|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Rebellion Developments|
|Release: TBA 2012|
|Players: 1-4 (Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
NeverDead has to be the weirdest action game I played at E3 this year. The premise: you are a demon hunter named Bryce Boltzmann who was cursed with immortality by a demon you were hunting way back in the medieval era. Through your centuries of immortality, you have become somewhat of a jaded, cigar-smoking jerk. Now, it's the present day and you're heading off with your new partner, a girl named Arcadia, to kick some demon ass all over again. Sounds cool enough to me.
Bryce's immortality is actually the central gameplay mechanic of NeverDead. You see, not only does Bryce never die, he also never feels pain. In fact, his curse is so complete that he's actually able to heal at Wolverine-like speeds. So getting attacked by enemies poses no real threat to Bryce. The worst thing that can happen is that he'll lose a limb or two. Getting hit with an extremely powerful attack (say by demon wielding a gigantic scythe) can make Bryce loose parts of his body. When he does, he loses use of whatever he was using that body part for. Get an arm chopped off and you'll lose access to the weapon you were holding. Get a leg chopped off and you'll move slower as you hop around on one. You can even have all your limbs get chopped off and wander around as a flopping torso or a disembodied rolling head.
Luckily enough, you can reattach your limbs if you find them again, and this is actually pretty easy. Each limb is marked clearly on the map with a bright blinking indicator. If you find one, all you have to do is dodge-roll over it and it will reattach itself to Bryce right away, as good as new. If your limbs are out of reach, you can simply regenerate them by holding in the left thumb stick, however, you have to be out of battle range in order to do this. If you are stuck in battle, then you can actually make your disembodied limbs explode like a bomb on command, doing massive damage to surrounding enemies. Hopefully, this will give you enough space and time to regenerate your body.
What's hilarious is that your limbs don't have to come off by accident. In fact, there are plenty of puzzle-solving elements in NeverDead which ask you to do things like pull off your own head in order to roll it through an air duct, only so that you can regenerate on the other side. While in battle, you can choose to rip off limbs in order to distract enemies. Throw your arm and hellhounds will chase after it, only to explode into bits when you detonate it afterward. It's rather comical, actually, and I never got tired of seeing Bryce yanking off his own body parts.
Since you are basically immortal, the game has to have some other sort of lose condition. In NeverDead, you can lose in one of two ways. You can either let your sidekick Arcadia die, or you can be forever trapped in a position where you can't regenerate the rest of your body. Thankfully, neither happens all that often. Arcadia can easily take care of herself and generally ends up being an asset rather than a liability. In fact, she routinely sees enemies that you cannot, cluing you to their positions. Bryce, on the other hand, can only be prevented from regenerating if he is reduced to nothing but a head, he is far away from his other body parts, and a demon either eats his head or carries it away. If that happens, the game considers is a stalemate and thus assumes that Arcadia will die eventually, so it gives you a game over.
Bryce has two modes of attack: ranged mode and melee mode. In ranged mode, each of the triggers makes Bryce fire the gun he is holding in each of his hands. While running, both reticles tend to be spread far apart, making it hard to get a lot of damage in on one enemy. While standing still, though, Bryce's aim gets better and your bullet barrage does far more damage. He starts with dual pistols, but as the game goes on, he can pick up better weapons for each hand. No, he doesn't have to use the same weapon in both hands; a simple sub-machine gun/pistol combo worked well enough for me.
To activate melee mode, you have to lock on to a target. At that point, flicking the right analog stick causes Bryce to swing his sword around (rather than aim, which is what it does in ranged mode.) Unfortunately, this is the part of the game I liked the least. Flicking the right analog stick isn't very accurate as an attack input, and while it makes the game feel hectic, I found that it was very hard to get my attacks to respond properly. Some enemies can only be taken out with your sword, which is annoying because I actually found myself defaulting to my firearms whenever I could.
Overall, however, NeverDead is a lot of fun. It's a tongue-in-cheek take on the action genre with a main character whose power is literally getting hacked to bits. It's probably not going to be the next Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, but it's going to be worth a bit of your time when it releases next year.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
CCC Contributing Writer