NeverDead Xbox 360 Review
NeverDead is Konami's ambitious action game with the unique premise of the hero being incapable of death, although your limbs and head can be severed you can re attach them and keep fighting. NeverDead sets out to be a third person sword fighting, duel welding shooter hybrid with a interesting story similar to Devil May Cry, Bayaonetta, or Ninja Gaiden. Unfortunately NeverDead doesn't even come close to the fun or quality of those games, making it a disappointing experience.
The story of NeverDead starts out with monster hunter Bryce fighting the demon Astaroth, and failing. As punishment Astaroth curses Bryce with immortality and invincibility. This doesn't seem so bad but without the help of a extinct psychic familiar Bryce can't kill Astaroth, much less get to him. 500 years go by and now packs of demons roam the city's streets causing chaos. To combat this a organization called MRD is formed where Bryce works at, still killing monsters and is the top field agent. Bryce and his shrill female partner Arcadia respond to a disturbance at the museum where they must protect the whiny pop idol Nikki. The story of the game seems interesting but moves slowing and has a weak payoff. It seems like most of the plot is front loaded and nothing important happens or is revealed until the final boss fight. The plot is also very predictable. I also must say that Bryce's and Arcadia's banter during levels often comes off a hostile to the point where there's a incongruity about them caring about each other's safety or even working together at all. Dialogue in the game is also poorly written, perhaps due to a bad translation. The effect is characters don't talk naturally in the game, they over explain and ramble on about their feelings, make jokes that aren't funny and awkwardly use inappropriate synonyms in sentences. It gets to the point where I prefer to have the sound off, mainly due to the constant annoying banter between Bryce and Arcadia during gameplay.
NeverDead is a combat hybrid action game. On one hand it's a pretty good third person shooter, and it's also a spastically controlled hack and slash. The failure to organically mix the two style of combat like in Devil May Cry or Bayaonetta is the game's main problem. Shooting feels powerful, is precise and during boss fights is fairly forgiving. You always duel wield guns in the game, and can switch out what weapon you use in each hand. The only problem with the shooting is that each gun has its own off center reticule when moving that makes it difficult to aim, until you get the essential "Mono Sights" upgrade half way thru the game which makes the reticule centered in the screen for both weapons, like every third person shooter ever made. Using your sword is just incredibly poorly thought out. Unlike in other games where you press one or two face buttons for different sword attacks, here you have to hold down the left trigger and then move the right stick back and forth hoping it connects. The sword attacks very slowly, can only be used at point blank range which leaves you wide open and to make matters worse it only connects about 30% of the time. Why can't the upward sword attack be mapped to the Y button and horizontal slashes to B, those buttons aren't used for anything and that would be infinitely better.
So you're probably thinking, if using the sword sucks so much why not just be trigger happy and go guns blazing? The problem is that at the beginning of the game guns do 20% the damage the sword does, ammo is scares, and half the enemies in the game are immune to guns. So you might as well use the terrible sword especially since you'll probably get hit the same amount regardless of what weapon you use. Also contributing to the game's poor combat is the repetition of fighting the same three or four enemies hundreds of times throughout the game. The most common enemies, are roaming packs of hippo like demons, that charge and jump at you. There are four varieties, each bigger than the last, and the most annoying being the third version which explodes when killed, because the blast usually makes your limbs go flying everywhere. The second most common enemy are thin tripod looking enemies with guillotines for heads. They of course want to decapitate you and severed your limbs, but what's most annoying is that they are immune to gun attacks and can even block sword attacks frequently. There are two other varieties, that replaced the guillotine head with a gun turret or a missile launcher. Both the hippos and tripods will spawn infinitely if there is enemy generator in the room. What's most annoying about enemy generators is that you can only attack them when their mouth is open and they only open their mouth to spew out more enemies. Every room in the game also has these little balls with vacuum cleaner mouths called grand babies that roll round the floor waiting to suck in Bryce's decapitated head as you try to maneuver it back to your torso. If you are unfortunate enough to be sucked in, there'll be a QTE where you'll have to then have to press the A button when it lines up with the green area of a bar to escape. Failure to do so, or pressing at them the wrong time will result in a game over, and you'll be forced to restart at the last checkpoint, which is usually at the beginning of the current room or battle. Occasionally you'll also ran into flying harpy like demons that oddly shoot projectiles with the impact force of sniper rifles. Thankfully these enemies are easily dispatched with simple gunfire, and will rarely hit you as long as you don't stand in one place for too long.
