NeverDead – Review & Game Analysis
By Patrick Newman
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Director: Shinta Nojiri
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Rebellion’s third-person actioner NeverDead features a smattering of details that would seem to elevate it above your typical horror-based hack-and-slash, such as a pounding soundtrack by Megadeth, an engine that revolves around the sickeningly creative ways characters can be hacked to pieces, and a dark, intense story involving revenge beyond the mortal realm. However, the resulting game, which merges unique new game mechanics with a well-worn, sadly unoriginal plot is an experience that is at once overly homogenized and a failure in its introduction of the innovative elements.
The story revolves around a wise cracking demon hunter named Bryce Boltzmann, who works with fellow Private Investigator Arcadia Maximille. His nemesis is Astaroth, who not only murdered Bryce’s wife, but gouged out one of Bryce’s eyes and then cursed him with immortality for 500 years. The game drops its revenge-driven narrative into a survival-horror universe in which both Bryce and Arcadia have to team up and save their city from a demonic invasion. Where the story falls short is in its crushingly clichéd protagonists, with Bryce giving us no emotional entry point into his grief over his dead wife, and Arcadia functioning basically as a large-busted mannequin.
While the genre and gameplay mechanics call to mind such horror-action combos as Devil May Cry, the poorly-conceived controls and camera placement, not to mention the lack of any memorable gameplay environments, make it a plodding effort to complete. Generically-titled “Collectibles” are scattered throughout eight levels with equally generic stage titles (“Subway” and “Destroyed Streets” come to mind). Ultimately, NeverDead features a startling lack of artfulness when it comes to the superficial renderings of its worlds.
The central gimmick of NeverDead is that Bryce, being immortal, can lose limbs in battle and then regain them by rolling, walking, or crawling into the severed parts. Though this functions fine as just that – a gimmick – this garish game of Mr. Potato Head is hardly an essential element of the gameplay, failing to rise above the level of a side amusement as the typical, non-cover-based third person shooter tropes unfold with expected regularity. In fact, the limb-switching mechanic can sometimes create a serious barrier to enjoying the game, such as when the rag-doll mechanics block limbs from re-attaching during crucial moments in combat.
The hardly startling demonic antagonists of the game spawn at random throughout each map, once again calling to mind the much better supernatural shoot-em-ups Devil May Cry or Bayonetta. A rhythm to combat sequences develops that becomes tiring, usually beginning with some of Megadeth’s musical histrionics, followed shortly thereafter by the expected limb-losing and artless gunplay. The boss fights have a similarly blasé quality, due to failures in design on both a mechanical and aesthetic level, requiring a combination of dodging, occasional platform-leaping, and the usual weapons combat. Since NeverDead is primarily an action game, this mass of problems plaguing the combat sequences makes for a disenchanting experience all around.
Though NeverDead’s top quality upgrade system, which allows you to shift supernatural abilities at any time, takes some of the edge off of the thudding gameplay, ultimately, Rebellion’s newest entry into the horror-action genre falls flat. With an uninspired script (heavy on unimpressive wisecracks) and reflective surrounding gameplay environments, NeverDead takes source material that should be dark, intense and exciting, and renders it as a dull retread of better titles from years past.
Post your comments directly below! You can also discuss the latest MMA & Video Game News in the PunchDrunkGamer Forums and don’t forget to Follow PDG on Twitter @PunchDrunkGamer and Like the PDG Official Facebook Page!