August 27, 2011

Hands On with NeverDead

Filed under: Features — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 9:00 pm

NeverDead Hands On
Konami has no shortage of brands to call on when it comes to keeping the pixels moving and the store shelves stocked. The majority of their mainline brands read like the “who’s who” list from my childhood, and yet still find opportunities to remain relevant with new iterations in the here and now. With that in mind, NeverDead initially caught my attention as a curious ambition – a fresh IP digging for new tricks to create an original title that didn’t immediately leave me imagining an endless trail of sequels to follow.

The chance to step into Bryce’s immortal shoes recently lent a few more insights into how that ambition and collaboration with Rebellion is playing out, so let’s finally chew on matters of life, death, and Bryce’s unfortunate position between those two points.

NeverDead Hands On
A failed attempt to slay the Demon King has left Bryce cursed with immortality, which might not be so bad if he didn’t look like a man who’d been kicking around for hundreds of years, and also didn’t have to continually reattach or respawn the limbs regularly being torn from his body. Despite the weathering years, Bryce doesn’t enjoy a retirement lifestyle – there’s an immediate urgency to continual movement in the game, else players will find themselves reduced to scattered body parts repeatedly.

There’s also an immediate and ridiculous pleasure in the ability to tear one’s own limbs off, and even find oneself reduced to a head, rolling around to perform furious head attacks before reclaiming limbs or gaining time to regrow Bryce’s entire body anew – pressing down on the analog button to do so came in handy given the frequency by which I lost track of limbs along the way. Frantic attack strategies are the order of the day for the undead protagonist, who can catch fire to set enemies ablaze while unloading generous portions of ammunition.

Bryce wields a machine-gun and a pistol, with an absurd amount of bullets littering the environment, ensuring that players take a moment to appreciate just how much destruction can be unleashed at times. Dismembered bullet-spraying is a particularly humorous treat, achieved when Bryce’s head connects to an arm and the player can spin around in all directions to cover every angle with lead in the most ludicrous fashion imaginable.

NeverDead Hands On
There’s a loose play to these two weapons, almost ensuring that ammunition will destroy every area along with the demons infesting them – but should the bullet ballet ever grow tiring, players can also reach for Bryce’s sword as a secondary option. Swordplay introduces a control scheme that is certainly interesting, but could also prove problematic for some. To use the sword, players can lock onto a target (pressing L1 on a PS3 controller) and then swing the sword using the opposing analog stick. There’s an initial space for confusion there, toggling the analog and not producing any concrete results. And while it wasn’t long before I found the groove for slicing enemies like watermelons, it’s easy to see how a certain frustration could spawn there – particularly considering enemies that require being dispatched via sword dismemberment.

It’s by no means a deal breaker, and eventually lends a certain level of tactile pleasure, but it’s hard to think that design choice won’t turn some players off.

Enemy designs might follow suit in that regard, with many of the initial demons infesting my time with the game lacking a certain level of care and identity to match the otherwise unique quirks of NeverDead’s ambitions – a few looked like extras from Silent Hill titles, perhaps lifted from the cutting-room floor to see their fleshy inside-out skins shine in a new environment.

NeverDead Hands On
Bryce’s immortality is only challenged when he finds himself reduced to a rolling head, at which point he can be swallowed by demons. Naturally this raises the question of player motivation and mortality, which is unsurprisingly answered in the form of Bryce’s female partner, Arcadia. Her mortality keeps the player in-check, requiring them to never entirely lose sight of her, least she be felled by demons while the player is rolling Bryce’s head around ad nauseum. Thankfully, an icon will appear when she does fall victim to enemies, slowly filling with blood to signify the speed by which player’s need to reach and rescue her.

Looking over my measured appraisal so-far, I feel inclined to add that NeverDead remains high on my release radar this year – third-person action games that break the established molds even slightly are hard to come by, and few of those allow your entire body to be torn apart without showing technical glitches for the stress, which so far remain thankfully absent within NeverDead.

There’s something entirely special about the game. But gritty diamond in the rough that it is, I don’t suffer any delusions about everyone agreeing with me on that front. I will however persist in suggesting that everyone should spend at least a few minutes experiencing the dismemberment based shenanigans for themselves.


  1.  I agree with you. Game looks great and seems to add enough crazy to it all for me to buy it.

    Comment by EdEN — August 29, 2011 @ 5:54 pm

  2. Still looks like a day one purchase for me! Glad to hear it’s still on your list.

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — September 2, 2011 @ 8:02 pm

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