Bosses in the game generally look cool, but aren't really that fun to fight. Usually they have a typical pattern of being invincible until their shield goes down, and then you can shoot or slash them until their shield goes back up. Then repeat the process until they're dead. I've always hated "Wait until there're vulnerable to attack" boss fights since there really isn't much strategy or variation to them. Breaking from the formula a bit there are few bosses were you must shoot them until their health gets low enough, and then finish them off with sword attacks. But if you take too long switching to your sword they'll regenerate their health and you'll have to start the process again. This is made especially frustrating due to limited ammo and frequent dismemberments. Also several bosses appear multiple times in the game, which I always think is rather lazy.
The gimmick and main selling point of NeverDead is the game's unique health system. Unlike in most games where when you take damage when it your health bar will decrease, you lose a hart or on the screen blurs red, taking damaged in NeverDead will usually result in Bryce losing a limb, or being decapitated. In most games that would kill you and you have to restart the level, but in NeverDead you can continue fighting by collecting your severed limbs or reconnecting your disembodied head to your torso. Walking in fire, might make Bryce comment that he's in pain, or temporarily collapse on the ground. A single attack from enemy will likely sever one or two appendages. Getting hit by charging enemy or explosion usually results in Bryce being instagibbed with all his limbs, torso, and head flying into the air in different directions. This sounds like a great idea on paper, but it is poorly executed. It seems like that at some point during development, they realized that the mechanic made the game too easy, so they decided to compensate for this by making enemies very aggressive and attack you in swarms, where no sooner do you reconnect a limb, then two or three go flying off from another enemy attack. It's incredibly frustrating when you are forced to recollect your limbs for twentieth time when fighting a group of just five enemies, and then when you finally defeat them and move on to another room with five enemies where you'll lose your limbs another 30 times. Losing an arm or a leg is bad, since it will decrease your attack or movements speed. What's worse though is if you lose both of your arms then you can't attack at all and if you lose both your legs you'll be forced to crawl on the ground, and you'll only be able to shoot directly in front of you at ground level. Worse still is when you're head gets severed from your body and you'll have to slowly roll your head back to your torso, while avoiding having your head eaten by the omnipresent threat of the evil grandbaby enemies that could cause you to restart the area. You also have a dash attack to try to help you escape the grandbabies as you roll around, but it makes the controls even worse, and you'll often overshoot your torso and make it take longer to reconnect. When you're just a head rolling around you can collect all your appendages, but you can't use them without your torso. What I really hate about the game is how picky it is about lining up your head and torso. Your head has to be right next to the torso's neck stump in order for it to reconnect. To make matters worse your torso's neck stump is curved upward high enough off the ground that your head can't reach it without jumping. Then if that was wasn't enough debris and enemies will often block the neck stump preventing you from connecting back to your body. No sooner than you reunite your head to your body then it be disconnected once again by one of the pesky camping enemies, and it will take another minute or two to be whole again and continue fighting. You would think that reattaching limbs would be the simple matter of walking over them, and it is when you are just a head. However if you're still standing, or even just a head and a torso, you'll have to dodge roll over your severed limbs to reconnect them. The problem is that they only reconnect about half of the time. You have to be very precise when rolling onto the limb for it to attach, and if you're even a little bit off to the left or right it won't reattach. What makes things even worse is the game's terrible physics. Bryce's body seems to have the density and mass of a party balloon, and even bumping into a enemy will make your limbs go flying half a mile in all directions, which makes the grueling task of retrieving them even more tedious. Sometimes your limbs will even fly out of the 3D environment, or a grandbaby will eat them, with both scenarios making them unrecoverable. The designers must of noticed this, so they gave you the ability to magically regenerate all your missing limbs, by simply clicking the left stick. This sounds great, but you can only automatically regenerate about once every two minutes, even if you're immediately instagibbed after regenerating. With upgrades is possible to shorten the cool down time for automatically regenerating, but it will still be at least 20 seconds.
Levels in the game look good, but aren't designed memorably. It seems like after the first few rooms of a level you'll have seen it all, even though they're still 30 or 40 rooms to go. The only standout area I thought was level six, which starts out on the freeway, then a back alley, a plaza, a mansion and finally a boss fight in a church. Every other level the game is set almost entirely in one location, a insane asylum, a museum, a police station, subway tunnels, city streets, and everyone's favorite; a sewer level. Most of the areas in the game are at least partially destructible, usually walls or decorations and sometimes when you're lined up correctly you can even kill enemies with falling debris, but I find this hard to do. There are also many gas canisters and explodeing barrels found in most rooms in the game that are meant to help you to clear out the enemies, but usually causes a accidental chain reaction that results in you being instagibbed and thrown to the other side of the map. Usually once or twice in a level you'll come across a puzzle that will usually involve you detaching and moving your head or arm to access a unreachable area and opening a door. With the exception of the sewer level's puzzle most are easily solved, and they are an interesting diversion from the regular gameplay. Even though the levels usually only take about 40 minutes to complete they almost always overstay their welcome due to the monotonous backdrops, and frustrating repetitive combat.
