The first time I saw the trailer for NeverDead – the latest third person action game from Konami and Rebellion Development – I just knew I had to get my hands on it. It had such a uniqueness to it that’s quite difficult to describe, but between the outlandish characters and the premise of immortality, there was something there. It looked strange, it looked fun, and it looked explosive. What was particularly strange was that I usually don’t go for these types of games – hack ‘n’ slash games with a bit of gunplay, like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry. Will NeverDead reign immortal among these titles, or will it die before its time?
NeverDead revolves around the life of Bryce Boltzmann – a demon hunter cursed with immortality. Five hundred years ago he fought a handful of demons, only to be defeated in the final battle. Fast forward to the present day, he now works for the government with Arcadia – whose beauty is only matched by her coldness. Together they hunt down demons who are invading the city while trying to protect civilians and stop literal hell on Earth. The story is kind of blah – but the characters, oh man, do they more than make up for it. Every single character you meet is a caricature and, while that would normally make me groan, the characters are almost aware of how ridiculous they are. When an ally turns on you at the end, he turns to you and says “how could you not see I was the bad guy?” I’m not sure if this is just a clever ploy used to make me ignore the terrible writing – but if it is, it worked.
The thing that drew me into NeverDead – and kept me going – was the unique way that they represented your life bar. Since you’re immortal and therefore cannot die the designers came up with something fantastic. When you get hurt body parts fly off in different directions. You can either wait for a moment for the parts to regrow, or you can try and pick up the pieces of you that have fallen off. You can get down to being just a head – and this is where the danger comes in. Little demons run around the battlefield eating your body parts, but if they get a hold of your head, you’ll be digested in their stomach for eternity. The immortality isn’t just used in combat – it’s also useful in solving different puzzles that would be quite difficult for a mortal. For instance – let’s say you have to get over a wall that’s impossible to scale. Well, just rip off your head and toss it over! Or maybe there’s a wire with a broken connection and nothing around to connect it. That’s no problem for you – just grab a hold of the wires and act as a connection yourself!
The combat was kind of a pain in the ass to use most of the time. You can either run in, guns blazing, or you can swing a sword around chopping foes in half. There are cons to both and not a lot of pros to either. I almost always ran into a fight with my sword over guns though, simply because it’s a superior weapons. The guns have really poor aim mechanics, do almost no damage (some enemies are immune to them), and you can’t really run out of sword bullets. The problem with using the sword all the time though is that you’re constantly getting your limbs chopped off. At least losing an arm with a sword doesn’t cut your power in half – you just can’t block anymore. Not that you were blocking anyways. Basically your options were to ineffectually shoot demons for hours or to try and cut them down only to be rolling around as a head most of the fight.
NeverDead is an inherently bad game. Every fiber of my being tells me this, only I can’t help but have insane amounts of fun with it. It’s an incredible blend of awkward controls, frustrating gameplay, predictable storylines, and stereotyped characters. And yet it works. At least, it works for me. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun with a game this technically imperfect. It’s the same kind of feeling I get from watching a Schwarzenegger film – not quite intellectually stimulating but full of “OH MAN THAT WAS AWESOME” moments. Despite all of its flaws, I highly recommend that everyone play NeverDead at least once in their life, even if it’s later when you can buy it used for less.