expect to spend much time here as there were little to no players online at the time of writing.

NeverDead is an interesting concept that perhaps becomes its own nightmare because not enough is done to keep the core gameplay fresh. You’ve seen most of what the game offers in the first few hours of play, and are then subjected to the same repeated theme. If you like action games then this is worth checking out as a rental but the biggest problem is how easily it sits at average and nothing more which is shame because with some better combat and different themes this could have been a much more rewarding experience.

 

5/10

Written by: Rob Cram

Rob Cram has hundreds of video game reviews, thousands of articles under his belt with years of experience in gaming and tech. He aims to remain fair and free from publisher/developer influence. With his extensive knowledge, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement with his views are entirely optional. He might have a bias towards cyberpunk.

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