Most of the time Bryce's partner Arcadia will follow you around barking orders and occasionally shooting enemies and opening doors. I would say that's she's fairly conpendent at least when it comes to staying alive, but sometimes she'll get stuck in the terrain, or take too much damage and you'll have one minute to revive her, which can get annoying especially in the subway level, where she tends to get repeatedly run over by trains. I
Like most modern action games NeverDead also has a complicated system to upgrade your abilities. There are about 50 abilities in the game, and eventually you'll have twelve slots to use them. The tricky part is that the more useful abilities take up multiple slots such as two or five slots, so you can't have all your abilities at once. Examples of various abilities include; increasing the attack power of your guns, increasing the force that pushes back enemies when you shoot them, decreasing or removing targeting reticule separation while duel welding, dual wielding rfgtrftg increasing the attack power of your sword, increasing the range of your sword's attack but oddly slowing it down, giving your sword a charge attack, increase your speed, increased the height of your jump, increasing the amount of damage debris destruction does to enemies, heal allies by shooting them, makes setting yourself on fire or getting electrocuted give your ammunition flame or electrical properties, use your severed limbs as grenades, make it easier to get dismembered, make it harder to get dismembered, or get more experience by defeating enemies. Upgrades must be unlocked by completing levels and then be purchased with experience points acquired by killing demons or finding collectibles in the environment. Some upgrades are very expensive and cost one million experience points or more, and some of the more useful abilities are not unlocked until you beat the game. You can replay any level or restart the game at higher difficulty and you'll keep all the abilities you already acquired or unlocked. You'll usually get about two million experience points for beating a level, but because most of the upgrades are so expensive you'll have to grind through the levels many times to affordable them all.
The last thing I'll mention about the gameplay itself is that the games camera is terrible and often spins around, when your limbs are suddenly severed, which makes me dizzy, and even nauseous after only a few hours of play.
The multiplayer mode in NeverDead is weird. It can't seem to decide whether or not it's competitive or cooperative. In the base game there are 15 multiplayer missions, plus three more added by the first DLC pack. There are five different game types spread out over the missions, which are; checkpoint race, egg hunt, onslaught, onslaught arena, and escort the survivors. In a checkpoint race players compete in what essentially amounts to roaming hill king of the hill. Large markers will appear on the ground where a player must stand for a certain amount of time, and not let any enemies enter the circle. Oddly there is a second type of marker that you only have to run thru to get a point. The player to get all 22 markers first wins. In Egg hunt players must search a level for one of 15 golden eggs hidden throughout the area, and then return them to the goal for points. I have to be honest, and admit that I don't really know the difference between onslaught and onslaught arena. I do know that in both players work together by killing all the enemies in a level that spawn in waves. The waves of enemies of course get increasingly more difficult, with eventually sub bosses showing up. There is also a time limit for clearing all the waves and failing to do so will restart the match back at wave one. The worst game types is certainly escort the survivors. As the name implies several human civilians are trapped within a level. They can't fight back, and the players must work together in order to escort each survivor to goal without them being killed by the seemingly endless barrage of enemies. What makes this so difficult is that unlike in the single player game, you can't revive survivors, and you must save the survivors in a specific order so that doors will unlock, give you access to the next civilian to rescue. Thankfully not all survivors must be safe in order to complete the level, but it's still way too difficult to keep them alive. You pretty much have to use the upgrade ability to heal allies with your gun's bullets to have any shot at getting a good score. By default there are four playable characters in the multiplayer mode, modern Bryce, flashback Bryce, Alex, Arcadia, and with the first DLC pack you can also play as Nikki. Both Bryces and Alex can be used on any level, can select any weapon, use upgrade ability's from the single player, and have the same dismemberment play mechanic found in the single player. Arcadia and Nikki however can only be used on the onslaught and escort the survivors missions. To make matters worse, there are both only armed with a single machine gun, which despite having infinite ammo, must be reloaded very frequently. They also can't use upgrade abilities, and since they're not "immortals" they can't be dismembered so the game's health system is thrown out, and you have no way of telling how much health they currently have. Eventually Arcadia or Nikki will be knocked down, and any other players in the match will have about one minute to revive you before you die for good, and you are left once you are left spectating the rest of the match. So outside of the novelty of playing as them, you shouldn't choose Arcadia or Nikki. All multiplayer missions can be played by two to four players. Since its difficult to find people to join games in the first place, I recommend creating matches with a two player limit because few people are patient enough to wait for full matches of four. I don't think that matches can be joined in progress, and the main appeal of the multiplayer mode is that you can gain more experience points to buy upgrade abilities for the single player. Unfortunately however it seems like you are only awarded the experience in the competitive missions if you come in first place, and regardless of what type of mission it is or how well you did the experience you gain is negligible, at only a few thousand. Considering that completing most levels in the single player will net you between one and two million experience points, playing multiplayer certainly isn't the fastest way to buy all the upgrades in the game. Multiplayer mode is fairly fun though, especially since the very annoying grand baby enemies that eat your head aren't in it. I have trouble doing well at the multiplayer, since the various missions are better suited to certain ability load outs than the others, and you can only change your abilities in the multiplier menu and the pregame lobby, and not during a match. As an example in onslaught game types it's a better idea to focus on sword and gun attack increased upgrades, whereas in escort the survivors, and egg hunt, it would be prudent to put emphasis on speed and defense increasing abilities. This problem would be solved by allowing you to have multiple custom ability load outs like most other first person shooter games have now a days. I didn't notice any lag while playing online, but the movement of other players did appear to be choppy, but I really didn't think that was too much of a problem. I did have a big problem however of finding people online. Usually I'd have to wait at least 10 minutes for someone to join my match, once they joined though they seemed to stick around for a while. Things are so deserted that I'm ranked number three on the DLC's leaderboards simply because I'm one of only three people that played it.
There's also a newly released second DLC pack which adds a six multiplayer character, the medly voiced Chief Sullivan, the head of the MRD. I haven't bought it yet, but if I had to guess I think that the Chief Sullivan probably plays like Arcadia and Nikki, making him not too useful.
The graphics in the game are actually really nice. The lighting is amazing, and the character models look good and are well designed. Environments unfortunately are bit generic and don't feel like they could be lived in. The FMVs, though obviously perendered are quite stunning and entertaining to watch. On the down side the game seems to have a terrible framerate to the point where I can actually notice it, and after playing the for a few hours I get increasingly dizzy and nauseous. I think that there might be some screen tearing as well. It could be because the camera's so bad, but I think it's mainly the framerate causing the my discomfort when playing the game.
The music in the game is well done. There are softer tunes during some cut scenes, but most of the game's soundtrack is fast paced heavy metal. The music can become repetitive though, for instance the same theme plays every time you encounter enemies in the game. There's also an original song by Mega Death that is even mentioned on the game's box, yet it's hidden away and only played during the ending which is weird. Voice acting in the game is poor and stilted. Everyone in the game gives the wrong cadence to lines, making statements seem insincere, and jokes not funny. I think the problem is probably bad voice direction.
The left analog stick moves your character, and when your dismembered your torso or head. The right analog stick controls the camera and where you aim your weapons. After switching to it the right stick also controls your sword. Sword attacks damage is determined by how quick or slowly you move the right stick, and in what direction. Diagonal slashes seem to be the most effective, but sword attacks are often ineffective. The A button is Jump. The B button is dodge roll, which is also used to pick up severed limbs. The X button is used to interact with objects and activate things. The Y button switches between guns and your sword. The R trigger fires the gun in your right hand and the L trigger fires the gun in your left. After you acquire the proper upgrade you can remove your left arm by holding the left bumper, and remove your right arm by holding the right bumper. By Pressing and holding both bumpers at the same time you can remove your head, and then throw it. Pushing left on the d pad scrolls the selected weapon in your left hand and pushing right on the d pad scrolls the selected weapon on your right hand.
I was interested in NeverDead ever since I first heard about it, two years before its release. I usually enjoy most games by Konami and especially Rebellion who really know how to make great shooters. I genuinely wanted to like this game. The story is fairly entertaining, the graphics are pretty good, especially the lighting, and once you get the mono-sights upgrade the shooting mechanic is solid. However I can't get past the repetitive enemies and levels, the atrocious sword controls, and the terrible dismemberment based health system. Originally I was going to give the game a 6/10 because the game is mildly fun, but horribly flawed. However because the games frame rate and camera is so bad that it makes me physically ill every time I play the game, something that hasn't happened since Armies project Swarm for the N64, I cannot recommend that people play the game in its current state. So I am forced to give it a 4/10.